Honda restores the luster to its Civic

  • Article by: LARRY PRINTZ , The Virginian-Pilot
  • Updated: December 28, 2012 - 5:53 PM

The Civic's roomy cabin, comfortable seats and upgraded materials mark a return to form.

hide

Honda redisgned the Civic for 2013 after the 2012 model received poor reviews.

Photo: Honda, Mct - Mct

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Honda has always had an almost supernatural ability to effortlessly create economy sedans with modern, conservative designs and distinctly athletic personalities.

So, when the redesigned Honda Civic arrived in 2012, it should have been expected that Honda would deliver more of the same. Unfortunately, the new Civic was so unimpressive that even Consumer Reports dropped the car from its list of recommended cars.

What happened?

Well, it seems that Honda, which designed the car during the recession, cheapened the interior in an effort to control costs and keep the price low. Coupled with uninspired styling and ho-hum handling, the accolades usually strewn in the Civic's path became brickbats. In the wake of massive criticism of its 2012 redesign, Honda launched an emergency redesign of their newly unveiled Civic.

Given the increased competition in the compact car market from such strong competitors as the Hyundai Elantra, Ford Focus, Chevrolet Cruze and Volkswagen Jetta, it was clear Honda needed to quickly upgrade the Civic.

Yet the company has somehow managed to restore much of the Civic's quality in a mere 12 months. Given that it takes three years or more to redesign a vehicle, that's not just remarkable, it's, well, supernatural.

The most obvious change to the Civic is what you see: the car's front end is much more aggressively chiseled, with a black honeycomb mesh grille framed in chrome. It's a handsomely sporting look that's fresh, yet classically Honda. Out back, the lighting and trim has a more impressive appearance.

But it's inside where buyers will find the most dramatic change.

Given the previous model's functional, dull aesthetic, the new interior is a return to form. With its upgraded trim and livelier color palette, it's easy to appreciate this car's roomy cabin and comfortable seats. Soft-touch plastics and upgraded materials decorate the doors and instrument panel. In particular, the finishes on the audio system are improved.

Honda now offers a host of new standard features in response to those offered on its competitors. Bluetooth, a rearview camera, USB/iPod interface, Pandora interface, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, exterior temperature readout and a sliding center armrest are standard on all Civics. A navigation system is standard on upper trim levels.

But Honda should take another look at the front seat headrests; they're placed too far forward, preventing you from sitting properly in the seat.

Choosing a new Civic means starting with the LX, and then jumping to EX, EX-L or Si. There's also a high-efficiency HF model, as well as a gas-electric hybrid and a model that runs on compressed natural gas. The DX trim level has been dropped.

With all of the work on aesthetics, it's understandable that the Civic's powerplants carry over unchanged. A 140-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine mates to either a five-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission. A six-speed manual transmission is standard the Si; a continuously variable automatic transmission is standard on the hybrid.

Unlike some competitors, the five-speed automatic doesn't have sequential manual shift capability or paddle shifters mounted on the steering wheel.

Regardless, fuel consumption is very respectable, with the Civic rated by the EPA at 28 mpg city, 39 mpg highway. A mix of two-thirds highway driving and one-third city driving returned 34 mpg.

In order to aid you in reaching those Olympian fuel efficiency heights, Civics come with an Econ button that, when pushed, operates the vehicle more efficiently, albeit at the expense of performance. Honda also frames the digital speedometer in green light, which stays green as long as you're driving efficiently. Drive like an auto journalist, and you'll find the lights turn teal, and then blue.

For this road test, Honda supplied an EX with an automatic transmission, which is typical of what most buyers will opt for.

And it's here, behind the wheel, where the Civic delivers one more surprise. This redesign is more than smoke and mirrors.

Honda has recalibrated the steering for a livelier response, and it possesses an eagerness and athleticism that was lacking last year. The Civic has regained the poise it always had, despite being a front-wheel drive economy car. The tweaked suspension does a better job of reining in body roll during cornering. The ride is still firm, but there's now an ample amount of bump absorption dialed in, so it seems less jittery than it did last year. Steering is still fairly light, however, and there's still a dead spot when the steering wheel is centered.

On the flip side, the 2013 Civic seems quieter than the old model.

Since the engines carry over from last year, performance is similar. Given its fuel-efficient ways, there's adequate power for the daily stop-and-go grind of commuting and shopping, but dropping down into third gear is needed for that extra burt of power.

The Civic performed flawlessly during the weeklong test drive with one exception. Its Bluetooth system had difficulty maintaining its connection to my iPhone. It disconnected and reconnected multiple times during a typical four-hour drive.

In many respects, when compared with the 2012 model, the 2013 Civic is greatly improved, not just in ride and handling, but also in overall ambiance.

While the 2012 Civic wasn't a contender, the 2013 model most definitely is. It's not the class leader its forbearers once were, but it's now good enough to once more proudly wear the Honda name and give its competition heartburn.

