Things we like
- Well equipped
- Eager engines
Not so much
- Steering feel
- Sedan lacks refinement
What stands out?
The 2012-2016 Honda Civic is a well built small car from a Japanese brand with a superb reliability record. Engines are appealing, with plenty of power. The UK-made hatchback – which was designed for Europe – is a better car in most respects than the Thai-made sedan.
This review covers Civics on sale new prior to June 2016. Listed features were current when the car was replaced.
What might bug me?
Fatigue on long trips in the Civic sedan, and especially if you were expecting the high standard Honda has reached in the past for minimising harshness and noise. There are small cars that drive more smoothly and quietly than this at highway speeds, and the Civic hatchback is one of them.
Driving under 80km/h on the space-saver spare tyre until you can fix your full-sized flat.
What body styles are there?Five-door hatchback and four-door sedan.
The Civic drives the front wheels, and it is classed as a small car, lower priced.
What features do all versions have?Air-conditioning, cruise control, power windows, and power-adjustable exterior mirrors. An i-MID (multi-information display) screen.
Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and audio controls on the steering wheel. A CD/radio audio system that is MP3 and WMA compatible.
A steel space-saver spare wheel.
Electronic stability control, which can help the driver to control a skidding car. All new cars must have this feature.
Six airbags: two directly in front of the driver and front passenger; one alongside each front occupant to protect the upper body; and a curtain airbag along each side protecting the heads of front and rear occupants.
In addition, all Civic hatchbacks have wheels made from nicer-looking aluminium alloy rather than steel. Hatchbacks also have climate control air-conditioning (which maintains a set temperature), a leather-trimmed steering wheel and gear lever, and a colour touchscreen audio system that can show your iPhone’s display on the screen. There is also an HDMI port, MP4 movie support, a DVD player and a reversing camera.
Hatchbacks also have guided-tube daytime running lights and taillights, which diffuse light along a tube, for a crisp look. There is an adjustable speed limiter, and the exterior mirrors are heated.
An Agile Handling Assist system on all hatchbacks subtly improves stability and performance by lightly braking some wheels during cornering. Hatchbacks also have a warning system that alerts the driver if the air pressure in the tyres falls below a safe level, and a hill-start assist system, which operates the brakes automatically to make take-offs on hills easier.
Every Honda Civic carries a three-year, 100,000 kilometre warranty.
Which engine uses least fuel, and why wouldn't I choose it?The petrol 1.8-litre four cylinder engine uses the least fuel, ranging between 6.4 and 6.8 litres/100km depending on the body style, the gearbox and the equipment level. The Civic VTi-S with the manual gearbox hatch is the most economical version.
The 1.8 is an appealing engine with plenty of power by small-car standards and good fuel-efficiency.
Honda also offers a 2.0-litre petrol engine, in only a single model: the Civic Sport, which is a sedan. It provides about 10 per cent more urge than the 1.8 petrol and uses about 10 percent more fuel.
Honda recommends premium petrol for the hatchbacks, which makes them more expensive to fuel than the sedans, which run on regular petrol.
Gearboxes in the sedans are five-speed manual (in the least costly model only) or five-speed auto. The hatches come with a six-speed manual (least-costly model) or five-speed auto (the rest).
What key features do I get if I spend more?The least costly Civic sedan, the Civic Vi, rolls on 15-inch steel wheels. Stepping up to the Civic VTi sedan brings you nicer looking wheels in an alloy of aluminium. The VTi also has a colour touchscreen audio system, an iPhone mirroring function (your iPhone’s display on the car’s screen), an HDMI port, MP4 movie support, a DVD player and a reversing camera.
Moving up to the VTi-S sedan brings smart-key entry, which allows you to unlock the car while the key remains secured in a pocket or handbag. Headlamps turn on automatically when it is dark, and wipers operate automatically when it rains. Air-conditioning maintains a set temperature. The steering wheel is trimmed in leather. Wheels grow to 16 inches and are fitted with wider tyres of a lower profile, which add grip and sharpen steering response.
The VTi-L sedan has these features and leather seats, front foglights and rear parking sensors.
The most costly sedan, the Civic Sport, comes with the bigger, 2.0-litre petrol engine, 17-inch wheels with yet wider and lower profile tyres, a power-operated sunroof, a power-adjusted driver’s seat, and satellite navigation.
In the hatchback, moving up from the lowest-price VTi-S to the VTi-L gets you rain-sensing windscreen wipers, dusk-sensing headlights, foglights, and front and rear parking sensors. There is also dual-zone air-conditioning (which permits a different temperature on either side of the cabin), smart-key entry, power-adjusted lumbar support on the front seats, and 17-inch wheels with wider tyres.
The VTi-LN (for Navigation) adds to this satellite navigation, and leather-appointed, heated front seats.
Does any upgrade have a down side?There is a small reduction in ride comfort as wheels get bigger and the tyres become lower in profile, because there is less air between the wheel and the road. The bigger wheels also increase in the minimum turning circle, because the wider tyres can’t turn left and right quite as far.
