2013 Honda Civic Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
July 30, 2013

The 2013 Honda Civic takes a step back in the right direction with an impressive feature set, a sophisticated new look, and much-improved refinement.

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.

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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.

7

2013 Honda Civic

Styling

Honda has added a lot of personality to the 2013 Honda Civic with some careful nips and tucks where it counts—as well as upgraded materials inside.

Last year the Honda Civic was completely redesigned; and while the styling changes were merely evolutionary, many cried foul over the new Civic's apparent cost-cutting throughout, as well as a a lack of overall detailing that left the newer model looking quite bland. 

That's all changed for 2013, as Honda rushed changes to market. More than your typical mid-cycle refresh, they altogether change the look and feel of this model, and make it feel more upscale once again.

The more sharply styled front end, with the more chiseled, squared-off lower air dam adds up to a more charming 'cleft' chin, as you're walking up, while the Accord-like blacked-out grille, chrome framing, and more open-intake look box it all out as sportier—albeit with some obvious VW influences to our eyes.

In back the new lights and rear fascia serve to widen the look just a bit, although we're not big fans of is the wide chrome bar that runs across the edge of the trunklid, connecting the taillamps. It's just too played-out of a styling cue and looks tired on arrival.

Otherwise, while the Civic's flanks have carried over. In this generation, they're a little more sculpted—including a raked-upward character line—yet the roofline looks remarkably familiar, and the Civic's footprint hasn't changed much in many years.

As before, Civic Si models get a host of trim and appearance upgrades—including new wheels, a blacked-out eggcrate grille, chrome-tipped exhausts, and a noticeable rear spoiler—that are bound to draw a little more attention. As well, Si models get a sportier theme inside, with darker trim, sport seats, and details like a leather-wrapped steering wheel. On the other hand, the Civic Hybrid blends in even more so with the rest of the line; it gets different wheels and front fascia, plus a small spoiler on the trunk lid, but you'd have to read the badges to know that it's the Hybrid—making it the antithesis of the Toyota Prius identity.

Inside, the new Civic isn't all that different by design, but new materials have been subbed in—in ways that affect sight, sound, and touch. Perhaps most obviously, the vast spans of gray all-too-subtly grained hard plastic are gone, replaced by a dark look. The upper tier of the dash is now covered with a softer padded surface that extends around to the upper door trims (to the front doors, at least). Upholsteries are also new, and while the faux-stitching that pops up here and there throughout isn't that impressive up close, but it all helps contribute to a far better first impression.

One thing hasn't changed, and that's the downright odd, Dali-esque contours of the instrument panel; if you like a dash that feels aligned, or symmetric in some way, this is not the car for you.

7

2013 Honda Civic

Performance

The performance-oriented Honda Civic Si no longer wows, but the rest of the lineup delivers a responsive driving expertience for what it is.

As part of the Civic's makeover for 2013, Honda has recalibrated the suspension and steering, and added some noise- and vibration-reducing measures throughout. Those aren't changes you can see, but the result is a car that's much more enjoyable to drive--even if it still isn't one of most exciting in this class.

Otherwise, the 2013 Honda Civic remains offered in several different models—including standard gasoline versions, a Hybrid, the sporty Si, and a Natural Gas version—and they each drive a little bit differently.

The standard Civic gasoline models (LX, HF, EX, EX-L) accelerate responsively and have lively acceleration, along with confident handling and roadholding. They're powered by a 1.8-liter four making 140 hp and 128 pound-feet of torque. In short, this is a powertrain that feels perfectly adequate for most needs; it's neither an engine worth working into its high rev ranges, nor one that's all that torquey in the low revs, but it does well with the five-speed automatic transmission in keeping up seemingly effortlessly with traffic.

Overall, we're still not fans of how the Civic's steering feels on-center (it's too light, especially on the highway), however, and whatever suspension and tuning changes were made for 2013 don't help it on that point. But otherwise to its credit, the revised Civic feels crisper and more responsive going into corners—and perhaps projects a little more road feel back to the driver. The only thing we're not as happy with is brake feel; it seems a little spongy, even though stops themselves are confident.

At this time, we haven't yet driven the 2013 version of the sporty Si, once a benchmark among go-fast compact cars. The 2012 model didn't feel quite as sharp as its predecessor, with increased road noise as well. It gets a larger-displacement 2.4-liter engine that produces its maximum torque roughly at engine speeds roughly 1,000 rpm lower than its predecessor, but as always, you still have to spin the engine toward its 7000-rpm redline to get the power.

You might not expect the Civic Hybrid to be as enjoyable to drive, but it's fun to chuck around corners and easy to place on corners. Like all of Honda's hybrids since 1999, the 2013 Civic Hybrid is a "mild hybrid," meaning it can't move the car on electric power alone. This is Honda's first hybrid with a lithium-ion battery pack, which takes up relatively little room in the trunk and weighs far less than the older nickel-metal-hydride battery in its predecessor. Boost has been increased for the Honda Civic Hybrid; the hardware consists of a very thin 15-kilowatt (22-horsepower) electric motor, inserted between the 1.5-liter engine and Honda's continuously variable transmission (CVT).

