The 2012 model year was a strange one for the Civic: Honda introduced a freshly redesigned version, and while the car was technically new from stem to stern, it was very similar to the 2006-2011 version that preceded it. Critics panned it for being too much like its predecessor; they also cited cheap interior trim bits and a driving experience that wasn’t as engaging as in earlier models. Consumer Reports went so far as to remove it from their "Recommended" list. Honda sensed a problem early on: Before the 2012 Honda Civic went on sale — in fact, before the critics had a chance to criticize — they had embarked on a crash improvement program for the 2013 model.
The punch line is that buyers loved the Civic: Sales improved 40 percent over 2011. (For the record, the "improved" 2013 version only grew sales by an additional 6 percent.) Consumers recognized the 2012 Honda Civic for what it was: A roomy, fuel-efficient and reliable family car with a broad model selection that included sedans, coupes, hybrids, hot-rods and even a natural-gas-fueled version. The 2012 Honda Civic was a good buy when new, and given Honda’s reputation for stellar reliability, it’s a good buy on the used market as well.
What We Like
Spacious interior; great reliability; broad range of models; good fuel economy
What We Don’t
Some cheap interior bits; not the most engaging of Civics to drive
Fuel Economy & Engine Specs
Most Civics are powered by a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine that produces 140 hp and 128 lb-ft of torque. EPA-rated fuel economy is 28 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway with the 5-speed manual transmission and 28 mpg city/39 mpg hwy when equipped with the 5-speed automatic. Honda also offered a more fuel-efficient model, the HF, EPA rated at 29 mpg city/41 mpg hwy.
The Civic Hybrid couples a 1.5-liter gasoline engine with an electric motor and a continuously-variable automatic transmission (CVT), with a total gas/electric system output of 110 hp and 127 lb-ft of torque. The Hybrid is EPA rated at 43 mpg in the city and 44 MPG on the highway.
At the other end of the spectrum is the hot-rod Civic Si, powered by a 201-hp/170-lb-ft 2.4-liter engine. This engine comes exclusively with a 6-speed manual, with fuel economy estimates of 22 mpg city/31 mpg hwy.
Honda also offered a version of the Civic powered by compressed natural gas (CNG), bearing the imaginative name Civic Natural Gas. It has a variant of the 1.8-liter engine that produces 110 hp and 106 lb-ft of torque. CNG is sold in GGEs — Gasoline Gallon Equivalent — and the Civic Natural Gas is rated at 27 MPGGE in the city and 38 on the highway.
Standard Features & Options
The 2012 Civic comes in four main models — DX, LX, EX and EX-L — along with the more fuel-efficient HF, the CNG-powered Natural Gas, the rocketship Si and the Hybrid. With Hondas, the trim level determines what equipment the car has; the only factory-installed option is navigation, offered on all but DX and LX models.
The Civic DX is the most basic version; it has power windows and a fold-down rear seatback, but not much else — not even air conditioning or a stereo. The LX model adds the basics most buyers expect: power mirrors and door locks, keyless entry, cruise control, floor mats, air conditioning and a 4-speaker stereo with a CD player. The HF and Natural Gas models are equipped much like the LX; the HF gets low-rolling-resistance tires, cast aluminum wheels and a trunk spoiler, while the Natural Gas gets alloy wheels, variable-delay wipers and Bluetooth phone connectivity.
The EX model adds alloy wheels, a sunroof, rear disc brakes, automatic headlights, variable-delay wipers, a split/fold rear seat and an upgraded 7-speaker stereo with Bluetooth. The EX-L model adds leather upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and heated front seats.
The Hybrid model offers similar equipment to the EX, with unique alloy wheels, LED taillights and a 6-speaker stereo. A Leather package adds the same upgrades found on the EX-L.
The Civic Si gets most of the features from the Civic EX, plus equipment designed to enhance performance: 17-inch alloy wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, a limited-slip differential, sport seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, an aluminum shift knob and a unique instrument panel.
Hondas have a well-deserved reputation for long-term reliability, particularly in states where rust is not an issue — without metal corrosion, a well-cared-for Civic can keep going for hundreds of thousands of miles. Good reliability means high resale value, and even high-mileage examples can command higher prices than other Japanese cars of similar vintage and mileage. We suggest checking KBB.com to see values of used 2012 Honda Civics, and since asking prices can vary with locale, check the Autotrader Classifieds to get a better idea of prices in your area.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has issued the following recalls for the 2012 Honda Civic:
Some 2012 Civics did not have one of their driveshafts properly attached to the wheel, which could result in the car losing power or rolling while in Park.
Early-production Civics had a misaligned O-ring in the fuel feed line, which could result in a fuel leak and possible fire.
A limited number of Civics have a steering column that may not provide adequate crash protection.
Safety Ratings & Warranties
The 2012 Civic sedan received a perfect 5-star rating from NHTSA, though the Coupe achieved only four stars. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) awarded the Civic sedan a Top Safety Pick rating owing to its best-possible "Good" score in all crash tests. The IIHS did not test the 2012 Civic coupe.
The 2012 Honda Civic was sold with a 3-year/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and 5 years or 60,000 miles of powertrain protection. These warranties are transferrable when the car is sold, but the rust-through warranty (5 years/unlimited mileage) only applies to the original owner. Civics sold under the Honda certified pre-owned program get an additional 1-year/12,000-mile bumper-to bumper warranty (added to the 3/36,000 warranty if it’s still in effect), plus powertrain protection for up to 7 years or 100,000 miles from the date the car was purchased new. This additional warranty can also be transferred to subsequent owners.
Other Cars to Consider
2012 Toyota Corolla — The Civic’s nemesis. Every bit as reliable, though not as engaging to drive.
2012 Mazda3 — Comes up short on back-seat space, but if you love to drive, no compact will put a bigger smile on your face.
2012 Nissan Versa — Technically a smaller car than the Civic, but just as roomy inside, and usually inexpensive — bargain prices when new translate to great buys on the used-car market.
They say there’s no such thing as a sure thing, but a used Honda Civic comes pretty darn close. Avoid the stripped-down DX model; an LX or EX is your best bet, and the Si is a great sporty drive. If you can find a Civic with a complete set of maintenance records, that’s the best choice. You may pay a bit more for a used 2012 Civic, but it should run for decades with proper care and feeding. That makes it it a great long-term investment — and one of our favorite used-car buys.