2012 Honda Civic EX-L with navigation review:

2012 Honda Civic EX-L with navigation

True, driving with the Econ mode may be more efficient than without, but we're not fans of putting the needs of the engine ahead of those of the driver. At the end of the day, the Econ button feels like a compromise or even a cheat to get the Civic's fuel economy on par with the competition, but it's not the mode that we'd recommend that anyone actually drive around in. The fact that the vehicle doesn't default to Econ upon restarting suggests that even Honda must feel that way. Around-town driving without the Econ button's assistance yielded much better and more predictable performance and a 27.4-mpg combined city and highway average.

New cabin tech package
We've never really been fans of the Honda Civic's cabin tech package, and at first glance this new model appeared to be more of the same. The maps for the optional navigation package look as pixelated as the previous generation and are just as difficult to read. The menus feature the same dated aesthetic and low resolution. But beneath the surface, the infotainment system is mostly new.

The Civic's maps are laughably bad compared with those of even the cheapest portable navigation device.

Digging through the menus reveals that most of the screens have been redesigned and reorganized to make browsing audio sources faster and inputting a destination more intuitive. The user interface still requires a bit of effort to learn, but it's much easier to work with than it used to be.

Audio sources for our EX-L with Navigation were AM/FM radio, a single-CD slot with MP3 playback, USB connectivity with iPod control, an auxiliary audio input, and Bluetooth A2DP wireless audio streaming. Regardless of the source, the Civic's six-speaker audio system produced good sound with tight bass despite its lack of a subwoofer. Sound quality was definitely better than in other vehicles tested in the Civic's class, for example the Hyundai Elantra GLS.

Located at the top of the dashboard--under the eyebrow that also houses the digital speedometer, fuel gauge, and mpg meter--is the Civic's new I-MID, a secondary 5-inch LCD that interfaces with the trip computer and infotainment system to mirror vehicle information within the driver's field of view. By pressing a button on the steering wheel, you can alternate between displaying audio source information, turn-by-turn directions, trip computer and fuel economy information, and even customizable photo wallpaper that can be imported via USB. We found the I-MID to be extremely useful, particularly for displaying upcoming turns while navigating. Oddly, the crisp graphics of this secondary display had the side effect of making the primary display look even worse by comparison.

Honda somewhat makes up for the low-res main screen with the I-MID, which displays secondary information at the top of the instrument cluster.

Bluetooth hands-free calling joins audio streaming in the Civic's bag of tricks. The system features address book sync and with the aid of Honda's slightly improved voice command system enables calls to be initiated by voice. The system isn't as seamless as, for example, Ford Sync, but it is more fully featured than Hyundai's system. A new help screen is shown when you press the voice button, useful for those who may have struggled with the previous voice command system.

In sum
Honda hasn't ruined the 2012 Civic, contrary to popular belief. In fact, depending on what you're looking for in a vehicle, Honda has incrementally improved the Civic. The car is more comfortable and slightly more efficient, and finally offers cabin technology that we could live with on a daily basis. If you're looking for a safe and reliable commuter car with good cabin technology, you may find yourself pleased with a new Honda Civic--just cover that Econ button up with a bit of gaffer's tape and try to forget it's there.

However, the Civic also finds itself in the middle of a rapidly evolving market full of other small cars that are just as good. Where the Civic was once the runaway winner in the B-segment, these days it faces stiff competition from the likes of the Hyundai Elantra, the Ford Focus, and Chevrolet Cruze Eco that are marginally less expensive, better equipped, or more efficient.

The Honda Civic sedan is available in three main trim levels: stripped-out DX, which doesn't even include a CD player; standard LX with its USB connectivity, I-MID, and air conditioning; and the EX that adds Bluetooth calling, the better-than-average audio system, and a power moon roof. Adding $1,490 to the EX's $20,505 price tag bumps the trim level to EX-L and adds leather trim on the seats and steering wheel, as well as heated seating surfaces and side mirrors. Finally, $1,500 brings you to the oddly descriptive "EX-L with Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System with Voice Recognition" trim level that we tested, which, obviously, adds navigation, voice recognition, and XM Satellite Radio. There are no more major options, just a $770 destination charge to bring us to an-as tested MSRP of $24,225.

Tech specs
Model 2012 Honda Civic sedan
Trim EX-L
Power train 1.8-liter gasoline engine
EPA fuel economy 28 city, 39 highway mpg
Observed fuel economy 33.3 mpg
Navigation Optional w/ FM traffic
Bluetooth phone support Basic voice command, phonebook sync, A2DP audio streaming
Disc player Single-disc, CD/ MP3
MP3 player support Analog 3.5mm auxiliary input, USB w/ iPod connectivity
Other digital audio Bluetooth stereo streaming, SiriusXM Satellite Radio
Audio system 160 watts, 6 speakers, no subwoofer
Driver aids n/a
Base price $15,805
Price as tested $24,225

What you'll pay

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