This is the 2012 Honda Civic Sport, the middle-range variant in the 2012 facelifted lineup. Now in its ninth generation, the Civic has evolved into an intelligent and modern small car offering, but is it good enough to fend off its highly popular rivals?
2012 HONDA CIVIC SPORT – PROS AND CONS
- Sharp and classy looks
- Intelligent and quick shifting auto gearbox
- Comfortable and airy interior
- Sweet and communicative steering
- Highly intuitive and quality entertainment system
- Not as much kit as other competitors
- No reverse sensors as standard
- Auto lock on the move is left out
- ‘Sport’ hard to distinguish it from lower VTi-l variants
2012 HONDA CIVIC SPORT – OVERVIEW
Honda’s ever bankable Civic has always played second fiddle to Toyota’s reliable toaster box in Australia’s small sedan market. But now the Mazda3 has deposed both of them, and made its way to the top of the sales charts.
Often regarded as the quirkier, sportier alternative to the Toyota Corolla, the fact that the Civic badge name hasn’t changed since the 1970s is testament to its brand power. The Civic and the Corolla have always been fighting tooth and nail in the small sedan segment and it’s no surprise that Honda is pulling out all the stops to try and claim the sales throne.
The latest ninth-generation comes with sharp profile lines and a more aggressive front end, courtesy of the latest Honda design brief, and some minor specification revisions and interior trim changes. The new Sport is only available with an automatic transmission, compared with the previous Sport which came in auto and manual form.
2012 HONDA CIVIC SPORT – ACCOMMODATION AND EQUIPMENT
The 2012 Honda Civic Sport comes with a 2.0-litre SOHC four-cylinder engine equipped with i-VTEC. It produces 114kW and 190Nm (up 2Nm from the 2011 model). It also comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, leather trim, an electric sunroof, and rain-sensing wipers.
The base model Civic VTi-L comes with a 1.8-litre SOHC engine and misses out on the above equipment, while the 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid gets a new 1.5-litre petrol engine (replacing the previous 1.3), and new lithium-ion batteries. (A review of both variants is coming soon.)
Strangely, the Sport doesn’t come with xenon headlights, even as an option, which, in this modern age, is a bit of an oversight. Instead, it gets the usual halogen globes like the rest of the 2012 range.
The first thing you notice when you step into the interior is the airiness of it all. The interior is upholstered in light cream and brown textures, and the sense of spaciousness is accentuated thanks to thin A-pillars and small corner windows in front of the side mirrors.
The seats are comfortable and fully adjustable, so finding that perfect position is a breeze – even our larger staff felt at home in the Civic. However, you do need to take care that the steering wheel is adjusted at a proper height or you may find it blocking the digital speedometer on the dual split dashboard.
Yes, the spaceship split-level dashboard has been retained, but it no longer looks as cutting edge as it did in the eighth generation model. Familiarity doesn’t breed contempt here as we found it well laid out and easy to read. All the controls fall easily to hand too, and the ones on the steering wheel become second-nature fairly quickly.
It’s easy to festoon the wheel with confusing buttons as most manufacturers tend to do, but all the bare essentials are there; audio controls, information screen selection button, cruise settings and Bluetooth answer/disconnect buttons. It’s also got snazzy silver flappy paddle shifters behind the wheel, but we’ll get to that later.
Although the cubby hole population is lower than expected, the 2012 Honda Civic Sport interior does well for itself. Of note is the adjustable arm rest with a tiny compartment underneath where the USB cable port is located, so you can store your iPod or flash drive down there. The 12V power socket is recessed in a holding area directly below the climate controls, and you need a pretty long charging cable for your GPS unit.
The rear seats can be split folded to increase your boot space, which at 440 litres can swallow three golf bags with ease. Overall, it is an easy car to live with on a day to day basis, with most of your usual needs satisfied.
2012 HONDA CIVIC SPORT – DESIGN AND SAFETY
The Civic has always looked like nothing else on the roads, and every version brings a sense of renewal. However, we are not so sure about the latest generation, which seems a bit ho-hum compared to the svelte spaceship looks of its predecessor.
We put this down to the new corporate front end of Honda; the sharp grill and angled headlights have already been previewed by the Honda City and the Odyssey, which have been around for over three years, so you may find it a bit too familiar and somewhat aged.
With the Koreans pumping out snazzy looking cars by the minute, Honda may have to step up its game. It does look neat though, offering perhaps the ‘smartest’ styling in the segment.
Placed next to the VTi-L, only the sharpest eyes could pick out the exterior differences of the Sport; the bigger rims, the sunroof, foglights, and the different boot lid. Otherwise, without the Sport badge you would be hard pressed to spot the difference. A subtle bodykit would have been nice, but at $27,999, it’s still great value for money.
The 2012 Honda Civic comes with plenty of safety features, enabling it to capture the coveted five-star ANCAP safety rating with ease – scoring 34.91 out of 37. The advanced chassis design is at the heart of it, allowing frontal impacts to be safely absorbed and diverted away by the body of the car. ANCAP also gave it 16 out of 16 for the side impact crash test.
A whole host of electronic aids like Vehicle Stability Assist, Electronic Brake Distribution and anti-lock brakes helps keep the Civic on the road should any untoward shenanigans occur. It’s got front, side and curtain airbags, and if you’ve got a kid or a baby chair in the front, the side airbags deactivate to prevent injuries that could be caused by an airbag deployment.
