Sunday, December 30, 2012

Guilty, I'm Sorry - a review of the 2012 Honda Civic

It was a Sunday night and I was headed out to pick up Chinese (food) for the family; I turned the key and the 2003 Kia Optima was a "no go," just a taunting "click, click, click".  I had replaced the battery early this year.  A couple of months ago, I encountered a similar situation (dead car) and took the car back to the Firestone where I had purchased the battery.  Extensive testing was done to try to find any drain on the battery.  Nothing was found.  About a month or two ago, an airbag light came on.  I had that checked out at the dealer and after about $200 of diagnostic work, their best guess is that it was the airbag in the passenger door.  They related that they "reset the system" (translation, they disconnected the battery so the the system was rebooted) and that if the light returned and I decided to get the airbag replaced it would be $1200 which they related they did not feel was worth it...

Anyway back to the story... the wife's minivan was borrowed for the Chinese run.  The following morning (fortunately, Veterans Day holiday), I "jump" started the Kia.  I called the nearby Firestone and made an appointment for the next day (as they were busy that day).  In order to explore all options, I decided to take a look at the local Honda dealer.  I had heard that they were having the .9% financing on their 2012 Civics.  I have never considered myself a "Honda" person, considering them to be vehicles of naive liberals; however, I also begrudgingly acknowledge their reputation for dependability and also for holding their value.  Ergo, the lethal combination - economical and dependable transportation... and several hours later (without consulting my loving wife), I had agreed to purchase a 2012 Honda Civic.  First off, I want to say unequivocally that buying a new car without consulting your wife is not the right thing to do and I am sorry that this was the way events transpired.  I will note that this is out of character for me; I am by no stretch a "spendthrift" and in retrospect, I would go so far as to say my quick decision here even frightens me somewhat.  While I would suggest that you should generally avoid impulse buying, indecision (sometimes known as analysis paralysis) can also be expensive.  Based on the "hints" that my car has been providing, I could easily envision finding myself with a car needing very expensive repairs...

If you're going to make a rash decision in buying a new car, going with a Honda Civic definitely wouldn't be your worst choice.  So enough of the babble, the deed is done and here is my quick take on the 2012 Civic:

The Good

  • Reputation of dependability which translates into a car that holds its value very well.
  • Simplicity - Recently a small article appeared in the Times Union critical of the 2012 Civic because it was not sufficiently innovative (put simply, it's boring).  For my needs I say, "hurray for boring".  I really like the way that the instrument panel is laid out - the speedometer is straight ahead and clearly shows your speed, unlike some speedometers that mark 20 then goes to 40 mph, then 60 mph and so forth, leaving you guessing at some hard to see hash mark for when you are traveling 30 mph which is a frequently posted city speed.  Similarly, controls such as the heat and air conditioner are easy to read and understand.  I also like the way that the radio system will automatically select the presets for you to the stations with the best signal (and I believe you can also set other criteria like genre).  I also enjoy the volume controls and the station changing controls on the steering wheel as I definitely enjoy my music. 
  • The contour of the seat puts you into a very comfortable driving position. 

The Not So Good

  • When using the electric windows, I notice the door panel will bulge & contract.  This is not a biggie, I'm happy as long as the electric window works, but it just seems as though it should operate smoother mechanically.
  • USB support - the 2012 Civic seems a bit finicky in regards to which USB memory sticks it will read.  It did not recognize many of my memory sticks.  I did Google this issue and it looks as though some may work if you do some formatting of the memory stick.  I have not tested this further.  Additionally, the 2012 Civic does NOT recognize Android phones as a memory storage device and will not play MP3s that are stored on your Android phone.  You can use the 3.5mm input and simultaneously use the USB for charging, but this is a bit awkward as these 2 ports are located away from each other so you are left to run wire in one direction or the other.  Ultimately, I found an 8gb memory stick that seems to be working well which may have worked out best for me in the long run as if I were able to use my phone for music, I'd probably forget it and leave it in the car.
  • Sound system overall could be better - clearer with richer tones.
  • Honda, have you not heard of intermittent windshield wipers?  Having only 2 wiper speeds is a bit chintzy.

Other -

  • Honda has a financing website to set up your preferred method of payment.  I found it a bit frustrating to use and ultimately called their tech support (which is only available week days) and after much hoops, including emptying the cache on my iPad browser (and trying several browsers) I was eventually able to log on.  My first move was to set up the automatic payment.  After doing so, I read a message to make sure you still make your regularly scheduled payment so I made an electronic payment which then generated a message indicating that my auto pay was cancelled.  It was (and remains) unclear whether this means cancelled forever or just for the payment that I electronically submitted.
  • I feel the bumps and potholes a bit more in the Honda Civic than I did with the 2003 Kia Optima, but this is typical of these small cars and not intolerable.
  • Lack of heated mirrors - In the great northeast, this should be standard equipment, although I can't fault the car specifically.  
  • A remote car starter option would be another desired feature.
In addition to making a good decision in regards to the make and model of car, I would also suggest careful consideration of your dealer.  I have known folks who have purchased cars from dealers that are some distance from their home.  They may save a couple of hundred bucks and this sometimes works out for them.  However, what is often overlooked is the "service" factor.  If you ever need to get service whether warranty or otherwise, those trips add up.  Sometimes local, truly is better.

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