The 2012 Honda Civic was supposed to be a 2011 model, but Honda pushed back development by a year to make the car better, when the compact segment really started heating up. Lucky for me, that I have a friend with a previous-generation Civic Hybrid that I drove back-to-back with the "all-new" one to see if that year really was worth the wait.
My verdict is no. David is right: Only current Civic drivers will notice the differences. Driving the two generations back-to-back makes it clear that there's increased refinement. The interior materials are of a slightly higher grade, the ergonomics and visibility are ever so slightly better, and the exterior design is a little fresher and crisper. Most notable is the fact that the powertrain has been finessed and is less jerky in operation -- especially the regenerative brakes and the auto start/stop function. While still noticeable, the shut off and start up of the engine is much smoother than in the previous model. As far as everything else goes, it's more of the same, albeit with the 4 mpg and 1 mpg gains in the city and on the highway, respectively. (The 2012 Civic Hybrid is rated at 44/44 mpg city/highway.)
My friend's verdict, on the other hand, was a resounding "Yes!" to the new model. He felt that it was a major upgrade from the car he is driving and that Honda had addressed a number of the issues he's had with his car, such as the rough start/stop, less-than-enthusiastic engine response (he thought the 2012 felt much peppier), and a quieter interior. In fact, he has encouraged his mother to buy a 2012 Civic to replace her non-hybrid Civic sedan. Even though the new Civic may just be more of the same to us, it is clear that keeping buyers faithful to the brand was the mission -- and Honda succeeded.
Donny Nordlicht, Associate Web Editor