2012 HONDA CIVIC SPORT – ON THE ROAD
If you looked at the spec sheet for the Civic Sport and thought, “It’s just luxury with a marketing slant,” you could be forgiven. Drop into the cushy leather seats and the only hint that this Civic can actually corner comes from the sportily small steering wheel. It’s a pleasure to use; the leather stitched helm is easy to twirl yet provides good feedback for an electrically assisted system.
It’s down to Honda’s Motion Adaptive Electric Power Steering. At parking speeds it’s a doddle to spin, but go up in speed and it increases in weight and assurance. Although it can’t match hydraulic systems in terms of precise tactile feedback, it comes pretty damn close in our opinion.
You will notice on the right side of the steering wheel, on the dash, is a curious little green button marked with a tree and the word ECON. In the past we’ve grown accustom to cars with buttons like this that don’t seem to do anything except light up a meaningless symbol on the dash cluster. Here, we are glad to report that the ECON button is to the Civic what Dr. Jekyll is to the Sport’s Mr. Hyde.
Press it and immediately you sense the throttle’s sensitivity has been cut down; it’s like stepping on a marshmallow. A number of changes are activated when the button is pushed, such as throttle mapping and climate control loads, all aimed at saving fuel, and saving you money.
The five-speed auto box changes seamlessly, discouraging jolty, fuel consuming acceleration and improving ride comfort. This is far from a bad thing though; you adjust your driving attitude accordingly and waft along in traffic like a boat going down River Danube. The blue bars framing the digital speedometer fade to green more often, giving you a visual indicator that your fuel efficiency is improving.
Far from gimmicky, we reckon it actually improved mileage through the combined efforts of us being lulled into floating along in Sydney’s traffic snarled roads. Need instant power to shoot into a gap? No worries, the electronic throttle will sense your right foot’s urgency and deploy required power immediately before going back into Bentley cruise mode.
On the flip side of the coin, drop the gear lever from D into Sport mode, and you’ll be amazed by the Civic’s chassis and drivetrain’s sharpness. Although it’s just a five-speed auto ‘box, in Sport mode it does its best impression of a quick-shifting DSG gearbox, making changes instantaneously and holding gears all the way to the redline without changing up.
The flappy paddles are a joy to use and are satisfyingly weighty. Downshift and the engine serves up a quick torquey punch, enough to press you back into the leather seat and hurtle you to the next corner. Feed the deliciously weighted steering into a tight bend and the Civic Sport stays impressively and reassuringly flat, carrying the renowned sporty heritage of the Civic badge into the next generation.
The suspension, while feeling a bit hard for day to day use, shines brilliantly here, disregarding mid-corner bumps and clinging on to the intended line with gusto. You would have to be seriously mischievous with the throttle and with the traction control off to get any understeer, but lift the throttle and the Civic Sport tightens its line again without any fuss. We put it down to the fact that the alloy wheels on the Sport come wrapped in sticky Michelin Pilot Sports 3 tyres; it takes a ridiculous effort to get them squealing.
2012 HONDA CIVIC SPORT – VERDICT
If you are looking for a convenient daily that’s easy on the eyes, good on fuel, and takes to the twisties when there’s a chance, it’s hard to go past the Civic Sport. We loved the roominess, the in-car entertainment system, and the dual personalities the ECON and Sport modes offer.
Sure, the Mazda3 amazes with the amount of optional kit available and tiers of equipment, and the Corolla has that bulletproof reliability, but you see way too many of them around, and none of them offer the chassis dynamics of the Civic Sport.
The Civic Sport is still the choice for the family man who uses tabasco sauce instead of ketchup, prefers curry laksa to beef tripe pho, and poached quail eggs to sunny side up on toast. In short, if you like your daily driver to have some panache and spirit at an affordable price, the Civic Sport has all you need and more.
2012 HONDA CIVIC SPORT – THE COMPETITORS
Toyota Corolla Ascent Sport – 1.8-litre naturally aspirated inline four cylinder, 100kW/175Nm
It’s got a decent engine, an interior you can live in, has humdrum dynamics and…well, it’s a Corolla, so it’s trustworthy. And it’s cheap. But its sporty credentials are not really up there with the best of them.
Mazda3 3 SP20 SKYACTIV – 2.0-litre naturally aspirated inline four cylinder, 113kW/194Nm
It matches the Civic Sport in terms of power and cornering poise, beats it in looks, and offers a lot more kit. You do have to be prepared to cough up another 3000 buckeroos though.
Subaru Impreza 2.0iS – 2.0-litre naturally aspirated boxer four cylinder 110kW/196Nm
All-wheel drive means more grip, and the 2.0-litre boxer engine is unashamedly torquey. It’s dearer though, comes with a CVT gearbox (booooo!) and there are no soft cowhides cushioning your buttocks.
2012 HONDA CIVIC SPORT –SPECIFICATIONS
2012 Honda Civic Sport
2.0-litre naturally aspirated inline four
ENGINE SIZE / COMPRESSION RATIO
1997cc / 10.6:1
BORE X STROKE
81mm X 96.9mm
POWER TO WEIGHT RATIO
11.32 : 1 (kg:kW)
HEIGHT / WIDTH / LENGTH
1435mm / 1755mm / 4540mm
Five-speed automatic transmission with Grade Logic Control
F: Ventilated discs
R: Solid discs
WHEELS / TYRES
F and R: 17-inch alloy, 215/45 R17
FUEL TANK CAPACITY
Tested average: 8.6L/100km
Official average: 7.5L/100km
0-100km/h: Not tested
$27,990 ($20,990 for the base model VTi-L)
Photography by: Phillips Huynh