The 2014 Honda Civic isn't one of the more exciting compact sedans to drive, but thanks to the additional refinements added this past model year, it's one of the more enjoyable to drive.
Last year, Honda made some modest suspension changes (firmer springs, stiffer anti-roll bar, quieter bushings, and quicker steering ratio), and altogether they go a long way toward making this staid compact sedan feel a little perkier again. We think the steering might be a little too light and quick, but the mild retune (and greater noise-reducing measures) given to the suspension makes it feel more settled--both in ride quality and handling in tight corners.
Performance is respectable from the 140-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that's included in all but the Si, Hybrid, and Natural Gas. It's paired with a five-speed manual, or new continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) that, for the most part, works quite well, with a natural, even feel to acceleration. It's neither an engine worth working into its high rev ranges, nor one that's all that torquey in the low revs.
Several other different models of the 2014 Civic—including standard gasoline versions, a Hybrid, the sporty Si, and a Natural Gas version—each drive a little bit differently.
The 2014 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. A very thin 15-kilowatt (22-horsepower) electric motor, inserted between the 1.5-liter engine and Honda's continuously variable transmission (CVT), provides a level of boost that's weak, yet enough to maintain steady city speeds (up to 36 mph) for short distances. The Civic Hybrid can't accelerate in electric-only mode at low speeds, like that of the Prius, however. 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.
Si models get a more muscly 201-hp, 2.4-liter four, along with various performance upgrades. But it doesn't feel quite as sharp as its predecessor, with increased road noise as well. As always, you still have to spin the engine toward its 7000-rpm redline to extract the most power.
Front brake rotors were also given an upgrade throughout the Civic model line this past year, and stops are confident, although we've found brake feel a little mushy.