Friday, November 11, 2011

Through the ages, Civic's appeal is consistent

This review originally appeared in the October 2011 edition of the Northern & Central California Cruisin’ News published out of Folsom, California – mg

Sacramento, California -- I have an old friend in the Midwest, a “buy American” guy all the way. If you’re not buying a car from a Detroit automaker, he often said, you’re hurting the U.S. economy.

And when it came time for him to buy a car for his little girl, he bought her … a Honda Civic.

And that, I believe, speaks volumes about the venerable Civic. It gives people what they want: Dependable, affordable, gas-sipping, feature-loaded and safe. You can double-down on that bet when it comes to buying a car for the kids.

The Civic has been restyled for 2012, although you have to look pretty hard to see the altered architecture. My tester was the EX-L sedan with a navigation system – the priciest of nine trim levels, starting at $23,455. Mine was pretty loaded up. No extras, and the $770 destination and handling charge brought the bottom line to $24,225.

For that price, you get enough safety features to make a Consumer Reports editor smile. The seats are leather trimmed; the steering wheel also is wrapped in leather. The 160-watt audio system with six speakers does a marvelous job. Heated front seats are a luxury perk, but they were included in the cost of my EX-L. The first three months of XM Satellite Radio are on the house.

Everything was comfortable, understandable and functional on the inside. This being a Civic sedan, it’s built for five passengers. Realistically, it’s comfortable for four.

The standard power plant is a 1.8-liter, 16-valve, i-VTEC in-line 4 with 140 horses. You can set it for “eco” mode at the push of a button, a little extra savings for a car rated at 28 miles per gallon in the city and 39 mpg on the highway.

Nice engine. But be advised that you really have to jump hard on the gas in some situations – merging on the freeway and hitting a high Sierra Nevada hill, for example. Full force with the right foot produces a fairly loud scream that echoes around the cockpit.

One other annoyance was an odd quirk in the XM Satellite Radio readout. It showed the station you started with, then kept it highlighted even as you changed stations with the steering wheel-mounted controls. Why not just highlight the station you’re on? Seems like a simple fix.

Trunk space was surprisingly roomy, and believe me, I filled up the cargo area about 16 different ways. The exterior look remains aerodynamic and sleek. You know it’s a Civic at first glance.

So if you want something for the kids – or a second car -- that will run forever and give you/them few problems, the 2012 model carries on the tradition.

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