Heated leather seats, a nav system, voice-activated Bluetooth, a moonroof, and XM satellite radio, all on a Honda Civic? Are you kidding?
If you've known the Civic as a source of inexpensive, economical transportation in the past, it's easy to think that on first glance at the feature set of our test 2010 Honda Civic EX-L Sedan—and its price tag: $24,515.
Although that's certainly not pricey for a vehicle today (the average price of a new vehicle lands a bit below $30k), the level of equipment is surprising, because—probably like you—I tend to associate the Civic either with frugality and basic transportation, geeky maximum fuel-efficiency (Civic Hybrid) or edgy tuner-style performance (Civic Si).
Go for the top-of-the-line EX or EX-L and you'll end up with a bit of a different experience. For starters, you get the same curvy yet slab-sided exterior and odd dual-tier instrument panel that had shoppers quite polarized on introduction. But it's accented with a few more soft-touch surfaces, upgraded trims, and perforated leather steering wheel trim. The center console has a padded, sliding armrest, while back-seat passengers get a pull-down armrest with integral cupholders.
The EX-L feels completely loaded, with those things aforementioned plus power everything, keyless entry, cruise control, a USB audio interface, nice 16-alloy wheels, and upgraded ventilated disc brakes. All the safety bases are covered, too, with stability control and anti-lock brakes with brake assist part of the package.
But while some things are different from the basic, frugal Civic you might remember, other things stay the same. For one, the five-speed automatic transmission in the 2010 Honda Civic is a little lumpy, and its shifts aren't nearly as decisive and smooth as in some rival vehicles. Drive the Civic a little harder and the powertrain seems to smooth out and hit its stride, with letting the smooth engine rev higher and shifting more confidently. The same goes for downshifts; try to be light on the throttle and downshifts involve a slight lurch; step into it more and the downshift is more decisive. Overall, we love the manual transmission that comes with Civics and would highly recommend it over the auto for anyone who's ever enjoyed a manual.
The overall goodness of the engine is hard not to love. It's a 1.8-liter in-line four-cylinder, making 140 horsepower and just 128 pound-feet of torque, but it feels like plenty for the under-2,800-pound, front-wheel-drive Civic. An aggressive throttle calibration makes it feel perky off the line, and if you pin your foot to the floor it'll build power all the way to redline and not disappoint. It doesn't offer the rush of the Si, but most shoppers will love how the standard Civic's engine doesn't become raucous and unrefined when you rev it like so many other engines this size. Overall, the Honda Civic feels very peppy, with quick and precise steering especially in low-speed driving. On the highway the steering felt a little too light on center, leading us to make more small adjustments than we'd like. Push it hard and it feels like a more sophisticated, more expensive car whereas most other budget-priced small sedans start to show ragged edges.