2014 Honda Civic Coupe and Sedan First Drive
CVT Among the Best; Touchscreens As Good As a Smartphone
If you've lost track of the ongoing Honda Civic saga, I'll catch you up. The Civic was redesigned for 2012, but received lukewarm reviews. Despite strong sales, Honda decided an emergency refresh was in order, and it was out for the 2013 model year, but the sedan received most of the updates while the coupe soldiered on relatively the same. Now, for 2014, the coupe received the big update as well, and the sedan picked up a few more improvements still. Got it? Good.
Let's start with the improvements both cars received. The two biggest changes you're likely to notice will be the new continuously variable transmission and the all-new infotainment system. The CVT replaces the ancient and out-classed five-speed automatic and does so in fine form. It's related but not identical to the new CVT in the larger Accord, but behaves the same way. It's one of the best CVTs on the market in my estimation, behaving somewhat similarly to a standard automatic transmission in simulating shifts rather than jumping to one RPM point and sitting there. Its greatest advantage, bar none, is that it's much, much smoother than the old five-speed. All of the jerkiness of the old gearbox at throttle tip-in and during shifts is gone. Driven back-to-back against a 2013 model, the whole powertrain feels smoother and more refined.
More good news: Honda estimates city fuel economy for the sedan will improve by two mpg to 30, which will help push combined fuel economy to 33 mpg from 32. Highway fuel economy holds at 39 MPG. If you want more, the Civic HF is likewise improved, picking up two mpg city, one highway and two combined for a total of 31 city, 42 highway and 35 combined. Numbers for the coupe haven't been announced yet, but they'll likely be the same.
If the CVT has a drawback, it makes the Civic feel slightly slower off the line. The aggressive first gear in the old five-speed meant you got pushed back in the seat a little when starting from a stop with moderate throttle. The CVT eliminates that surge, which while smoother, feels as though the car isn't pulling as hard from a stop. We'll have to wait until we can test the car to see if there's any actual difference in acceleration, but I doubt it. Beyond that feeling at launch, the new Civics feel no faster or slower than last year's. Unless, of course, you drop it into Sport.
That's right. The automatic Civic finally has a Sport mode and even paddle shifters. As you'd expect, Sport makes the throttle calibration more aggressive and keeps the revs higher. The result is a car that feels a bit more peppy and responsive. It frankly makes the standard Drive mode feel a little lethargic by comparison. In Drive, the emphasis is clearly on comfort and relaxation. The paddle shifters, should you choose to use them, will treat the CVT like a seven-speed gearbox and it shifts between those faux gears pretty quickly.
Testing, as I said, will have to wait for another day, but we can make an educated guess here. The 2014 Civic matches its new CVT to the same engine, but sports a new exhaust system that adds three horsepower and one pound-foot of torque. As such, we can confidently guess that the zero-to-60 mph time won't deviate much from the 9.1 seconds we recorded for a 2013 model. A roughly 17-second quarter-mile is likely as well, as is the 119-foot stopping distance we recorded last time.
The only performance metric that could change would be the cornering grip, and that would be limited to the coupe. It gets new dampers, slightly stiffer springs and a stiffer rear anti-roll bar, along with new 16-inch wheels and tires. Altogether, they may help lift the coupe's skid pad and figure eight numbers slightly from the 0.81 average g and the 28.5-second lap at 0.58 average g we recorded on that 2013 sedan. On our admittedly short test drive, the new coupe's handling didn't seem drastically different than the sedan's, with perhaps a bit better roll control when cornering and a slightly stiffer ride. Both cars still feel pretty light and handle reasonably well for the class. The steering continues to feel light and artificial, with no feedback from the road. Matches the relaxed powertrain.
The other feature both cars share and will definitely grab your attention is the all new "Display Audio" (Display Audio+ if you get navigation) infotainment system. Completely replacing Honda's outdated infotainment system, Display Audio(+) is a huge step forward. Gone are all the little buttons around the edges, replaced with four permanent, touch-sensitive buttons on the left side: Home, Volume, Menu and Back. In a neat trick, the buttons disappear whenever the option isn't available, such as when you're already on the Home screen, and when the car is turned off. The large, display sports familiar blue-on-blue Honda graphics, but is far more usable than before. The Menu button is no longer a catch-all, but brings up a specific menu for the screen you're on, be it audio, nav or other. The result is that while you don't have immediate access to every function as you did with all the hard buttons, the screens and menus are less layered and easier to navigate.
