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The Honda Civic took a rare stumble in the 2012 model year. A redesign cheapened its interior, left it looking less cohesive than ever, and watered down the appeal of its typically perky powertrains and front-drive handling. At the same time, the competition grew more sophisticated and feature-rich. In one of the quickest turnarounds ever seen from Honda, Civic sedans were refreshed with new faces, new interior finishes, and retuned suspensions, all to shore up its reputation as one of the leaders of the compact-car class.The 2013 Civic is substantially refreshed; the changes reset our take on the look and feel of the vehicle. New light gets shed on the Civic's Accord-influenced exterior: the front end clearly mimics the Accord’s face, from the new "open-mouth" lower bumper to the black honeycomb mesh grille. The Civic also dons integrated fog lamps for the upper trims and new clear-lens cornering lamps (plus a chrome finishing bar in back and new Accord-like rear bumper design). In all, it looks more sophisticated from the outside. Inside, Honda hasn’t completely redesigned the funky contours of the instrument panel, but it’s redone pretty much all of the materials and surfaces, subbing in requisite soft-touch dash materials.
Performance is one area where the 2013 Civic is mostly unchanged--although some modest suspension changes (firmer springs, stiffer anti-roll bar, quieter bushings, and quicker steering ratio) go a long way toward making this staid compact sedan feel a little perkier again. Much of the lineup continues with the 140-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, paired with either a five-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission. Si models get a more muscly 201-hp, 2.4-liter four, and Civic Hybrid models will be back with their IMA mild-hybrid system that provides EPA ratings of 44 mpg, city and highway. Front brake rotors also get an upgrade in size, although we've noted that brake feel is a little mushy.
Honda has made major gains in refinement translate to a far more pleasant cabin experience. Its body has been stiffened with more high-strength steel, side pillars have been upgraded, and thicker windshield and front door glass have been applied—as well as more soundproofing for the dash, floor, doors, and rear tray. The difference is that you barely hear the engine when it's idling, road noise has been cut way down, and the softer dash materials make even the acoustics inside feel a bit softer. Interior appointments essentially carry over--with decent front seats but back-seat accommodations that could be better contoured. Ride quality isn't any worse than that of last year's model, and it actually feels a bit more settled.
The 2013 Civic has received some structural upgrades, and based on crash tests, its occupant protection is better than ever. It's achieved top 'good' ratings in the new small overlap frontal test, and it's now an IIHS Top Safety Pick+. Safety-feature content has been bolstered, too, with the introduction of a new SmartVent airbag design—like what’s been introduced in the 2013 Accord—and the Civic Hybrid will get standard Forward Collision Warning (FCW) and Lane Departure Warning (LDW) systems.
Features are the other area where the Civic has most changed for 2013. Honda has in the past saved some of its best, most useful features only for its top models, but all Civics will get Bluetooth hands-free calling connectivity and audio streaming, text-message functionality, Pandora integration, and a rearview camera system. In addition, navigation systems have been upgraded with more points of interest and a new FM-based (subscription-free) traffic service). Whichever trim level you go with, we'd advise you go without the nav system, as the base audio system's interface is better and more intuitive.
Honda has dropped the base Civic DX, which used to constitute seven percent or less of sales, and opted instead for well-equipped base cars that cost just a little bit more. Pricing for the 2013 Civic ranges from $17,965 for the Civic Coupe or $18,165 for the Civic Sedan—including all of those features. Top Si Sedans cost $22,715, while the Civic Hybrid now costs $24,360.
- Excellent new standard-feature list
- Quiet, refined ride
- 44-mpg Hybrid
- Strong safety
- Lacks backseat headroom
- Mushy brakes
- Dali-esque dash
- Hybrid's low-speed drivability