Wednesday, July 6, 2011

2012 Honda Civic EX-L: The Fuel-Efficient Little Car with Midsize Features

Civic’s Highlight: The 2011 Civic was ranked as the top vehicle in the small car segment based upon the latest J. D. Power Initial Quality Study.

Test Vehicle’s MSRP: $24,205 (Base Price of Honda Civic starts @ $16,575.00)

Major Standard Features: 15-inch tires; power windows; tilt/telescopic steering wheel; side curtain airbags; automatic off headlights only; ABS (Anti-Lock Brake Systems), VSA (Vehicle Stability Assistance); EBD (Electronic Brake Distribution) and a Multi-Information Display (MID) Center which includes an average fuel economy indicator, a clock, a digital odometer, digital trip meters, a maintenance reminder system and a miles-to-empty indicator.

Standard Engine/Horsepower: 1.8-liter/140-hp (a 2.4-liter is available in the Si model)

Standard Fuel Mileage: 28-city/39-hwy

Competition: 2011 Chevy Cruze LTZ, 2012 Ford Focus Titanium, 2011 Hyundai Elantra Limited, 2011 Kia Forte Sedan EX, 2011 Mazda3 Touring and the 2011 Toyota Corolla LE.

What’s New: The ninth-generation Civic has been redesigned for the 2011 model year. Besides a modestly restyled exterior, the compact provides a roomier interior, a new comprehensive Multi-Information Display (MID) center, a satellite-link navigation system and two re-engineered powertrains.

Pros: As opposed to staggering the launch of individual Civic models, Honda was hoping to open the flood gates, releasing everything from a fuel-efficient gas model to a natural gas model to a hybrid model to the peppy Si model all at once. (However, the earthquake, which occured in Japan put, a monkey wrench in Honda's plan. So some models are taking a little longer to arrive.) And unlike many of its competitors, the vehicle is available as either a coupe or sedan. This is a great strategy, since Honda is making every attempt to saturate the highly competitive compact segment.

Honda, like a number of other compacts, is redefining the segment, blurring the lines between the compact and midsize segments, as we found with the living room like comfortable leather seats we experienced in the top of the line EX-L model.

In addition to the roomier interior, our upscale Civic was equipped with 16-inch wheels, a power sunroof, heated front seats, a USB Audio Interface, a Bluetooth Hands Free Link, a XM satellite radio subscription, a premium quality 160-watt AM/FM/CD audio system with 6 speakers including MP3/WMA playback and a navigation system with voice recognition.

Moreover, the Civic took a page from its luxury brand, Acura, offering real-time traffic data. Not only does this useful data help to steer you around traffic congestion, it’s a rarity to find this type of data in a compact. Furthermore, to improve the fuel-efficiency in most of the Civic line up, an Eco Assist feature is now available in the 2012 model just like in Honda’s hybrids. Conversely, don’t expect this fuel saver feature in the supercharged SI model.

Cons: While the Civic continues to build upon its history of offering an affordable, reliable vehicle, its conservative styling doesn’t quite push the envelope like the redesigned curvaceous, well-appointed Hyundai Elantra Limited.

Also we were a little disappointed that the Civic didn’t offer a back-up camera, a power’s driver seat, lighted visor vanity mirrors, an electronic day/night mirror or a sliding front center armrest like some of its competitors. The new Elantra also offers a heated rear seat too, the only vehicle in this segment. Now while we realize this was a minor gripe of ours, it won’t affect those folks who are die hard Honda fans.

And besides the styling and some of the luxury amenities we’ve come to expect in this current-generation of compacts, we found the nav system to be quite irritating, while attempting to access directions. Due to our frustration level with trying to locate a street, we immediately turned to our easy-to-use smartphone to access real-time directions.

The Verdict: The Civic is facing a lot of stiff competition this year from the likes of the Euro styled Focus and the stylish Hyundai Elantra. However, unlike its competitors, the Civic has been in the compact game in America since 1972 and as a result has garnered a huge fan base. The Civic is also available as a hybrid model and a natural gas model unlike much of the competition in this segment. Furthermore, Honda has a long-term reputation of building reliable vehicles that maintain above average residual values. So for those yearning for an affordable, reliable, fuel-efficient compact with a big car interior, it will be hard to steer toward some of the competitors, offering a few more frills – at a lower price.


Garry Brei said...

Honda's rep has been pretty strong, ever since they've debuted in the American automobile market. Competition is definitely hard, since there are other car brands out there which have huge fan bases as well. If you're going to rank the cars in the same line as the new Civic, how would the rankings look like?

Enjoying Life said...

Thanks Jeff. My daughter is looking to buy a new car and she is hovering between a Honda and a Nissan. Your article will help me show her that the Honda is the way to go. GinGin

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