The Honda Civic in a nutshell:
For the first time, Honda is introducing four completely redesigned models almost simultaneously. The first of the new Civic sedans arrive in dealerships this month, following quickly by the Civic Coupe, Si Coupe and Civic Hybrid.
Safety: Aside from having Honda's Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structure to manage collision energy, all Civics come with side curtain airbags, driver and front passenger side airbags, Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) anti-skid control and anti-lock braking.
New styling: Honda calls it "mono-form" design language and tout its clean, flowing lines
Space: this Civic has a roomier interior and Honda types say all models come with more convenience than any other vehicle in segment.
New technologies: depending on the model, new features include the intelligent Multi-Information Display (i-MID), USB Audio Interface, Bluetooth mobile phone connectivity and a satellite-linked navigation system with bilingual voice recognition
New powertrains: Honda is touting a re-engineered 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine (140 horsepower) with enhanced fuel economy and a larger and more powerful 2.4-litre four-cylinder (201 horsepower) for the Si, and a new Civic Hybrid powertrain (with Integrated Motor Assist and a 1.5-litre four-cylinder for 110 hp) "that delivers higher overall performance and improved fuel economy."
2012 Civic sedan and coupe
Price range: $14,990-$24,390.
The engine: 1.8-litre inline-four-cylinder producing 140 hp at 6,500 rpm and 128 lb-ft of torque at 4,300 rpm.
The transmissions: five-speed manual (standard in DX, LX, & EX Sedan, LX and EX Coupe) and five-speed automatic (available on Civic Sedan and Civic Coupe; Civic EX Sedan, EX-L Sedan, Civic EX-L Coupe)
Estimated fuel economy (litres/100 km): 7.2 city/5.0 highway with automatic transmission.
In a nutshell: The bread-and-butter Civics (sedan and coupe) are exceedingly quiet and comfortable. The doors close with a satisfying "clunk," reflecting a high level of refinement.
The upgraded engine is strong and smooth and fuel economy is exceedingly competitive. Thinner pillars that frame the windshield improve on visibility that was already good in the outgoing model. The seats feel firm up front and there is adequate room in the rear for two adults, despite this new Civic having a slightly shorter wheelbase. The trunk is reasonably large, too.
What's missing? How about a hatchback Civic? Canadians love hatchback, but Honda doesn't have anything to compete head-to-head with the likes of the new Ford Focus hatchback.
2012 Honda Civic Hybrid
Price: Not available (on sale June 2011)
The engine: Honda's Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) system uses a gasoline engine as the primary source of power while an electric motor provides additional power and electricity regeneration capability. A 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine is connected to an electric motor and a continuously variable transmission (CVT). A new lithium-ion battery pack captures and store electricity for the upgraded 23-horsepower electric motor. Combined output is rated at 110 hp at 5,500 rpm and 127 lb-ft of torque at 1,000-3,500 rpm.
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 4.3 combined city/highway.
In a nutshell: Honda keeps trying with hybrids and the company's approach is elegantly simple - use an electric motor and battery pack to boost performance while delivering excellent combined fuel economy.
The hybrid model also has a stop/start system, in which the engine shuts down when you are stopped at a light or in traffic, then instantly restarts when it's time to go. The Civic Hybrid is capable of cruising on batter power alone for slightly longer than a minute at expressway speeds.
2012 Civic Si
Base price: $25,990
The engine: A new 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine. This one, says Honda, is the largest and most powerful of any Civic introduced in North America. An all-aluminum design with four valves per cylinder and a high-performance i-VTEC system with specially tuned high-volume intake manifold produces 201 hp, up four horsepower from the 2.0-litre engine it replaces. Peak torque is up 22 per cent to 170 lb-ft at 4,400 rpm, 1,700 rpm lower than the previous engine's 139 lb-ft at 6,100 rpm.
The transmission: Six-speed manual.
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 10.0 city/6.4 highway.
In a nutshell: The Si is not to be underestimated as an affordable performance machine with two doors. The car is quick and agile, though in the daily cut and thrust of commuting it will not punish you.
Still, if Honda really is an engine company, why isn't there a Civic designed to deliver pure, unvarnished and beautifully racy road manners. The Si is fun but not shockingly so. A really hot Civic would feel more like a guilty pleasure than this Si.
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