2012 Honda Civic EX-L

2012 Honda Civic delivers what you expect from classic compact sedan


It's hard to comprehend but the 2012 Honda Civic is the ninth generation of the Civic, which has sold more than 8.8 million units in the United States through 2010 since its launch as a 1973 model. Honda continues to deliver what one expects from a classic, compact sedan.

The Honda Civic has long been known for being, as the Japanese manufacturer points out, "a fun-to-drive compact that is simultaneously fuel efficient, sporty, … and durable." The company tried to throw in "stylish" too but I can't concede that point. In the 38 years the Honda Civic has graced our shores, the sedan has never made me do a double take. (I had a used 1995 Honda Civic with a 5-speed manual transmission that served me well for many years.)

What's got me sold most on the 2012 Honda Civic I spent a week with courtesy of Honda? It's comfort and lack of pretense. The 2012 Honda Civic EX is a car I wanted to drive. Sure, my two daughters, ages 6 and 3, were probably underwhelmed (the oldest really wants a Hyundai Equus that she calls a Korean limo) but I had nary a complaint with the ride or quality of this car.

For 2012, the Civic chassis was developed to maximize driving enjoyment as well as passenger comfort and safety. It's against my nature to agree when a manufacturer calls a compact sedan "fun to drive," but the Civic really is.

Is it sports sedan fun to drive? Let's be realistic. It's not but Honda's highly developed MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension systems, along with Motion-Adaptive Electric Power Steering for excellent steering performance, contribute to deliver a fun driving experience.

One of the reasons I envy engineers is for their ability to do illogical things. The 2012 Honda Civic sedan has a wheelbase that is reduced 1.2 inches to 105.1 inches, with the overall length, width and height the same, yet the interior space is somehow increased. A roomier cabin on a shorter wheelbase does make for a more enjoyable driving experience. (Automotive engineers – please don't write me. I do understand the basic engineering. I just admire what you can do.)

Fuel economy was strong in the week I had with the 2012 Honda Civic EX loaned to me by Honda. With my usual mix of city and highway driving, I was able to obtain about 33 mpg. The EPA rates the Civic at 28-mpg city and 39-mpg highway from its re-engineered 140-horsepower, 1.8-liter I-4 engine.

On the safety forefront, every Civic has as standard equipment the newest generation of vehicle stability assist, an anti-lock braking system (ABS) with brake assist, side-curtain airbags, front-side airbags with a passenger-side occupant position detection system and a front seat design that can help reduce the severity of neck injury in the event of a rear collision.

Similar to the previous-generation Civic, an Advanced Compatibility Engineering body structure in the front of the vehicle helps make the vehicle highly effective at absorbing and disbursing the energy of a frontal crash. The Civic also gets IIHS's top score.

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