New Honda Civic Won’t Get Consumer Reports Thumbs Up

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The Honda Civic’s one of those cars you expect to find perenially perched atop almost any Consumer Reports “best of” annual rankings lists. And that placement’s no small thing. Consumer Reports styles itself as an informational bulwark for consumers, with a mission to “test products, inform the public, and protect consumers.” In 2010, the non-profit magazine had over seven million subscribers, and its annual product testing budgets often run in the tens of millions.

But in its latest 2012 automotive tests, Honda’s ninth-generation Civic was so downright drab, the magazine said it couldn’t recommend the vehicle. Insert palpable “ouch” (and that’s probably understating it).

(PHOTOS: Consumer Reports’ ‘Most Reliable’ Family Cars)

“2012 Honda Civic LX: Scores too low for Consumer Reports to recommend,” reads the title of CR‘s “small cars” 2012 Civic review brief, published yesterday afternoon.

“Let that sink in for a minute… It’s quite a fall,” wrote reviewer, Tom Mutchler.

How low could it go? Try second-to-last in Consumer Reports‘ tally of 12 compacts. The only car that fared worse was Volkswagen’s 2012 Jetta, another car that had ranked higher in the past, but which fell in 2011 after Volkswagen re-conceived the sedan with cost-cutting changes to make it more competitive with the Civic, price-wise.

“The Civic has long ranked among CR’s top small sedans, having been a Top Pick as late as 2007,” reads CR’s note, adding that it’s also “long been reliable,” and that CR doesn’t expect that to change in the 2012 model (fingers crossed). And on the tech end of things, CRsays the vehicle’s still sports “very impressive” fuel economy—CR found 30 miles per gallon overall.

So what’s wrong with it? In a word (or CR‘s word, anyway), it feels “cheap.” As in cheap interior, long stopping distances, light and disappointing steering feedback, body lean (in turns), and excessive road noise.

Another not-quite-saving grace: CR says the 2012 Civic has “decent rear seat room.”

“But that’s just not enough,” opines CR. “With all of the recent small sedan competition and a redesign that dropped the ball, now there are a lot better choices than a 2012 Civic.”

Personally, I almost purchased a 2011 Civic hybrid, but walked because I couldn’t stand the starship Enterprise dash, rife with garish electric blue and green LED panels and display metrics. Call me old-fashioned, but when I’m vectoring a multi-ton hunk of metal down the interstate, I want my attention on the road, not fiddling with fuel efficiency readouts or selecting dashboard “wallpapers.”

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Matt Peckham is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @mattpeckham or on Facebook. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.