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2012 Honda Civic

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The Honda Civic has been Canada's most popular passenger car for at least the last 15 years. Since 1973, more than a million and a half have been sold in this country, and several generations have grown up with one parked in their driveway . Who hasn't driven a Civic at one time or another?

And because it's an entry level model for Honda, it's also a very important vehicle for the company, and often leads to bigger things when it comes to repeat purchases. About 65 per cent of first-time buyers go onto another Honda product after they have bought a Civic, explained Honda Canada executive vice-president, Jerry Chenkin, at the launch of the 2012 Civic, in Washington, DC.

So when Honda contemplates making changes to their best-seller, they tend to proceed cautiously. The old adage, if it ain't broke, don't fix it applies in spades to this car, and at the introduction, most attending journalists agreed that what we are getting here is pretty much business as usual.

And there is nothing wrong with that. The current version of the Civic is still an industry leader and one of the best things going in the compact category.

For 2012, the Civic will be offered in four variations: coupe, four-door sedan, Hybrid, and Si. Power for the first two models (expected to be the most popular by a long shot) will be delivered by a smooth and thrifty four cylinder that displaces 1.8 litres and delivers 140 horsepower. Transmission choices will be either a five-speed manual or five-speed automatic, and all models will have what Honda calls its Eco Assist driver feedback feature. This is simply a light on the instrument panel that comes on when you are driving the car as efficiently as possible. Fuel economy is projected to be 7.2 L/100 km in town and 5.0 L/100 km on the highway, with the automatic transmission.  This is an increase of 12 per cent, according to Honda. The Hybrid model, which is due to hit the market sometime this summer, will deliver a purported 4.4 L/100 km combined rating, says Honda, which will put it at or near the top of the fuel economy heap in Canada.

Honda hasn't gotten carried away with styling. There is nothing wrong with the current version when it comes to visuals, and, for the new Civic, Honda designers worked on things like improved peripheral visibility, better aerodynamics and increased interior elbow room. The company is describing the new Civic is appearance as One motion and High energy, whatever that is. Interior accoutrements will include an optional Multi Information Display.a monitor, in other words, that will display things like audio settings, GPS, fuel economy, and various other vehicle functions, and can be personalized with different kinds of wallpaper. Honda has also redesigned the main instrument panel, which is located atop the dashboard and houses the rev counter, fuel gauge, temperature and so on. On the current model, this arrangement is a design flaw, as the drivers line of sight is obstructed by the steering wheel. Things are better with the redesign, but not perfect.

Aside from the bargain-basement DX, standard equipment on the new Civic will include the usual amenities, such as air conditioning, one-touch up/down power windows, power door locks, cruise control, heated power wide mirrors, tilt/telescoping steering and so on. You can also get a leather interior, upgraded sound system, Bluetooth, GPS, and steering-wheel-mounted controls. With all the bells and whistles, the new Civic will top out at just under $25,000.

There will also be a high-performance model in the form of the Si. This will be offered as a two-door coupe or four-door sedan and will be propelled by a 2.4 litre four cylinder engine. This powerplant is also found in the Accord, and in this configuration, develops 201 horsepower. It can be mated to a six-speed transmission, and performance buffs can expect to accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in around seven seconds, give or take. As for the Hybrid, it will remain of the mild variety, which means it never runs on just battery power alone. Well, almost never. Apparently, while cruising on the highway, it will revert to pure battery power for about 80 seconds at a time.

There is one rather large fly in the ointment for Honda. Because of the situation in Japan, the company will be experiencing supply problems. Nobody really knows what the impact of the situation in Japan will be, commented Jerry Chenkin. Factor that into the overall depressed state of the industry, and Chenkin says his company is introducing its most popular model into a perfect storm of industry ups and downs. The Civic will be manufactured as always  in Alliston, Ontario, and Chenkin expects there to be some supply issues for the time being. We ask our loyal customers to bear with us if they don't get their new Civic as quickly as they d like.