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First Drive: 2012 Honda Civic. Image by Honda.

First Drive: 2012 Honda Civic
Evolutionary styling aside, the new Honda Civic steps even closer to the class benchmarks.


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| First Drive | Malaga, Spain | 2012 Honda Civic |

Overall rating: 4 4 4 4 4

The 2012 Honda Civic has come under fire for looking too similar to its predecessor, but that aside it's a much-improved car. The chassis is a gem, it's as spacious as ever and the engines, while not the most inspiring or muted, are ultra efficient.

Key Facts

Models driven: Honda Civic 1.8 EX / 2.2 EX GT
Pricing: 16,495 - 26,595 (whole line-up - see here for more detail)
Engine: 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol / 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel
Transmission: six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Body style: five-door hatchback
Rivals: Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra, Volkswagen Golf
CO2 emissions: 110 - 145g/km
Combined economy: 46.3 - 67.3mpg
Top speed: 116 - 135mph
0-62mph: 13.4 - 8.5 seconds
Power: 140bhp at 6,500rpm / 148bhp at 4,000rpm
Torque: 128lb.ft at 4,300rpm / 258lb.ft at 2,000 - 2,750rpm

In the Metal: 3 3 3 3 3

While the new Civic was criticised at its unveiling in Frankfurt this year for being too similar to its predecessor, it's not an unattractive shape. To get the full benefit of the restyle you need to opt for a light metallic colour. Do so and the low-set Y-shaped light and grille area at the front really stands out. Honda also lowered the split in the rear window and increased overall glass area to enhance visibility, though we'd still rather not have that obstruction in our rear-view mirror.

For the most part the cabin is well-trimmed, though there are a few harder plastics if you go looking for them. The steering wheel and controls are particularly tactile though and the gear lever is closer to hand than before to give it a sportier feel. On the practicality side the Civic is one of the most spacious cars in the class and also benefits from the clever design of the rear seats, which flip up easily to reveal massive storage.

Driving it: 4 4 4 4 4

Honda reckons the new Civic is two generations ahead of its predecessor in terms of dynamics and engineering. The hype is not completely unfounded. On the road the new car is more accomplished than before, despite retaining the same basic chassis layout. It manages to be comfortable on the motorway and soaks up poor surfaces maturely while retaining real agility on tighter roads. It's quite good fun too. The only potential negative is that the steering feels a little too alert on the motorway.

One of the biggest selling engines in the UK will be the 1.8-litre petrol unit. It's fine for ambling around, but you really need to extend it to extract the full 140bhp and then it sounds loud and uncouth. It's smooth enough most of the time, but a little too audible at the motorway limit for our liking. The 2.2-litre diesel is the other way around, making itself heard at low speeds, but not so much at a cruise, though it's commendably smooth at all times. It's the more satisfying engine too with loads of lovely torque. The six-speed manual gearbox is, as you'd hope from Honda, slick and rewarding to use.

What you get for your Money: 4 4 4 4 4

Priced between 16,495 and 26,595 the Civic sits between the comparable Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf, though the Honda's engines are particularly efficient for the power output, especially so the 2.2-litre turbodiesel.

Depending on the engine you go for the trim levels are SE, ES, EX and EX GT. All versions get climate control, start-stop (with manual gearbox), alloy wheels, USB connectivity and LED daytime running lights. The step up to ES brings with it Bluetooth, cruise control with speed limiter, dual-zone climate control, rear parking camera, front fog lights, auto lights and wipers, leather steering wheel and gear stick, along with a few other bits.

EX versions feature leather upholstery, heated front seats, satnav and an upgraded stereo, while the EX GT gets a great panoramic glass roof, parking sensors, keyless entry and start, 17-inch alloys, bi-xenon lights and adjustable lumbar support.

From March 2012 buyers of the SE and ES grades will have the option of the T Grade package that includes Bluetooth and satnav for a reasonable sounding 995.

Worth Noting

There's no doubt that there'll be a new Honda Civic Type-R, although there's no official word on it as yet. Though it's in keeping with the Type-R heritage, we'd be a little surprised if it retained the high-revving naturally aspirated strategy when most rivals have moved to turbocharging. Don't rule out hybrid power. Look what Mugen did with the CR-Z. Honda really needs an enthusiasts' car in its line-up, especially as it looks like a successor to the Honda NSX is in the works. We'll get a preview of that at the Tokyo Motor Show in December. Also at Tokyo will be a new 1.6-litre diesel engine due to power the Civic later in 2012. The 2.2-litre is pretty efficient already, but no doubt the smaller engine will be more economical again - plus cheaper.


It'd be easy to say that the 2012 Honda Civic is merely an update of its predecessor. After all, it is built on the same platform and its design is evolutionary. However, that'd be an injustice to the improvements made, especially in terms of the driving experience and engine efficiency. It's a closer rival to the class benchmarks than ever before, while being the most practical car in the segment.

Shane O' Donoghue - 3 Nov 2011    - Honda road tests
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2012 Honda Civic. Image by Honda.2012 Honda Civic. Image by Honda.2012 Honda Civic. Image by Honda.2012 Honda Civic. Image by Honda.2012 Honda Civic. Image by Honda.

2012 Honda Civic. Image by Honda.2012 Honda Civic. Image by Honda.2012 Honda Civic. Image by Honda.2012 Honda Civic. Image by Honda.2012 Honda Civic. Image by Honda.

2012 Honda Civic. Image by Honda.

2012 Honda Civic. Image by Honda.

2012 Honda Civic. Image by Honda.

2012 Honda Civic. Image by Honda.

2012 Honda Civic. Image by Honda.

2012 Honda Civic. Image by Honda.

2012 Honda Civic. Image by Honda.


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