Choosing a sunroof reduces headroom for occupants in the front.
The Civic sedan is available in six colours – flat white, which is standard, and five pearlescent/metallic shades, which cost about $600 extra. The hatch is available in seven colours – three of them flat, available standard, and four pearl/metallic, which attract the same extra charge.
How comfortable is it?The Honda Civic has supportive seats that are comfortable for drives of up to two hours. The overall ergonomics are good. The standard tilt and reach steering wheel adjustments help the driver find the ideal position, a task made even easier from the eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat in the Sport model.
On poor roads you will feel the bumps more in the sedan than in the Civic hatch, which has a more compliant, more comfortable feel despite its less sophisticated rear suspension.
The Hatch also isolates cabin occupants more effectively from tyre noise, road vibration, wind noise and general harshness – it is noticeably superior to the sedan. Compared with other small cars, both models occupy the middle ground here.
Plastics and textiles in the Civic were a cut above many Japanese alternatives when this model went on sale, but newer competitors such as the Mazda3 leave them in the middle here also.
What about safety?The Honda Civic accrues a safety rating of Excellent for every version except the entry-level Vi sedan, which falls to Very Good – partly because it does not have a reversing camera.
Hatches score for their speed limiter, flat-tyre warning and hill-start assist, and on better equipped versions for dusk-sensing headlights and rain-sensing wipers.
No Civic offers automatic emergency braking.
The forward location of the Civic’s A-pillars either side of the windscreen allows good vision for tight corners and roundabouts, increasing primary safety. Door-mounted exterior mirrors help here too.
The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) has awarded the Honda Civic sedan and hatch its maximum rating of five stars.
I like driving - will I enjoy this car?You will enjoy driving the Civic hatch more than the sedan, but for a keen driver there are more appropriate small cars available, such the Ford Focus and Mazda3.
Although the sedan has a more sophisticated multi-link rear suspension, which should bring better comfort and handling, the hatch, with its simple torsion-beam suspension, is more fun. Good tuning makes the difference: the hatch feels light on its tyres, with a reassuring sense of balance and grip.
Neither Civic offers the driver a brilliant sense of connection with the road, and the suspension can struggle to recover from bigger bumps, letting the body bob briefly.
The Civic engines and gearboxes are a positive aspect in the enjoyment of the car. The petrol 1.8-litre engine delivers plenty of power with pleasing enthusiasm and an appealing sound. The easy-to-use five- and six-speed manuals and smart five-speed automatic gearboxes work well with the engines.
Gear-shift paddles and the 2.0-litre engine make the Civic Sport the most enjoyable of the sedans.
How is life in the rear seats?The Civic’s back seat is comfortably cushioned and well angled, and passengers have moderate head and shoulder room.
A flat floor means a third rear-seat occupant will have more leg and foot room than in most other small cars, which have a central hump in the floor that adds strength to the body. Honda puts its body reinforcement elsewhere.
The Civic hatch has rear air-conditioning vents. This is not the norm in a small car, and it makes the rear seat a more habitable place, especially on longer trips and for children.
How is it for carrying stuff?The Honda Civic sedan has a generous 440 litres of boot space, which is class-competitive and 40 litres more than the hatch.
The hatchback has Honda’s clever rear Magic Seats, which flip and fold to create a flat floor for cargo and maximise space. The hatch offers 1130 litres of cargo volume with its 40/60 seatbacks folded.
The Magic seat bases can also be folded upwards, to create space in the rear seat area to carry tall items such as potted plants. Such versatility places the hatchback among the best small cars for carting things around.
Where is it made?The Honda Civic sedan is manufactured in Thailand, and the Civic hatchback is manufactured in the United Kingdom.
What might I miss that similar cars have?
Turbocharged small cars such as the Volkswagen Golf respond more eagerly to the accelerator pedal, particularly from low speeds.
The Mazda3 offers low-speed automatic emergency braking on all models, at least as an option. A sensor detects obstacles in front of the car – typically another car that has slowed suddenly – and a computer applies the brakes if it concludes that a collision is imminent.
The Renault Megane and Hyundai i30 offer five-year warranties, and the Kia Cerato is warrantied for seven years.
Another small car worth considering is the Subaru Impreza.
I like this car, but I can't choose which version. Can you help?
The Honda Civic VTi-S hatch is our pick of the line-up.
The hatchback is better equipped than the sedan from this base model upwards, and more enjoyable to drive, with a more versatile cargo area.
Are there plans to update this model soon?The ninth-generation Civic arrived in Australia in 2012. The sedan was updated in mid-2014, and the hatch was updated in mid-2015.
An all-new, 10th generation Honda Civic sedan arrived in June 2016, with a new hatchback to follow before July 2017.
Things we like
- Well equipped
- Eager engines
Not so much
- Steering feel
- Sedan lacks refinement
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