The Civic Hybrid can't accelerate in electric-only mode at low speeds, like that of the Prius, but it does offer the ability to run in electric-only mode when cruising at speeds as high as 36 mph, but only for very short periods. Because the Civic Hybrid has to restart its engine to move away from a dead stop, it's not as smooth to drive as a Prius-style full hybrid.

In most Civic models there's an Econ mode that allows a gentler throttle calibration, along with more conservative transmission and accessory settings, but in the Hybrid you might need to turn it off to better keep up with traffic on hilly stretches.

8

2013 Honda Civic

Comfort & Quality

Upgraded materials, a retuned suspension, and more sound insulation go a long way toward giving the 2013 Civic's cabin a more upscale look and feel.

What a difference a year makes. The long list of changes given to the 2013 Honda Civic cabin--all seemingly minor--add up to major gains in cabin comfort and refinement compared to last year's model; and the Civic now stands as one of the most refined picks in this class.

Overall, accommodations are adequate in the four-door, but definitely tight in the coupes. The seats tend to be somewhat short and flat, but they're actually at the better end of what you get in this price-pinched class. In either model, with the Civic's steeply angled windshield, there's a sense that the dash extends considerably into the cabin (with funky contours that you're either going to love or hate). In back, while there's more legroom than you might expect, and getting in and out is pretty easy, the seating position feels oddly contoured for adults and lacks headroom (we'd rather be in the back seat of the smaller Fit, paradoxically).

Civic buyers by now may be used to the two-level dashboard design, although it's still also an oddity to those moving from other models. Honda has placed the tachometer close, just inside the steering wheel, while the speedometer and other displays are up above, and ahead. Once you're used to it, your eyes don't have to stray as far away from the road ahead. Just to the right of those displays up top is an info screen that shows trip-computer functions, audio displays, and shows the now-standard rearview camera view when you back up. A multi-directional button on the steering wheel lets the Civic driver navigate through a menus while keeping hands firmly on the wheel.

As for the layout, skip the still-fussy navigation upgrade; it's at its best with the base audio setup, which has large buttons, an intuitive layout that you can be comfortable with almost right away. Although we would have liked to have seen the main audio controls pushed above the seldom-used (in many cases) CD slot.

More importantly for 2013, the hard, thin-feeling plastic surfaces that topped the dash and lined the upper door trim in last year's model are gone--replaced by a new padded surface that, in combination with darker themes and some new complementary trims, brings an entirely different look and feel to the cabin, even if the design itself remains largely the same.

If there's at all a sign that this is a quickie refresh, it's that some of these upgrades only affect the front-seat area, while the rear-seat area has been left be; for instance, the upper door area next to the driver and front passenger has the new padded material, while the upper rear door areas get a material that roughly matches it visually but is hard plastic on closer inspection.

Trunk space in the Civic Hybrid is no longer significantly compromised. It's the first Honda hybrid fitted with a more compact lithium-ion battery pack, which takes only about 6 or 8 inches out of the trunk depth. Although Hybrid and Natural Gas models do still forgo the folding rear seatbacks.

What's really changed for 2013 is cabin noise. When you pull up to a stoplight, it's no longer apparent that the engine is even idling until you look down at the front-and-center tachometer.

Road noise is much-reduced, too, and even the conversation quality is much improved in the cabin thanks to the padded dash surface, which apparently soaks up some of the harsh soundwaves in the cabin. And with rear-seat heater ducts and a fold-down armrest, even if the cabin space isn’t ideally shaped, it’s equipped better than others.

10

2013 Honda Civic

Safety

The Civic was already a good choice for the safety-minded, while a standard backup camera, a strengthened structure, and new airbags make this year's model more secure than ever.

The 2013 Honda Civic is one of the top performers in its class for safety; and with a backup camera now standard, it's one of the best-equipped budget-priced compact cars in terms of safety equipment.

Some real structural upgrades have also been given to the 2013 model--bringing it up to snuff with Honda's ACE II body structure--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+. It's earned top five-star results from the federal government as well, although the feds still haven't either extended 2012 ratings over to 2013 or retested the '13.

Top IIHS scores now extend to Civic Coupe models, though.

The Civic Hybrid is newly offered with standard forward collision warning (FCW) and lane departure warning (LDW)--two systems that are typically not at all offered on vehicles in this class.

Electronic stability control is standard on the Civic, as are anti-lock brakes, side-curtain airbags for front and rear occupants, and front-seat side bags.

8

2013 Honda Civic

Features

No more compromise: Honda has really amped up the standard features in the 2013 Civic, with Bluetooth and even Pandora integration now standard.

Honda just released a redesigned, new-generation Civic last year; yet for 2013 it's more extensively rejiggered the value equation, making features like cruise control, power windows, and a rear-view camera system, Bluetooth, and Pandora connectivity standard at all trim levels--and pricing it at much more competitive levels.

