There's a Civic for every taste — from hybrid to the sporty Si — and Honda's goal is to keep it that way. Maybe that's why the automaker quickly moved to improve the car after its 2012 redesign met with much criticism. Since then, Honda has fast-tracked updates. For 2014, there are styling tweaks and a new transmission: CVT. We drove a Civic sedan and coupe — both EX-L models with navigation.
Appearance: Both cars stick to their rounded, aero profile and get minor revisions to the front and rear. The mesh grille for the sedan now has a U-shaped chrome trim, while the coupe's grille is covered by a plastic accent piece. Both get slender and aggressive-looking headlights, hood creases and lower-body panel character lines. The EX-L trim now has sharp 17-inch alloy wheels. At an angle, the black painted areas stand out more. Both cars also get a slight spoiler lip.
Performance: The big change for 2014 is the Continuously Variable Transmission (optional in the base LX, standard for other trims) instead of the previous 5-speed automatic. Honda also tweaked the 1.8-liter 4-cylinder, which puts out 143 horsepower. We're usually not fans of CVTs, but we found the Civic's to be a smooth performer that made the most of the available power. Also, the interior's improved sound insulation reduces noise from the powertrain. The steering feel is light, and the Civic is a well-composed ride. Peter, who owns a 2010 Civic, finds the improvements considerable.
Interior: The 2012 models were criticized for uncharacteristically playing it cheap with materials. Honda heard the complaints. Now everything feels solid, even the plastics. Honda also does a good job of mixing the textures and materials. Peter has always liked the Civic's two-tiered dash display, which includes a 5-inch monitor on top for audio and other vehicle info. On the console is a 7-inch touchscreen for navigation, entertainment and other controls. We're not fans of the touch volume controls, which can be clumsy for the driver, and prefer to use the steering wheel controls. The Civic's standard features include a rearview camera, Bluetooth, SMS text message reader and cruise control. The EX trim also gets Honda's LaneWatch (a blind-spot camera on the passenger side), power moonroof, auto headlights and auto climate control. Our tester also had navigation. The sedan's seats are plush and comfortable, even in the rear, while the coupe's are a bit more firm. The rear seats easily accommodate adults, especially in the sedan, but getting in and out of the rear seats of the coupe can be challenging. The rearview camera (with three angles) is especially handy for the coupe because of limited visibility. Peter can attest that the EX-standard power moonroof can take away some of the headroom for taller drivers.
Our 3 favorites
Dash display: Driver-centric design.
Variety: Coupe or sedan? Hybrid or sporty? The Civic comes in several flavors.
Fuel economy: An estimated 33 mpg combined.
Ride: Solid, stable, composed.
Hint of luxury: Leather-wrapped steering wheel with the EX-L trim
Plush: Leather seats for the Civic sedan are well cushioned.
The bottom line: Because of its features, versatility and available models, the Honda Civic should be at the top of the compact-car consideration list.