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The 2014 Honda Civic is back on track. That initial assurance is necessary because the 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 Civic was substantially refreshed, and quickly; the changes forced us to reset our take on the look and feel of the vehicle last year, and it's that vehicle that returns for 2014, though Honda promises there's even more to come this fall for the classy-again Civic.
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.
With this revamped Civic, Honda has made major gains in refinement that translate to a far more pleasant cabin experience. Compared to the pared-down 2012 model, the current Civic's body has been stiffened with more high-strength steel, side pillars have been upgraded, and thicker windshield and front door glass have been applied. There's also 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 and could really use better head and shoulder room.
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.
Steering is probably still the biggest letdown; it's overly light and too quick. But the Civic's mild retuning gives it better composure. Ride quality feels a bit more settled than in the 2012 car. Front brake rotors also get an upgrade in size, although we've noted that brake feel is a little mushy.
The most recent 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 was most changed for 2013; those upgrades carry over this year. Honda has in the past saved some of its best, most useful features only for its top models, but all Civics 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.
- Lots of standard features
- Hybrid earns 44-mpg rating
- Refined ride quality
- Reduced noise levels
- Excellent crash-test scores
- Complex dash surfaces
- Brake feel
- Low-speed Hybrid feel
- Rear-seat room is impaired