Sunday, 12 April 2015

2012 Honda Civic 1.8 i-VTEC EX First Drive

When Honda decided that the European market would be allowed to have its own version

When Honda decided that the European market would be allowed to have its own version of the Civic back in the early 2000s, it first sent a couple of young Japanese designers to Italy to study European cars and absorb the culture.
When quizzed on what influence the experience had on the resulting 2006 Civic, their rather startling answer was nothing. And sure enough, looking at the radical, eighth-generation car, one that Honda called the revolution Civic, it was indeed hard to see much sign of European influence.
From its plunging hood to its raised tail, this hatchback was definitely different in silhouette, proportioning and detail. This Euro Civic was no less wild inside, a sizable double-decker dashboard presenting a digital speedometer close to the windshield for easier reading, the lesser dials sunk beneath a reflection-proof screen lurking behind the steering wheel.

Now the time has come for the debut of the all-new 2012 Honda Civic, and sure enough it's still an eccentric-looking hatchback. But is it a better one this time around?

We're not sure about the revolution bit this time, as this car is looking very much the mature descendant of its predecessor. The plunging hood line appears once again, as do the small — but not quite so small — glass house, the tall tail and inside, the double-decker dashboard.
Its mechanical essence remains the same, too. Both the 1.4 and 1.8 gasoline engines and the 2.2 diesel are carried over from the last car, as is the suspension consisting of MacPherson struts up front and a twist-beam axle at the rear.
But there have been upgrades to all the core hardware and detail design, much of it aimed at quelling customer criticism. Some of those gripes were no surprise when you consider that plenty of British Civic buyers were on the older side, their age-stiffened necks struggling to allow them to see past the shallow rear windscreen and a pair of exceptionally fat D-pillars.

This time the tailgate glazing drops deeper, the rear side windows are (slightly) larger and somebody remembered that fitting a rear windshield wiper is quite a good idea in often-rainy Europe.

Buyers of all ages weren't exactly delighted with the low-grade, hard-feel plastics that formed the uniquely sculpted dashboard either. So the 2012 Honda Civic gets a soft-feel skin for its dashboard and door tops, a much classier, chrome-edged analog instrument cluster beneath that digital speedo. It also added more expensive-looking seats, a driver-info display screen and a classier-looking wheel.

Many fingered the Civic's cheap twist-beam rear axle as the culprit for its previously busy ride quality, not least because rivals like Ford and VW provide more sophisticated (and costlier) multilink rear suspensions for their Focus and Golf hatchbacks.