No one called the new 2012 Honda Civic a bad car, and it’s selling well, but some people just expected better ride/handling, sharper styling, and nicer interior trim. Honda got the message fast, and a 2013 model featured at the recent Los Angeles Auto Show has more changes than anyone could expect in just the next model year.
What undoubtedly spurred Honda was the desire to pass the tough new small overlap frontal crash test developed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Only Volvo and the Acura TL, among the 2012 cars tested, had earned a Good rating. It required a series of front-end modifications for the Civic to “ACE this test,” and inasmuch as Honda was producing a Civic derivative for Acura (the ILX), there was a double incentive.
The small barrier test simulates hitting a tree or pole at 40 mph (64 km/h) but so that it makes contact only with 25% of the front end on one side. Front-end crash management systems are engineered for a head-on collision but generally do best when the crash energy starts at the center or near-center and can be evenly dispersed to the sides and a front underbody structure. The small barrier test may even bypass most of the crash management system on some cars not engineered for it.
ACE (Advanced Compatibility Engineering) is Honda’s much-touted process to design a front-end structure for safe distribution of crash energy. On the 2013 Civic, the second-generation approach—ACE II—connects structural elements from the bumper and frame rails into an upper front structure, all made with Honda’s highest-strength steel, to produce a complex network for energy management. On the first-generation system, crash energy was managed solely within a front-end underbody structure that tied the bumper into a polygon-like shape.
The front and rear suspensions for all Civics were stiffened to reduce roll and improve handling and, combined with a quicker steering ratio, changed from 16.1:1 to 14.89:1.
Honda also performed a styling “refresh” that normally would be a few years from a vehicle’s introduction. Front and rear styling was revised, wheels were redesigned, and on the maligned 2012 interior, a host of upgrades were made. Hard plastic panels are largely gone, replaced by soft-touch surfaces, and the top of the dashboard now sports upscale black covering with a deep grain.
Rearview camera, Pandora radio, along with Bluetooth, USB, and support for SMS texting are among the upgrades made standard on all models.
The turn signal switch now incorporates two-level operation. A light “tap-touch” on the lever produces three blinks, such as for a quick lane change. A firm movement into a latch position provides the conventional continuous flashing.
In the Auto position, headlamps operate with a control algorithm that checks windshield wiper operation. If the wipers operate more than a predetermined number of times in a measured time frame, headlamps are turned on. Many states require headlamps-on when the wipers are being used.
The new Civic hybrid also adds forward collision warning and lane departure warning systems using a small camera on the front window.