Who's Got the Looks
We'll wade only briefly into the subjective area of design. The new Civic reverently continues the design theme of its popular predecessor. The large cabin is visually elongated with a steeply raked windshield and backlight, while the hood and the trunk are abbreviated. The result is on single-arc profile, which has been freshened somewhat with more sculpted surfaces. Designers of the Elantra and the Focus appear to have given no thought whatsoever to maintaining a visual link to the previous models -- and rightly so, since both were dowdy and downmarket-looking. The Elantra's flowing lines may not be to everybody's taste, but they're certainly dramatic and stylish for a car in this class. The Focus bears a familial resemblance to other Ford of Europe products, with an oversize grille, raised creases along the body sides, a rising beltline, and a small greenhouse. Overall, we think the design works better on the hatchback than it does on the overly busy sedan, although in both cases it's very similar to the subcompact Fiesta.
The Civic's Familiar Surroundings
Consistency is again the name of the game for the new Civic's interior, which clearly follows the format laid down by the previous model. Under the large windshield is a very deep dashboard that, as in the last Civic, is bisected into two tiers. The upper binnacle houses a digital speedometer, flanked by readouts for fuel level and another one for fuel economy. Bracketing the speedometer are lights that glow green when the driver lets off the gas or blue when he gets on it. Set below the upper binnacle is the large, analog tachometer, which the driver sees through the small-diameter, three-spoke steering wheel. An additional, 6.5-inch LCD screen just offset to the right within the upper binnacle is new for 2012. It can display a variety of information, which the driver can scroll through using the relatively simple buttons on the steering wheel. Readouts include audio system info, Bluetooth phone info, turn instructions from the navigation system, trip computer info, or a wallpaper photo that you upload. Our EX-L was equipped with the optional navigation system. Its large touch-screen was fairly easy to use and we had no qualms with the system's logic. But the audio and nav-system buttons that surround it are tiny, and the whole units looks like its ten years old. The Civic's other switchgear is typical Honda: simple and of high quality. Aside from our top-spec EX-L model's leather seats, the cabin is otherwise fairly basic and unadorned. Interior space, though, is quite good -- slightly better than before despite unchanged exterior dimensions -- excepting rear-seat headroom under the sloping roof. And the comparatively generous window area makes the cabin feel large and airy.