In turn, the bargain-basement Civic DX versions of years past are gone, leaving the 2013 Civic LX starting at $18,995 and ranging up to $27,850 for a leather-lined Civic Hybrid (and a little more yet for the Civic Natural Gas), the Civic again plays several very different roles, depending on which model you choose.

But this year you're likely not going to be disappointed with the feature set. All Civics will a 160-watt sound system with Bluetooth hands-free calling connectivity and audio streaming, text-message functionality, Pandora integration, and a rearview camera system, plus cruise control, and power accessories. EX models upgrade to a six-speaker sound system, automatic climate control, and the chance to upgrade to navigation, while top EX-L models get leather upholstery, heated front seats, and heated mirrors.

The navigation systems have been upgraded with more points of interest and a new FM-based (subscription-free) traffic service). But over several drives, we've found a number of disappointments in the navigation-system and audio interfaces, and we recommend the standard audio setup unless you really need nav functionality onboard.

Each of these audio systems are quite good for this class of car, producing  crisp, clean sound on both the high and low ends of the range. iPod integration is intuitive and easy to use, although the USB port wouldn't charge unknown devices like the Blackberry we connected.
9

2013 Honda Civic

Fuel Economy

Go with the 2013 Honda Civic Hybrid and you'll get one of the most fuel-efficient compact sedans on the market; otherwise Civic HF models maximize MPGs without raising the pricetag much.

The Honda Civic has always been one of the most fuel-efficient vehicles in its class, and the latest Civic is no exception. Despite a hefty round of changes throughout the Civic line, and a little bit of added weight (50 to 80 pounds worth, fuel economy for the 2013 Civic hasn't changed versus last year.

EPA ratings for most of the lineup are at 28 or 29 mpg in the city and up to 41 on the highway--so the Civic actually gets better mileage than the smaller Honda Fit.

Actually, there is one exception in the lineup: The Civic Si, with its larger 2.4-liter engine and lower gear ratios, it's significantly thirstier than a V-6 Accord, especially if you tend to do mostly highway driving.

For maximum gas mileage, though, there's the Civic Hybrid model, now in its third generation and reworked to be even more fuel-efficient than before. Its EPA ratings are 44 mpg on both city and highway cycles, and it provides more boost than in pre-2012 form, from a larger 15-kilowatt (20-hp) electric motor.

Additionally there's an HF model--the key to that highest (for the non-hybrids) 41-mpg highway rating. It gets special low-rolling-resistance tires, plus some extra aerodynamic measures like underbody panels, a rear spoiler, and special smooth alloy wheels.

In real-world driving, from our observations, the Civic Hybrid is very impressive. Over nearly 400 miles of driving—leaving the car mostly in 'Econ' mode—we averaged more than 45 mpg. As for the other models, we managed to about match the EPA city number in mostly city driving.

Nearly all Civics come with an 'Econ' button on the left side of the instrument panel; the mode, when engaged, provides a gentler throttle setting, along with more conservative transmission behavior and accessory operation. It even softens cruise-control responsiveness to save fuel.

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The Car Connection Consumer Review

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March 21, 2016
2013 Honda Civic 4-Door Manual LX

The car meets my expectations.

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I am satisfied with my car and intend on keeping it for many years. However, I wish that it had more cup holders, heated outside mirrors, speed adjustment on the wipers and for the tire sensor to tell me which... + More »
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December 2, 2015
For 2013 Honda Civic

Fleet driver

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Comfortable long distance driving, plenty of headroom, very economical on fuel, traveling speed in large format very good, good sound system Cruise control can vary to 8km either side of the set speed which... + More »
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September 23, 2015
2013 Honda Civic 4-Door Manual LX

Nice to have a Honda again

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I love my new Honda. I was wondering if it has front wheel Drive? everything is nicely updated but still has the good old Honda feel.
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August 11, 2015
2013 Honda Civic 4-Door Automatic LX

Great blend of features and comfort

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I bought my civic with 37000 miles on it, and I was surprised at how it feels like a new car to me. No rattles, strange noises, loud engine, etc. There is plenty of room inside (I'm 6'1) and I have plenty of... + More »
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July 13, 2015
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5 door 1.6 diesel manual

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Some may say it's a little dull. Best fuel economy of any car i have ever owned. It will sit at 90mph on European roads all day long without any fuss.
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April 14, 2015
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Honda Civic

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Great value car. Has all basic features and none of the unnecessary ones. Great gas mileage and very comfortable drive.
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April 14, 2015
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Love my 2013 Civic

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It's been a great car. Drives great, comfortable,great mpg. Wish it was a little quicker, but overall it's been great
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April 13, 2015
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I love my 2013 Honda Civic LX

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In 2013 I decided to replace my wonderful 2003 Accord coupe. The coupe was a high performance model with a V6 and six speed manual, but it was ten years old and had traveled 155,000 miles with no problems... + More »
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