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Heels on Wheels - 2012 Honda Civic HF Review


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2012 Honda Civic HF

COMPARE: 2012 Honda Civic Models - Honda Buyers Guide

HEELS ON WHEELS
By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

INTRO TO THE 2012 HONDA CIVIC HF VEHICLE
When dieting, it often makes more sense to cut back on your usual dining fair than to start eating entirely new foods altogether. Such is the argument the all-new, non-hybrid Civic HF is making. Standing for High Fuel economy, the Civic HF looks and feels just like your usual four-door, five passenger Civic sedan, but features a special decklid spoiler, low-rolling resistance tires and wind-cheating underbody panels that help deliver 29 miles-per-gallon city and 41 highway.

I drove a 2012 Honda Civic HF with the 140-horsepower 1.8-liter i-VTEC four-cylinder engine, Eco Assist and a five-speed automatic transmission. With only one model available, my Civic HF came with the following standard features: a USB interface and auxiliary input jacks; a multi-information display with steering-wheel mounted controls; a four-speaker audio system; and speed-sensitive volume control. Suggested starting price is $19,445.

Several other makers have also come up with a special model or trim in their lineup featuring similar exterior modifications to help drop fuel economy numbers. Much like my dieting analogy, for some drivers, it makes more economic and behavioral sense to continue with living with fossil fuels and budget constraints than to step up to a more costly hybrid or an electric car altogether. And for that reason, the Civic HF finds a niche.

HEELS ON WHEELS REVIEW CRITERIA

Stylish But Comfortable Results: One of the bugaboos about hybrid or other fuel-efficient models is that most are only available with dressed-up interiors featuring a lot of costly options when all you really want is the gas-saving powertrain. The Civic HF flips this norm on its head. The interior is altogether very basic and compared to the Civic LX with no optional equipment like a navigation system, moonroof, leather upholstery or upgraded audio system. The Civic sees more facelifts that any car so the exterior style remains fresh. Inside, a striking 3-D depth arrangement on the dash layers the steering wheel, rev-per-minute dial and digital miles-per-hour readout very nicely. It is also hard to beat the vehicle’s strong history of customer satisfaction and road longevity.

Reliability & Safety Factor: Advanced safety systems include Honda-exclusive Advanced Compatibility Engineering body; an advanced airbag system; Vehicle Stability Assist; an anti-lock braking system with Brake Assist; and a new Motion Adaptive Electric Power Steering system that helps the driver steer in the ideal direction to mitigate oversteer or understeer situations.

The Civic four-door version is a Top Safety Pick with The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). It is not yet rated by The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Cost Issues: The Civic HF comes in just one base price -- $19,445. If you were cost comparing within the brand, the similarly outfitted Civic LX starts at $17,855. Looking elsewhere, the Kia Forte sedan has an optional $300 Fuel Economy Package for the EX trim featuring performance and body enhancements; total price for that vehicle and package brings the Forte EX to $17,900.

Activity & Performance Ability: The Civic HF – and any Civic with the 1.8-liter for that matter – is filled with fun-to-drive road manners. You get sprightly performance with an outstanding feel at higher speeds under a well-tuned suspension. It’s crisp, smart and focused on the road. The Eco Assist feature functions like an eco-tutor that helps you squeeze every mile out of a gallon by delivering driver feedback through blue and green "coaching bars" on either side of the speedometer.

The Green Concern: The Civic HF has fuel economy numbers engineered to impress at 29 miles-per-gallon city and 41 highway. The Forte sedan with the Fuel Economy Package might be a couple thousand cheaper than the Civic HF, but the Forte that achieves 27 miles-per-gallon city and 37 highway.

FINAL PARTING WORDS
The 2012 Civic HF as the highest highway fuel economy rating for any gasoline-only compact sedan equipped with an automatic transmission. It’s a calculated, inexpensive nudge for those not ready to make the electric-only or hybrid leap.

©2012 Katrina Ramser