The Honda Civic has lead Consumer Reports rankings seemingly since its inception. It has earned CR’s Top Pick in five of the past ten years, and almost always scores well in comparisons.
Until now. The newly redesigned Civic was only able to muster a total score of 61, as opposed to the 78 it earned last year. The 17 point drop too much of a hit to overcome, and ultimately the Civic LX could not be Recommended by CR for the upcoming model year.
Out of the 12 small sedans tested, the Civic landed second to last, beating only the new Volkswagen Jetta. Consumer Reports had a laundry list of complaints about the 2012 Honda Civic, faulting its lack of responsiveness, lower interior quality, long braking distances, rough ride and noisy interior. However, it wasn’t all doom-and-gloom for the Civic, as CR thought the rear-seat legroom was fine, and the overall fuel economy score of 30 mpg was second only to the class leading Toyota Corolla’s 32 mpg. The Honda Civic LX came with a 140-horsepower four-cylinder engine and an as-tested price tag of $19,405.
“While other models like the Hyundai Elantra have gotten better after being redesigned, the Civic has dropped so much that now it ranks near the bottom of its category,” said David Champion, senior director of Consumer Reports’ Auto Test Center in East Haddam, CT.
Not surprisingly, Honda disagrees. In a prepared statement, the company acknowledges that the small car segment has gotten more competitive, but goes on to say that, “The new Civic excels in areas that matter to small-car customers, including fuel efficiency, safety, and reliability. Among the Civic’s greatest competitive strengths, is a smooth and efficient powertrain that, in Consumer Reports testing returned, ‘… an impressive 30 mpg overall on regular fuel and 47 mpg on the highway.’” Honda also noted that the Civic’s reputation for reliability, and pointed out that its safety scores are very good, earning a Top Safety Pick from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The Civic was up against some formidable competition. CR’s test group included the Ford Focus hatchback and sedan along with the hatchback version of the Kia Forte. Both earned a score of Very Good. Consumer Reports praised the Focus’s nimble handling and forgiving ride, while the Forte’s high level of equipment and roomy interior were high points. Still, both models were knocked down a few pegs with a few complaints. The Focus has a constricted backseat, the controls are tough to navigate, and the automatic transmission is jumpy. The Forte has a rough ride, a noisy interior, and a middle of the road interior playing a role in lowering the overall score.
Here at Automotive.com we believe the Civic’s fall from grace can be attributed to the lack of changes for the 2012 model year. Although Honda says the Civic is all-new, the changes are evolutionary, and not a great leap forward at that. With the Civic falling off the figurative horse for the first time in a decade, look for the Focus, Forte, Corolla, Nissan Sentra and Hyundai Elantra to vie for the vacant spot in the coming year. As for Honda, it’s back to the drawing board.