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January 29, 2013

Review: 2012 Honda Civic 2.0 EL

Photos by Ulysses Ang
We’ve already taken the 2012 Honda Civic 1.8 E (Thai-built model) on a full-blown test drive that lasted a week. Suffice to say, we weren’t so impressed the first time around. We concluded that Honda was doing their utmost best to ape a Corolla Altis, when they should have built a sportier compact.

So how would the Civic 2.0 fare? Will a bigger engine and some additional luxury trimmings turn the tide from utter beige-ness? Read on.

What’s New Outside?

For a while, the Philippine market had the Japanese-built Honda Civic. This meant a single variant and an expensive price, especially considering the features that you got. But tucked away at the Civic’s launch was the 2.0-liter model which Honda Cars Philippines simply passed on as an accessorized 1.8-liter model (if only they can fool us). Nonetheless, when production of the Civic finally shifted to Thailand, HCPI introduced the full Civic line, including the 2.0-liter model.

Officially dubbed the 2.0 EL, the top-range Civic gets some additional ‘bling’ such as front fog lamps (with chrome surrounds) and 17-inch alloys with 215/45 R 17s among others. The projector-type headlamps also house HIDs. Sadly, the shape of the 2012 Civic is still rather bland and inoffensive, looking more like a facelift rather than a full model change. And somehow, the rear quarters still doesn’t look blended to the rest of the car. But, it’s amazing how the proper set of wheels would add a nice stance to the look of the Civic. The Civic 2.0 EL sports the best looking OEM alloys in its class.

What’s Different Inside?

Like the Civic 2.0’s exterior, it’s surprising how small and seemingly minor changes would do wonders to how the interior feels. The two-tone gray and gray has been ditched in favor of a gray (upper) and black (lower) scheme giving the Civic a sportier feel. The steering wheel, shift knob, and seats are all covered in black leather, giving a nice and welcome upgrade from the moquette fabrics found in the 1.8 E.

Ergonomically, there’s nothing to complain about the Civic. The seats are very supportive, the controls are all very easy to understand and operate, and the all-around visibility is quite good. Space, especially for the front occupants is exemplary and the rear will certainly find joy in the flat rear floor. The trunk space is also equally good for a compact car, though the Civic doesn’t offer any sort of split-folding seats which limit its cargo carrying capability.

Sadly, the Civic 2.0 EL suffers from the very same problem of poor interior materials. The leather is great, but sadly the rest of the cabin isn’t. The dashboard is full of hard plastics which despite its interesting texture isn’t luxurious in any sense of the word. But the worst culprit is the rubberized plastics used in areas like the door handles. They won’t wear very well. At just 5,000 kilometers old, some of this material is already flaking off and just a gentle rub will cause some marking.

What’s It Like to Drive?

Despite just an increase of 200-cc in its displacement over the regular 1.8-liter engine, the Civic 2.0 EL feels like a much better car. Off the line, the 2.0 EL feels punchier and peppier. It also feels happier working through the rev range, and the sound it makes is much sportier. The Civic 2.0 EL may have a five-speed gearbox, the same as the 1.8 E, but the extra 14 horsepower and 17 Nm make their presence known by making the shifting more relaxed. Aside from being extra fun, the result of the extra power and torque are felt in the 2.0 EL’s better fuel consumption: 9.9 km/L, Christmas traffic and all (the 1.8 E did just 9.1 km/L).

However, the overall driving experience is still pretty dull and unattached. Although turn-in feels quicker because of the larger wheels and low-profile tires, the 2.0 EL still feels largely unremarkable to drive. It’s as if Honda’s targeting an older demographic or at least those wanting to drive an appliance more than a car, and that’s a shame. And although the ‘Eco’ mode is theoretically designed to improve fuel efficiency, it doesn’t do anything but neuter the Civic’s sportiness.

What’s the Bottom Line?

The Honda Civic 2.0 EL sits at a whopping P 1,145,000—which makes it an expensive compact car. Although it would be nice to say that you should consider the 2.0 EL solely for its drivetrain, sadly a car nowadays is much more than that. Though it’s still got one of the best drivetrain in its class (best combination of sportiness/efficiency), the Civic is eclipsed in one very important aspect: value for money.

The evolutionary exterior, poor interior materials and uninspiring driving dynamics can all be forgotten if the Civic’s got the right price or the right features. Sadly, the Civic, even as the 2.0 EL, has neither. The Japan-built model introduced items such as a rear back-up camera, Bluetooth hands-free, and cruise control. Now, all of those features are gone. Even the VSA or Vehicle Stability Assist which was once available is now nowhere to be found.

The 2.0 EL does liven up the Civic range thanks to its still potent engine and wonderful transmission, but it must be remembered that a car is much more than just its engine. The deleted features from the Japan-built model are sorely missed, especially considering the 2.0 EL is Honda’s flagship compact. Perhaps it’s time for Honda to dip into its accessories catalogue to liven up the Civic?


  1. It might be good to note that the 2.0 EL is fitted with an R20 engine, and not the sublime K20.

    Less potential for tuning, and supposedly less linear powerband.

  2. the 2013 Civic is already sold in the US. Way way better than the outgoing model. hehe This review is very late.. =)

    1. I don't think it's very late. The all-new Civic was just launched around early last year and the full variants only arrived after June.

      Besides, from what HCPI tells me, we're not getting the US facelift. We're basically sticking with the current Civic until the mid-cycle refresh.

  3. Ugh, that chipping paint part of the interior is hideous. They should have used plastics instead. Its a small issue but some will be turned off by this definitely.
    Its not a bad car though. I think this looks better than the Civic FD.


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