May 25, 2013
Written by Steven Macoy
Thursday, 08 September 2011 12:42
Editor's Note: The following article has been corrected to reflect the fact that the tested car was a 2012 model, not a 2011; also, the price is now corrected. A natural gas version is not yet available.
We stepped into our 2012 Honda Civic coupe with some misgivings, having been disappointed by the Japanese automaker’s sporty-looking CR-Z a few months earlier. At best, the Civic would be what the Civic has been since forever — reliable, with competent handling and performance, but a little harsh and noisy.
Instead, the compact Civic coupe was full of pleasant surprises. Quite unlike the no-nonsense Civics of days gone by, it was reminiscent of the downsized personal-luxury cars Detroit’s Big Three was selling 30 years ago.
Honda appears to be making a mild tradeoff between handling and ride. The Civic coupe seemed less tightly bound to the road than were Civics we’ve driven in the past. But it still handles crisply and competently — and it’s much, much smoother and quieter than we remember. If sharp handling is your thing, you’ll likely prefer the uncommonly nimble Honda Fit or Mazda3.
The Civic comes in several shapes, sizes and power trains, from the basic coupe ($15,605) to a hybrid sedan; a natural-gas-fueled version is planned but not yet available. Most Civics are priced in the mid teens to low $20s.
Our silver Civic EX-L coupe, with XM satellite radio, Bluetooth, navigation system, leather upholstery and five-speed automatic transmission, was priced about $24,225. Among its unusual features was a fuel-economy mode, activated by a large (appropriately) green button, and the now-familiar two-tiered gauge package. The upper tier’s digital display reveals the miles per hour; the lower is dominated by a large analog tachometer. The whole package is resoundingly and colorfully high-tech.
The back seat, tucked under a sloping rear deck, is tight for adult passengers of even average height. But we were able to install and remove a child seat there without engaging in more than moderate contortions. And for all the coupe’s shapely style, visibility out the rear and side windows wasn’t bad. Our tallest driver’s view was obstructed only by the broad post behind the door on the driver‘s side.
We did most of our driving on the highway in the fuel-economy mode and managed 37 mpg, acceptable for this segment. Unlike the 122-horsepower CR-Z, which barely seemed able to get out of its own way in economy mode, the Civic, with a robust 140-horsepower inline Four, did just fine.
The Civic coupe passed Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash tests, though not with flying colors. It eked out an “Acceptable” rating for drivers and front-seat passengers in side-impact collisions, and “Good” for frontal-offset impacts. Crash protection for rear-seat passengers was “Good,” the IIHS’ top ranking, across the board.
And reliability? It’s a Honda. Enough said.
Aside from the cramped rear seat, the stylish Civic coupe is comfortable and well suited for urban commuting and longer trips. Even its trunk is fairly roomy at 11.5 cubic feet. It has its limits, but the reward for staying within them is solid reliability, high resale value, good fuel economy and a pleasant driving experience.
Engine: 1.8-liter inline Four, 140 horsepower, 128 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 5-speed shiftable automatic
Weight: 2,784 lb.
Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear
Wheels: 16x6.5 inch alloy
Tires: P205/55R16 89H all-season
Seating capacity: 4
Luggage capacity: 11.5 cu. ft.
Fuel capacity: 13.2 gallons
Fuel economy: 25 mpg city, 36 mpg highway
Fuel type: regular
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