Frugality, thy name is Civic

By Bill Heald - ReminderNews
Featured article - posted Thu., Mar. 1, 2012
- Contributed Photo

While it is common practice for manufacturers to completely overhaul successful models from time to time, it can be a risky undertaking. There is a reason that a particular car became popular in the first place, so you don’t want to make your new model so different that the original vanishes in transition. This is especially important with a car that has been a worldwide success, like Honda’s popular Civic. This car was first introduced to the U.S. market back in 1973, and with the new 2012 version, it is now in its ninth generation.

Honda knows it needs to keep the core values of the car intact, while moving the platform forward using the latest technology and decades of real-world experience in building a solid, reliably economical car. Honda puts it this way: “The 2012 Civic embraces the fundamental concept of a ‘futuristic and distinctive compact,’ a direction that introduces new values that reach ahead of present-day needs and elevates the experience that Civic represents.” In other words, let’s build an even bigger, better Civic, yet make it more efficient than ever.

So, did they succeed? Absolutely. But before I talk about this front-drive compact’s impressive fuel economy and creature comforts, let’s look at the hard parts. Available in a both coupe and sedan variants, we tested a Civic LX sedan that was powered by a 1.8-liter Inline Four with 140 horsepower. Our transmission was a five-speed automatic with Grade Logic Control (which helps eliminate excessive “hunting” for gears, especially when climbing hills). Despite how stingy this drivetrain is with a gallon of fuel, acceleration was satisfying, with 60 mph arriving in an average of 8.23 seconds. An ECON button activates a change in various electronics to enhance fuel economy, including tweaking the throttle system to provide more gradual response, changing shift mapping (on automatic transmission models) and altering climate control operation. Additionally, an Eco Assist display on the instrument cluster “continuously monitors and displays the impact of a driving style on the vehicle’s fuel efficiency, and transitions colors to provide feedback that can help a less-efficient driver make adjustments to driving style.” The color changes go from green to blue and are, like the multi-tiered instruments, very entertaining. 

Ride quality is quite good, while delivering the kind of control and maneuverability you expect in a compact, and while there’s still some road noise, the sedan is a bit better in this regard than previous Civics. The driver’s perch is a great mix of support and comfort and the material is stout and accommodating. The rear seats are likewise comfortable and deliver good room for this class, while the back seat folds forward in one piece to expand cargo room into the trunk. The final accolade is one of outstanding fuel economy, for I averaged 39.8 MPG in a week of mixed driving. The 2012 Honda Civic LX Sedan is EPA-rated 28 MPG city/39 highway and has a base price of $18,655. With transportation charges, our sticker came to $19,425.

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