The 2012 Honda Civic dropped 17 points in Consumer Reports' ratings.… (Honda )
For years, the Honda Civic has been one of the bestselling and best-reviewed compact sedans in America. Now a redesigned 2012 model year Civic is rolling into Honda showrooms. Consumer Reports, long one of the car's biggest fans, doesn't like the new version.
The negative review by the influential consumer magazine is expected to hurt sales of what has been one of the most popular cars in America and shake up the compact car market, which has seen competition escalate with new entries by the domestic automakers and South Korean Hyundai.
The magazine has recommended the Civic for the last 20 years, but said it couldn't endorse the car because the new version's score was too low. Previously, the Civic has been Consumer Reports' highest-rated small sedan as well as a "top pick" in five of the last 10 years.
"The redesigned Civic LX's score dropped a whopping 17 points to a mediocre 61 from the previous generation's very good 78. It scored second to last in CR's ratings of 12 small sedans, followed only by the recently redesigned Volkswagen Jetta. Consumer Reports' testers found the 2012 Civic to be less agile and with lower interior quality than its predecessor. It also suffers from a choppy ride, long stopping distances and pronounced road noise," the magazine said.
"While other models like the Hyundai Elantra have gotten better after being redesigned, the Civic has dropped so much that now it ranks near the bottom of its category," said David Champion, who headed the magazine's test center.
Honda sold 260,000 of the previous-generation Civic last year, making it the third-bestselling car in America and the fifth-bestselling vehicle including trucks. The current model sells for $16,000 to $22,000 depending on trim level and options.
Some buyers are Honda loyalists and will shrug off a bad review by Consumer Reports, said Jessica Caldwell, an analyst at auto information company Edmunds.com.
But the report could have a bigger influence on pragmatists looking at all the offerings in this segment of the auto market, she said.
"It is so competitive that a negative review will hurt. Anything to persuade people not to buy a vehicle is damaging," Caldwell said.
Honda said it disagreed with Consumer Reports' findings.
"The new Civic excels in areas that matter to small-car customers, including fuel efficiency, safety and reliability. Among the Civic's greatest competitive strengths is a smooth and efficient powertrain that, in Consumer Reports testing returned … an impressive 30 mpg overall on regular fuel and 47 mpg on the highway," the auto company said.
It also noted that it was rated a "top safety pick" by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Consumer Reports likes the Elantra, the sedan and hatchback versions of the Ford Focus, which has been redesigned for 2012, and the hatchback version of the Kia Forte, scoring them "very good."
"The Focus was fun to drive and more polished than its predecessor, with the type of agile handling, supple ride and solid feel expected from a compact sports sedan.... The five-door hatchback is Kia's latest addition to the Forte line, and is well-equipped, relatively roomy and offers a lot for the money," the magazine said.
Another solid entrant in this category is the Chevrolet Cruze, which has quietly become one of the bestselling cars in America. Although Consumer Reports noted that the gas mileage on the Cruze isn't as impressive as that of some of the other cars in this segment, including the new Civic, it generally liked the car.
"The Cruze replaced, and greatly improved on, the Cobalt as Chevrolet's mainstream small car. It feels solid and substantial, handles nicely and has a firm but steady and controlled ride," Consumer Reports said.