2013 Honda Civic Performance

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Performance

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

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.

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