15 July 2012

2012 Honda Civic - design and brief drive impression


First of all, lets get the sticky point out of our view. If you are interested in the new Honda Civic, but has been hindered by the rumours of poor interior quality, worry no more and please proceed buying it! MMN would say that the worry is baseless, and purely based on the press review from outside Malaysia.

Contrary to the Honda Civic FD generation, Honda offered two grades for the 2.0L version instead of 1.8L. So you will not get the high-spec 1.8L version this time around. The range starts with Civic 1.8S (RM115,980), followed by Civic Hybrid (RM119,980), Civic 2.0S(RM131,980) and topped by Civic 2.0 Navi at RM136,980. All prices are OTR and the waiting list quoted as per launch week is less than two month.


Honda Civic 2012 continues the FD cab-forward design with a stretched out pillars location front and back. The low slung but mono-surfaced FD front end has been revised with a more deliberate design. The elongated headlamp now staggered when view from the top plane, with the inner part kicks inwards before joining the grille. The chromed upper grille parts harks back to the facelifted FD for a design inspiration. If it looks a bit less techno-looking compared to Civic FD, the culprit is the fender. It is no longer a wrap-around item that goes all the way to cover the headlight flanking a smaller hood aperture, but it is smaller item now, terminated somewhere at the outer edge of the headlamp. That's the sole reason.

The side profile too has been given a dose of style injection. Gone is slab sided on the FD and in comes a more pronounced wedge shape, much like an enlarged version of Honda City. The glass house for example has been given a kink at the C-pillar, much like its smaller sibling. The lower  edge of the door is accentuated by the crisper sills line that runs all the way onto the rear wheelarch surfacing which eventually dies off at the rear bumper.

At the back, the new Civic has get rid off the FD large rear eyes, and replaced with a smaller item that stylishly protrudes out from the body, much in the style of the larger Honda Accord brothers. There is also a light extension into the trunk lid, but the lens are color-matched with the counterpart on the outer side, unlike the rear combi of some recently introduced national car. The rear bumper is taller than the current Civic and gains a lot of surface interplay that eliminates the bulk and create a negative mass perception.

The new Civic is not that photogenic. In photo, is appears flat, with squared-off edge and flattened surfaces. In flesh however, there's a subtle line that break those surfaces, and in the correct lighting scenario, the surface interplay can be seen clearly. It is like the current Honda Accord. Look it in the light-limited situation and it appears like whale, but once out in open environment, the interaction with the natural lighting comes into play. Same case here. So go and have a look for yourselves in real world.

To elaborate more on my first ever sentence in this review, lets be straight regarding the interior of Honda Civic. The plastic material used is not the low quality type. The quality and textures are on par with the Civic FD. The top portion of the dashboard has some techno texturing on it. While typically the texture resembles leather or pure geometric, this one mimics leaves. A green-inspired move perhaps? The plastic quality is generally OK, and the perceived quality and tactility is even thrown in with some good measures. The upper area of the door trim is soft padded, just like Civic FD. While the nicely textured dashboard top part is hard plastic, it is similar case in Civic FD. While most of the surface is not soft touch, at least they are kind of matte in finishing, hence eliminates the shiny look of the cheaper variety. Thus, there's no obvious case of cost cutting here.

However, what amplified the previously negative perception is the new aesthetic direction. Make no mistake though. It is still an interplay of massive different surfaces as can be seen below. The space age Multiplex concept still intact. What is missing is the fulfilment of of those void spaces. As can be seen above, in front of the gear level, there's nothing. It a void. If it is lidded, perhaps it will turn out better. Similar case to the climate control system. Previous Civic FD is adorned with a different layout with many button and nice screen to fill up the space offered by the Multiplex layout. Not so here. The sparse looking audio does not help either. But bear in mind though, this audio looks better in real life. Similar to the climate control, they are geometrically textured with horizontal bar that makes them looks a bit matte. And if perceived quality can be de-coupled with aesthetic pleasure, this new design is no problematic at all.

In terms of interior trim, the new Civic comes in two color. The one below is for the 1.8S version. It has a "greige" color scheme, which the two-tones does exudes some quality feeling in it. The fabric still has some "towel" outlook legacy from FD1, but it is OK actually. The seating position is excellent. The ergonomics are fine too. It is nice to note that the centre console is angled towards the driver. However, the 1.8S version lacks the cruise control function, so the right panel on the steering wheel is void.

