2012 Honda Civic EX Sedan review: The ninth generation

2012 Honda Civic EX sedan

2012 Honda Civic EX sedan

The 2012 Honda Civic is the ninth generation of Honda’s compact sedan, a model which appeared on our shores as a 1973 model as Honda’s first serious automotive effort in the U.S., and it was the Civic that quickly changed America’s perception of the company from the maker of durable and fun motorcycles of Beach Boys song and story to one that made durable and reliable small cars.

Now for the 2012 model year, the Honda Civic is back with what Honda calls six completely redesigned models, including the Honda Civic Si Coupe and Sedan, the Civic Coupe and Sedan, the Civic HF, the Civic Hybrid and the Civic Natural Gas. We count seven, or perhaps five, but whatever, our test vehicle was a 2012 Honda Civic EX sedan, from a group that includes the entry level DX, the popularly equipped (we hate it when we use p.r. speak) LX, the upgrade EX and the top-of-the-line EX-L.

Honda’s model philosophy eschews options, considering a trim level as take-it-as-is-or-take-another, and as a Civic sedan (rather than the sporty Si models—which get a bigger engine this year–or the esoterically-propelled models) comes powered by an advanced improved-for-2012 140-horse 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that in the EX trim level is offered only with a five-speed automatic transmission.

The standard 1.8 liter engine received numerous changes for the new model year that decrease internal friction, reduce emissions and improve fuel economy. For tech-heads only: The outer skirt of the pistons now has “a molybdenum coating in a unique dot-pattern application.” Furthermore, the cylinder bores have “plateau honing,” a procedure that “uses a 2-stage machining process that uses two grinding processes instead of the more conventional single honing process.” Aren’t you glad you asked?

Performance buffs will also appreciate the “cracked connecting rod” technology, which allows lighter connecting rods. Honda revised the valve timing of its i-VTEC system, which now includes single intake valve operation (the second intake valve per cylinder remaining closed) which improves exhaust emissions during cold engine operation.

2012 Honda Civic EX sedan interior

The 2012 Honda Civic EX sedan has a bi-level instrument panel, with the digital speedometer on top and the tach down below.

The wrapper the improved engine comes in is both new and familiar. Honda keeps the “mono-form” shape though further refined. Sharing only hood, headlights and front fenders with the coupe, the 2012 Civic sedan’s windshield has a steeper angle for improved aerodynamics, with the highest point of the roofline above the front seats. The lines have a strong horizontal element and the fenders have been contoured to look wider. Overall the new Civic keeps the distinctive, car of the future appearance of the last generation Civic. It looks like nothing else and nothing else looks like a Honda Civic.

The 2012 Honda Civic keeps the stacked instrument panel from the prior generation. Honda splits the i.p. in two, with the tachometer filling the driver’s view under the steering wheel. Above the wheel is a digital tachometer, plus engine temp and fuel level in on the same color LCD screen, with a small rectangular driver information screen its right. Time and outside temperature are displayed no matter what else is on the screen.

The steering wheel has audio and cruise control switches on the left and right spokes respectively. As circular rockers, they’re easy to use. The audio controls on the dash, however, are another attempt to reinvent radio controls. It may be an improvement after one becomes accustomed to it, but that accustomization will take a while. At least the heater/air conditioning controls are utterly conventional. Which is not a bad thing.

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John is a veteran auto writer, first published in Custom Rodder magazine in 1980. Since then, he has been published in all the big car magazines, including Car and Driver, Road & Track, Motor Trend, Auto Week, Automobile, plus a variety of others, including but certainly not limited to Automobile Quarterly, Collectible Automobile, and Special Interest Automobiles. John’s work has also been featured in a number of consumer and general interest magazines such as Consumers Digest, Popular Science and others. John has written four books, including a history of the Mazda RX-7 (selling for more out-of-print than it did new), buyers’ guides for Mazda, Datsun/Nissan and Volvo cars, and is co-author of 365 Cars You Must Drive with Motor Trend editor Matt Stone, and his work has been translated into Italian, Estonian, Portuguese, Russian, and Bulgarian. John is recipient of the prestigious Ken Purdy Award for Excellence in Automotive Journalism, awarded by the International Motor Press Association, and the Golden Quill from the Washington Automotive Press Association. John has three adult daughters and has been married for more that four decades to Mary Ann, Distinguished Professor of Mathematics at East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania.

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