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Honda takes the sensible approach to new Civic model

Honda’s latest Civic is evolutionary, not revolutionary—and that’s probably a good thing

Honda’s latest Civic is evolutionary, not revolutionary—and that’s probably a good thing


Compared to its revamped rivals like the Hyundai Elantra, Mazda 3 or upcoming Ford Focus, changes to the new 2012 Honda Civic look less revolutionary and considerably more cautious. No visible part of the new Civic is intensely different than the outgoing model, and changes are, perhaps decidedly, careful, sensible and subtle.


Ultimately, Honda’s intent was delivery of a package that will appeal to new shoppers while maintaining the character of the vehicle former owners were comfortable with. Designers have played it safe here, so to speak.


Engineers have worked a bit harder. For 2012, Civic updates consist largely of a slew of tweaks rather than a complete and total overhaul. Example? The standard 1.8-litre engine is carried over -- though improvements to various components have resulted in better performance and up to a 12 per cent increase in fuel efficiency.


Transmissions are tweaked carryovers, too. Lightweight, cost-effective five-speed units in manual or automatic are still fitted to all standard models, and a colour-changing visual “ECO” indicator to help coach drivers into saving more fuel.


Driving a mid-range Civic Coupe through the streets and highways of Washington D.C., this writer noted the same comfortably taut suspension feel, below-average suspension noise and light, lively feel that defined the last generation Civic.


The standard 140-horsepower engine is quiet until pushed, emits the trademark Honda engine growl when opened up, and delivers smooth performance throughout. Even redlined, Civic’s engine makes numerous competitors feel downright brash.


Inside, revised body dimensions and smaller window pillars translate to more room and better visibility, respectively -- and the 2012 Civic Coupe delivers front-seat roominess similar to the sedan. Even this writer’s wide and thick frame found no issues. As usual, Honda’s interior designers have ensured there’s plenty of storage all around, too. No issue staying organized on the go here.


Need more space? Civic Sedan will be the lineup’s volume seller. A Hybrid Sedan variant, also improved with more power and better mileage, will hit the market later this summer.


Fans of an out-of-the-box import-tuner pocket-rocket can opt for the sporty Civic Si with two or four doors and a new 2.4-litre engine that replaces the old two-litre ‘K20’ unit from the old car.


Pros? Lots more torque and a little more horsepower. That’s 170 lb.-ft and 201 ponies, if you’re counting.


Cons? Redline falls by 1,000 RPM to 7,000 RPM.


As it should, the Si still feels, looks and sounds notably more aggressive than the standard models -- especially after the high-rpm VTEC cam changeover ramps up power output and sound effects. Drivers can now ‘watch’ the process via a multistage ‘i-VTEC’ indicator on the digital instrument cluster.


Regardless of the model selected, Honda says the new Civic is no heavier than the outgoing 2011 unit, and that they’ve added hundreds, or even thousands of dollars worth of extra value to the lineup in terms of new features, revised equipment packaging and lowered pricing. Said pricing starts at $14,990.


End of the day, the new Civic feels much like the model it’s replacing — just slightly tidier, more comfortable and more refined. Owners of the last-generation Civic will feel right at home, if not slightly more comfortable and slightly less snug.


Shoppers after an exhaustive, complete overhaul aren’t going to find it — but given Civic’s many generations of proven performance and sales superstardom in Canada, that’s probably not a bad thing.

 
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