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We all hear the rumblings that Honda is being challenged by many strong competitors that no longer pale in comparison to this premiere Japanese automaker and its proud history of producing excellent vehicles.

Much like its bigger brother – the Accord – the Honda Civic is no longer undisputed king of the hill.

The compact car segment has transformed in recent years and that has the Civic fighting amongst a number of rivals for acknowledgement and prestige.

Regardless of how it matches up individually, there is no competitor that provides the diversity of the Civic – the choices are numerous. The 2012 Civic is offered in both coupe and sedan body styles. Mainstream models come in five trim levels, ranging from the base DX, to the midrange LX, EX and top-tier EX-L and Si. The Civic lineup also features a hybrid, a new gas-saving HF model (29-41 mpg), and a car that runs strictly on natural gas.

What’s this mean to anyone shopping for a Civic? Be prepared to do the homework because the choices are obviously numerous. Adding to the assignment is also realizing the changes that arrive with the 2012 redesign.

Here’s a list of major modifications for the 2012 Civic:

  • Fuel efficiency and power are improved for the Civic hybrid model.
  • Civic Si gets a new 2.4-liter engine that boosts overall torque compared to last year’s 2.0-liter.
  • More interior room: 3 inches of additional shoulder room up front, another 1.6 inches of rear legroom
  • Technology features such as a 5-inch information display, increased availability of iPod connectivity, an economy mode designed to maximize gas mileage.

There shouldn’t be any problem recognizing the 2012 Civic because nothing has really changed. The exterior design keeps its time-honored wedge-like shape and its rounded roof line.

Always a selling point for the Civic is gas mileage, and that continues to run high at 28-39 mpg for most models. What also continues to run high is the sticker price. One pays for the Honda name, evidenced by a price range between $15,605 and $26,155.

Even the unchanged standard Civic engine – a 1.8-liter, 4-cylinder with 140 horsepower – is lively navigating when climbing sizable hills and in freeway passing situations. Go for the upgraded Si model (2.4-liter, 4-cylinder, 201 horsepower) and the ride becomes a lot zippier, clocked from 0-60 mph in 6.9 seconds.

For a compact, the Civic provides a roomy and comfortable cabin, and that isn’t always the case in this segment where cramped back seats are common. The trunk has grown a bit, now offering a total of 11.7 cubic feet of cargo capacity in the coupe and 12.5 cubic feet in the sedan.

Civics historically possesses a reputation for a steady ride, and that hasn’t changed. This compact grips the road with assurance, corners well, but does get a little noisy at higher speeds.

Several subtle changes didn’t dramatically improve the 2012 Civic, but it’s still a great choice in the ever improving compact vehicle segment.

2012 Honda Civic

Performance: 1.8-liter, four-cylinder, 140 horsepower
Mileage estimate: 28-39 mpg
Price: $15,605 to $26,155

Standard features include: automatic headlights; intermittent windshield wipers; rear window defroster; tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel; fold-down rear seatback; four-speaker sound system, CD player, auxiliary/USB audio inputs; stability control

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