Opting for 2.0S will give you an all-black cabin. Accentuating sporty perhaps, it is similarly nice to be seated in here. Note the steering wheel has extra button, thats your cruise control. Note that both version has the leather-upholstered steering wheel.
This is what MMN means by sparse. Look at the void in front of the gear lever. It is a storage I know, but perhaps it should be more elaborative. The gear console too has lost the FD fancy garnishing, but this one is not too bad in flesh. 

Apart from color difference, there's also minor difference between the 1.8S and both 2.0L version. The silver bar on the door trim upper part (which is soft touch BTW) is not fitted on the cheaper version. 
The rear accommodation is  excellent. While the wheelbase has been shortened by 30mm, the interior length contrastly grows by 10mm. By cleverer packaging of the cabin, the rear legroom is enhanced by 40mm. Honda packaging engineers also has improved the visibility. The A-pillar base has been shifted forward, revised base design and shifted the mini quarter pillar to offer a much uninterrupted view out front. The floor is flat too.
Have a look at the audio system and climate control. MMN is trying to project a better view of these two controversial items. The buttons are nicely trimmed but subjectively the aesthetic could be improved.

In the powertrain department, it is a mixture of old and new. While the 1.8L lump is carried over, the DOHC 2.0L in previous Civic made way to the R20 from Accord/CR-V model. The slightly enhanced 1,798cc lump kicks out 141PS@6,500rpm and 174Nm@4,300rpm of power and torque. The 1,997cc R20 punches 155PS@6,500rpm and 190Nm@4,300rpm. Both engine are mated to the 5 speed automatic transmission where the 2.0L version gets paddle shift control. Both engine are rated at EURO 3 emission performance. Fuel tank is 50L. The Hybrid version is powered by 1.5L gasoline engine paired to an electric motor and the combo produces 110PS@5,500rpm of power and 172Nm of torque between 1,000rpm and 3,500rpm.

Chassis & Dimension
For the chassis, Honda engineers has decided to combat the trend of scaling up the car with each iteration of generations. So for this generation, they have loped off 30mm from the wheelbase, giving it 2,670mm in total, all without the loss of spaciousness. Overall length is 4,525mm, width 1,755mm and height 1,435mm. The new Civic is 15mm shorter than the Civic FD. Chassis hardware is similar to the outgoing model with McPherson strut up front and multi-link at the back. Braking power is supplied by ventilated disc up front and solid back at the back. Both 1.8L and 2.0L version now equipped with Electric Power Steering.

The 2.0L model is adorned with the 17" alloy wrapped by 215/45 R17 tyres. The entry-level 1.8S model make do with a smaller 16" wheel shod with 205/55 R16 tyres. The Hybrid model goes even smaller with its 195/65 R15 to reflect its environmentalist incentive.

Driving Impression
The driving position is comfortable with good ergonomics between steering wheel, pedals, gear knob and control button placement. It is typical Honda here. The visibility out front is good, rears on OK too. The gear knob and handbrake movement is smooth with no creaky sound as some cars.

On the move, the 2.0L version pulls away cleanly and surely. Noise suppression especially in terms of isolating the engine noise is nicely subdued. Even under the harsh acceleration the engine noise (for 2.0L) is well muted and maintaining its refinement. However, the author thinks there's a slight tyre noise (or wind noise) distantly creeping into his ears. It is the case of it is not quite audible, but it is there nevertheless. But Civic FD is also the same in this case.

The steering feel can be described as well weighted. The feel into the corner is what you expect out of Civic, it is nothing like the lightness of Honda City steering. Handling-wise, what can be concluded is it is composed. But we haven't got the chance to throw it out to the mountain road. So do check around for some other long distance test drive from other publication. 

Honda Civic used to be the defining C Segment car. The competition is stiffer these days. However, it is still a differentiators between the B Segment car with C Segment size. This is the case applicable to lower rung of the price scale of the C Segment cars. Elantra too is a pure C Segment car that slightly cheaper (compare for 1.8 to 1.8 version, but price will be increased by RM5k soon), Forte is also a C Segment, but it is getting a bit long in the tooth. Any lower than these however, they could just be an inflated B Segment contenders.

Honda Civic however is not without weaknesses. For one, the equipment level is not that high. No bluetooth connectivity for the non-Navi car? Come on  Honda. Anyway Honda has thrown in a better warranty scheme that now covers 5 years with unlimited mileage. What can be concluded here is that there is nothing wrong with the new Civic, but neither there is anything special or outstanding about it too.

More photos after the jump.

No comments: