The Civic and its lifelong rival, the Toyota Corolla, now find themselves competing in a marketplace crowded by the likes of the Chevrolet Cruze, Ford Focus and Hyundai Elantra. Redesigned for 2012, the ninth-generation Civic seeks to set itself apart with across-the-board improvements in mileage, power and onboard technology.
If there’s one category in which the Civic remains uncontested, it’s selection. From the eco-conscious HF, hybrid and natural-gas (CNG) versions to the sporty Si lineup, there’s at least one model for every driver. The dimensions and exterior styling are largely unchanged, save for a one-inch reduction in wheelbase length and a refreshed front end and taillight stack.
The interior doesn’t look much different either, and when compared to the competitors listed above, the Civic’s jumble of hard-plastic textures is overdue for a revamp. The Civic’s distinctive, split-level driver’s-side instrument display remains, and all but the DX and LX models now include a five-inch touchscreen to control an optional, proprietary navigation system with voice controls as well as multimedia.
The base-model DX now includes 15-inch steel wheels, automatic headlights and power windows, and the LX adds power mirrors and locks, keyless entry, A/C and cruise control; the HF is an LX with low rolling-resistance tires, aerodynamic cast-aluminum wheels, a “wind-cheating” underbody design and a rear spoiler.
Moving up to the EX gets you 16-inch alloy wheels, four-wheel disc brakes, a sunroof and a seven-speaker stereo. The EX-L adds leather upholstery, including a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and heated front seats. Oddly, leather is not available on the Si, which sports its own racing-inspired black-cloth ensemble.
The Si is available as a coupe and, for the first time in North America, a four-door sedan. Both variants include an upgraded, 2.4-liter four-banger that delivers 201 hp as well as 17-inch alloy wheels, limited-slip front differential, a sport-tuned suspension, foglights and front and rear spoilers.
While you won’t get any fleet incentives on Honda models, small fleet buyers should continue to look to the Civic for good reason: It’s a proven commodity, and its starting MSRP is holding steady at a hair under $16,000.