  • 2013 HONDA CIVIC

    Engine: 1.8-liter SOHC four-cylinder

    Wheelbase: 103.2 inches

    Length: 175.5 inches

    Weight: 2,837 pounds

    Cargo space: 11.7 cubic feet

    EPA rating (city/highway): 28/39 mpg

    Fuel consumption: 34 mpg

    Fuel type: Regular

    Base price, base model: $18,165

    Base price, test model: $20,815

    As tested, including destination charge: $21,605

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Seattle
Detroit 69 FINAL
Philadelphia 89
Portland 94 FINAL
Cleveland 99
Sacramento 102 FINAL
Toronto 119
Boston 98 FINAL
Minnesota 110
Dallas 94 FINAL
Houston 99
Denver 93 FINAL
New Orleans 85
Brooklyn 102 FINAL
Atlanta 113
Oklahoma City 92 FINAL
New York 100
Charlotte 86 FINAL
San Antonio 95
LA Clippers 94 FINAL
Utah 89
Washington 57 3rd Qtr 4:05
Phoenix 70
Toronto 1 FINAL(SO)
New Jersey 2
Pittsburgh 0 FINAL
Washington 4
Chicago 2 2nd Prd 8:01
Los Angeles 2
Temple 86 FINAL
UCF 62
Winthrop 75 FINAL
Coastal Carolina 68
Lafayette 59 FINAL
Colgate 54
Northeastern 60 FINAL
Drexel 65
Wake Forest 76 FINAL
Florida State 82
Rhode Island 64 FINAL
Fordham 63
Delaware 82 FINAL
James Madison 88
South Carolina 58 FINAL
LSU 64
New Hampshire 63 FINAL
Maine 58
Seton Hall 80 FINAL
Marquette 70
Binghamton 68 FINAL
UMBC 56
American Univ 54 FINAL
Navy 64
Elon 65 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 82
Wright State 76 FINAL
Oakland 84
Minnesota 58 FINAL
Penn State 63
Duquesne 55 FINAL
Richmond 86
SMU 63 FINAL
South Florida 52
Hartford 66 FINAL
Stony Brook 72
Albany 47 FINAL
Vermont 44
Hofstra 79 FINAL
William & Mary 100
UNC-Asheville 74 FINAL
Longwood 64
Radford 84 FINAL
Char Southern 77
Holy Cross 0 Postponed
Loyola-Maryland 0
Duke 73 FINAL
Notre Dame 77
Texas Tech 36 FINAL
Oklahoma 81
Oregon State 55 FINAL
Arizona State 73
Morehead State 82 FINAL
Austin Peay 69
Drake 69 FINAL
Bradley 57
Lehigh 62 FINAL
Bucknell 68
Rice 48 FINAL
Houston 59
Missouri State 57 FINAL
Illinois State 67
Loyola-Chicago 47 FINAL
Wichita State 58
Nebraska Omaha 64 FINAL
South Dakota St 86
Northern Iowa 59 FINAL
Southern Ill 52
Louisville 81 FINAL
Boston College 72
St Johns 74 FINAL
Creighton 77
East Carolina 58 FINAL
Memphis 70
Georgia Tech 70 FINAL
Miami-Florida 50
Miss State 73 FINAL
Ole Miss 79
Clemson 68 FINAL
NC State 57
Indiana 67 FINAL
Purdue 83
Kansas 64 FINAL
TCU 61
Oregon 56 FINAL
Arizona 90
Air Force 66 FINAL
San Jose St 52
Stanford 36 2nd Half
Washington 24
Rider 56 FINAL
Siena 49
Dayton 76 FINAL
Richmond 62
Eastern Kentucky 53 FINAL
Jacksonville St 73
Saint Josephs 0 Postponed
Saint Louis 0
UMBC 71 FINAL
Binghamton 55
Akron 60 FINAL
Ohio U 72
Ball State 72 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 55
Memphis 56 FINAL
Cincinnati 44
East Carolina 32 FINAL
(2) Connecticut 87
Murray State 59 FINAL
Eastern Illinois 75
Kent State 63 FINAL
Central Michigan 65
UT Martin 64 FINAL
Tennessee St 58
Eastern Michigan 56 FINAL
Western Mich 83
Bucknell 61 FINAL
Lehigh 76
Indiana 57 FINAL
Michigan State 72
Colgate 56 FINAL
Lafayette 58
Fordham 66 FINAL
Davidson 45
Duquesne 76 FINAL
St Bonaventure 64
George Mason 66 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 70
Detroit 59 FINAL
Youngstown St 58
Army 0 Postponed
Boston U 0
Loyola-Maryland 0 Postponed
Holy Cross 0
SMU 58 FINAL
Tulsa 74
Oklahoma St 54 FINAL
Kansas State 52
West Virginia 57 FINAL
Texas Tech 73
Denver 56 FINAL
South Dakota 82
Northwestern St 46 FINAL
Central Arkansas 63
Austin Peay 67 FINAL
SIU-Edwardsville 87
Kansas 61 FINAL
Iowa State 56
Bowling Green 50 FINAL
Northern Ill 67
Penn State 64 FINAL
Minnesota 75
San Jose St 80 FINAL
Air Force 83
Boise State 82 FINAL
Colorado State 83
Utah State 51 FINAL
Wyoming 86
San Diego State 50 FINAL
Fresno State 57
Nevada 52 FINAL
UNLV 75
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close