2014 Honda Civic EX-L First Test
Now We're Talking
Ever since backlash generated by the 2012 Honda Civic, the Japanese automaker has been hell-bent in trying to improve its ubiquitous compact. An emergency refresh for the 2013 model year addressed several complaints critics had, but it was only the beginning. The 2014 Civic sedan has picked up even more improvements, finally making it the next-generation Civic the 2012 model should've been in the first place.
The improvements aren't just visual, like those on last year's refresh, and they're much-needed. It's almost as if Honda initially didn't get the memo when rival automakers started offering premium features such as heated front seats, keyless entry, and push-button start in their compact cars. But better late than never. We welcome the fact that all EX and EX-L models now come standard with the goodies mentioned, which are a great addition to the standard rearview camera, Bluetooth connectivity, and Pandora streaming radio that were added for 2013. But perhaps the biggest advancement inside is Honda's new Display Audio (Display Audio+ if you get navigation) infotainment system, which replaces the 6.5-inch color touch screen, its archaic graphics, and those annoying little knobs and buttons.
Although I normally like having knobs to control simple things like volume, the absence of them in the new Civic is perfectly acceptable. That's because the 7-inch color touch screen is a piece of cake to use, thanks to four touch-sensitive buttons on the left side: Home, Volume, Menu, and Back. Even better, the buttons disappear whenever the option isn't available, allowing your eyes to stay on the road instead of deciphering unnecessary clutter on the screen. But the system's gesture recognition is what really stands out. The touch screen works exactly like the one on your smartphone or tablet. You can swipe, pinch, slide, and multi-tap your way to whatever your heart desires, whether it's scrolling through the radio stations or zooming in on or out of the map.
The screen also functions as the backup camera display, which provides a clear view during the day but not so much at night, when the view gets a bit grainy. LaneWatch (from the Accord) also pops up on the screen automatically once the right turn signal is activated, and although it's a neat trick since it exposes hidden cars in your blind spot, I found it a bit distracting (especially at highway speeds) because I caught myself looking at the screen instead of what was in front of me. Either way, it's a cool feature that friends got a kick out of, and it definitely came in handy in making sure no curbs were clipped on tighter right-hand turns. Although it's not Infiniti’s wonderful AroundView, you can even use it as an aid when parking - just keep your right blinker on as you park parallel to the curb, and as obnoxious as that seems, at least you won't mess up the shiny alloys wheels like the 17-inchers that came on our $25,030 EX-L tester.
Now let's talk performance. The 2014 Civic is now available with a CVT that replaces the five-speed automatic. Matched to the same 1.8-liter I-4 that pumps out 3 more hp and 1 extra lb-ft of torque thanks to a new exhaust system, the gearbox is so smooth that people have to ask whether it's a CVT. Like associate editor Scott Evans said, the CVT does makes the Civic feel a bit slower off the line, but testing numbers demonstrate its performance has improved across the board, if slightly. While the 2013 Civic completed the 0-60-mph sprint in 9.1 seconds, the new one got there in 8.8 seconds. It's the same story for the quarter-mile, as the 2014 model hustled there in 16.8 seconds at 85.2 mph versus 16.9 seconds at 82.5 mph. The CVT-equipped Civic also completed the figure eight nearly 1 second quicker, with a higher average g. At 113 feet, the 60-0 mph braking performance represents a vast improvement over 2013's 119-foot result. Although we weren't able to get real-world mpg numbers, Honda says the CVT should give you 1 more mpg in the city (30 mpg) and 33 combined mpg (up 2).
Now that the 2014 Civic has all the goods such as a new infotainment system, improved performance, and increased efficiency, we anticipate it won't have a problem owning the compact segment in 2014. Even when it wasn't at its best, the Civic dominated compact sales in 2012, and it's on track for a repeat performance in 2013.
|2014 Honda Civic EX-L w/Nav|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$25,030|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan|
|ENGINE||1.8L/143-hp/129-lb-ft SOHC 16-valve I-4|
|TRANSMISSION||Cont. variable auto|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||2856 lb (60/40%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||179.4 x 69.0 x 56.5 in|
|0-60 MPH||8.8 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||16.8 sec @ 85.2 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||113 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.83 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||27.6 sec @ 0.56 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON||30/39 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||112/86 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS||0.58 lb/mi|