Perhaps the greatest advancement of the new system is its gesture recognition. All the swiping, pinching, sliding and multi-tapping you do on your smartphone or tablet is recognized, and unlike certain other systems (looking at you, CUE), it works quite well. Scrolling through a list of, say, satellite radio stations can be done with a simple flick of the finger. That also works when scrolling on the map, which will zoom with pinches. Alternatively, just drag your finger across the map to move it. The screen also functions as the three-mode backup camera display and the LaneWatch display. Borrowed from the Accord, it mounts a camera under the passenger-side mirror and activates whenever you use the right turn signal and shows you what's in your blind spot.
The system's one drawback is in its sensitivity. A majority of the time, my inputs were recognized, but I found that if I didn't push a virtual button quite long enough (and we're talking fractions of a second here), it would light up, but wouldn't register the input. It's not quite as responsive as your smartphone in that regard. This was most prevalent and frustrating when trying to type in an address, as the system was further slowed as it tried to narrow the search while I was typing, which introduced a lag between when I hit the button, when it recognized the next input and when the screen changed. The system otherwise worked fantastically, and I would call it one of the best on the market right now.
We've talked a lot about the changes to both cars, but there are a few changes specific to the updated coupe. In addition to the slightly stiffer suspension, the coupe also gets some exterior cosmetic updates. The most notable is the new grille and headlights, which are similar to that of the new Fit compact hatch. We're not really sold on them. We do, however, like the more aggressive lower fascia and the strong character line running over the tops of the front fenders. Around back, new headlights and some dimples in the bumper liven things up a little. The coupe also gets exclusive wheels.
Also receiving some updates is the Civic Si coupe. It gets an exclusive grille design (which we like better than the standard coupe's), a slightly different lower front fascia and exclusive 18-inch wheels. Out back, it picks up a faux diffuser down low and a spoiler on the trunk. Inside, you get red inserts in all the seats. Under the hood, it gets a grand total of four more horsepower and four more pound-feet of torque from an improved exhaust system. Here, again, we'll take a guess and say its zero-to-60 mph time will be unchanged from the 2013 Si coupe we tested. That means 6.1 seconds to 60 mph, followed by a 14.6-second quarter-mile at 95.6 mph. Skid pad performance may improve slightly from the 0.87 average g we recorded, as may the Figure Eight lap, which we clocked at 26.5 seconds at 0.66 average g. Fuel economy shouldn't change from the current 22 city/31 highway rating. We weren't able to drive the updated Si, so we can't say yet if there are any noticeable differences in performance or handling on the road.
All in all, the 2014 Honda Civic coupe and sedan are minor refreshes of already-competent vehicles. The updates to each should help make the cars more attractive and more competitive against an ever-more-cutthroat segment. They don't rocket ahead, but they're now in no danger of quickly falling behind Given that Civic is already the segment sales leader, this improved car should continue that.
|2014 Honda Civic|
|Base price||$18,500-$27,500 (MT est)|
|Engine(s)||1.8L/143-hp/129-lb-ft DOHC I-4; 2.4L/205-hp/174-lb-ft DOHC I-4|
|Transmission(s)||CVT, 6-speed manual|
|Curb weight||2700-2900 lb (mfr)|
|Length x width x height||175.5-179.4 x 69.0 x 55.0-56.5 in|
|0-60 MPH||6.1-9.1 sec (MT est)|
|EPA city/hwy fuel econ||30-31/39-42 mpg (est)|
|Energy cons., city/hwy||109-112/80-86 kW-hrs/100 miles (est)|
|CO2 emissions||0.55-0.58 lb/mile (est)|
|On Sale||Dec '13 (sedan, coupe), Jan '14 (HF), Feb (Hybrid, CNG), Mar (Si)|