LOS ANGELES -- Honda Motor Co., still struggling with supply shortages of the redesigned 2012 Civic after the March earthquake in Japan, took a slap in the face today when Consumer Reports rated the new Civic "too low to be recommended."
The Civic dropped 17 points, from a very-good score of 78 to a mediocre 61, in the latest Consumer Reports road test of small cars.
Previous Civic models have often been Consumer Reports' highest rated small sedans, as well as Top Picks in five of the past 10 years. But the redesigned model was slammed for the cheapness of its interior, poor ride quality, long stopping distances and loud interior noise.
On the plus side, the Civic's fuel economy was second-best in its segment, trailing only the aging Toyota Corolla. While Hyundai loudly advertises that the redesigned Elantra compact has received a 40 mpg highway rating, Consumer Reports' testing showed only a 29 mpg overall fuel economy.
In a statement, Honda disagreed with the magazine's findings.
"In virtually every way, the completely redesigned 2012 Civic is a step forward. The new Civic excels in areas that matter to small-car customers, including fuel efficiency, safety, and reliability," the company said in a statement.
Honda also noted the magazine's high marks for the redesigned Civic's safety, as well as its long history of reliability, which was not measured in the test.
The 2012 Civic is now rated second-worst in the compact segment, behind only the VW Jetta, which also plummeted in the magazine's ratings after it was redesigned for 2011.
However, the Jetta has been a sales success, with buyers willing to forgive the cheapness of the fitments for a car that dropped $4,000 in price.
The Civic, however, has not seen a price drop. Rather, the Civic is the victim of a strong yen -- trading today at an unhealthy 77.2 to the dollar -- which produced a round of cost-cutting on the vehicle to keep it profitable.
Honda executives have said that the recent recession and "Lehman shock" also prodded engineers and designers to forgo a more-expensive redesign for a simpler vehicle.
But such moves resulted in a plasticky interior that many reviewers -- including Automotive News -- have derided as cheap-looking.
Consumer Reports also called the Civic's steering "devoid of feedback," but that subjective measure contrasts with Automotive News' testing, which found the Civic more responsive and accurate than the Hyundai Elantra.
Also, Consumer Reports criticized the Civic for long stopping distances; it took only two feet longer than the Kia Forte and Ford Focus sedans to stop from 60 mph on dry pavement, and seven and 10 feet longer, respectively, on wet pavement.