2014 Honda Civic
Popular long after Godzilla
By Ron Amadon
DAMASCUS, MD. – Compact car shoppers want wheels that are comfortable, tech savvy, and roll past most gas stations, where the price keeps rising these days.
Honda’s Civic has been checking all those boxes for years and has now taken all the right steps to bring its economy sedan in line with the competition after a rough start two years ago.
They must be doing something right as registration data from Polk concludes that the Civic was the top seller in California in Q1, subtracting sales to fleet buyers.
For one thing the price can be right. A base model with a 5-speed manual starts at $18,390 on up to $29,290 for a Natural Gas model, and no, not the kind created after a traditional New England Saturday night dinner (suppa) of baked beans.
This weekend’s test car was somewhere in between at $25,030 for an EX-L trim level. It came with a 7-inch capacitive touch screen display, Honda’s excellent blind spot monitor that displays what is next to you on the right side when the turn indicator is flipped on. And HondaLink that allows the user’s smartphone and the car to have fun together.
I was not a fan of the audio set now completely housed in the touchscreen. Trying to adjust the volume to the left of the main display was too distracting because the target was small. There were several other peccadillos in the system however the saving grace in all this was the steering wheel based controls.
Honda says the system allows “the familiar pinch, swipe and tap functionality of a smartphone to access audio, phonebook, media, vehicle information and available navigation” but I still want a volume control knob. There are a zillion other things the system can do, and younger tech savvy owners will have fun discovering them despite a poorly written manual.
Under the hood was the familiar in-line 4 offered in all four Civic models outputting 143 hp @ 6,500 rpm and 129 lb-ft of torque @ 4,300 rpm. It should meet the needs of most Civic buyers and is a silent partner on the interstates. I felt another 10 or 20 hp would be nice along with greater availability of a stick shift. The manual five-speed is only available in the base LX model. 0-60 in the test car came in a touch over 9 seconds, and that is in line with the competition.
All but one Civic model now comes with a rather lackluster CVT that Honda says contributes a whole 1 mpg to the combined fuel economy ratings that come in at 30-39 mpg according to the EPA. In a week of country roads and interstates I came in at 34.
Put me in the camp that does not like CVT’s even as they are appear in more and more cars. I will raise the white flag of surrender when Bentley adds one.
Standard on the tested EX-L was Automatic Climate Control, push button start, a handy coin tray, an 8-way adjustable driver’s seat with leather trim that was generally comfortable but a bit strong on the non-adjustable lumbar support. Out back there were 60/40 fold down rear seats that provided enough support and room for two adults.
A simply outstanding feature was the suspension that comfortably handled the yet untouched wintertime potholes, and provided some handling fun on back roads. Additional steering wheel feedback would have been nice, but then again this is not the Si model.
With lots of tech features to lure in younger customers, Honda’s enviable reliability record, upgraded interior, excellent suspension, and fuel economy, the 2014 Civic should fit the needs of thousands of economy car shoppers, the key audience after all.