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2013 Honda Civic EX-L Review By Steve Purdy

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2013 Honda Civic Sedan

By Steve Purdy
Michigan Bureau


The smart folks at Honda redesigned the compact Civic something over a year ago but got so much grief about a variety of niggles that they’ve already refreshed it for 2013. They had to acknowledge that the competition is so intense in this compact sedan category they could do nothing less. After all, look at Elantra, Focus, Sentra, Mazda3,Optima , Cruze,and all of the other fresh new compacts vying for your attention and your dollars and you’ll see the risk of not keeping up.

Having just spent a week with the Civic EX-L, near top-of-the-line model, I’ll report it is keeping up, but barely. Honda’s reputation for bullet-proof reliability, substantial improvements in ambiance, a feel of airiness and comfort, adequate performance and excellent efficiency make it an easy car to live with. If you’re looking for some excitement in your little car you’ll have to look elsewhere. (One place you might look for that is the amazing Civic Si, but that’s a story for another week.)

By ambiance I mean the overall feel of the car and that includes appearance as well as sound and touch. A major effort to mitigate niggles referenced above was to improve the materials inside the car. Many reviewers complained about a cheap look and feel before the upgrades. The two-tier dash that characterized the last Civic is updated with more functionality and nicer materials. Our navigation-equipped car left me wanting nothing in terms of functionality and features although I’m one who needs little in that regard. The auxiliary input port and power outlet are conveniently located in a slot below the center stack but I had to search for the USB port awkwardly hidden in the console. Can’t imagine why they did that. With Bluetooth and all the other expected capabilities it will satisfy all but the most demanding techies.

Exterior styling and design are perkier with added chrome and more distinctive lighting front and rear along with new stylish alloy wheels The already steeply raked windscreen and horizontal visual cues give it a sleek, aerodynamic look but I find nothing particularly bold or innovative. It’s just a good looking car that will turn few heads.

While the powertrain is the same as before, the suspension got a bit of retuning to improve the handling. Slightly stiffer springs enhance the conventional independent suspension with McPherson struts up front and multi-link arrangement in the rear. Subtle suspension tuning and steering adjustments make it feel incrementally better. We wouldn’t recommend autocrossing this car but you can push it around as hard as you like without feeling at risk.

Under the Civic’s extra-low hood lurks the same gentle and smooth 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine making an adequate 140 horsepower. With the smart 5-speed automatic transmission it is rated by the EPA at 28 mpg in the city, 39 on the highway and 32 combined. Our mixed-road experience in Eco Mode this week netted us just over 34-mpg. I’ve seen reviews that said the transmission is a bit too willing to downshift but I found just the opposite. Trying to accelerate for a two-lane passing maneuver I felt the need to use the shifter to downshift. Perhaps the Eco Mode was preventing the downshift.

With no options listed on our car (navigation is already rolled into the price) we’re looking at a price of $24,555 including the $790 destination charge. For that price we get heated leather seating, rearview camera, 16-inch alloy wheels, leather-wrapped steering wheel with integrated controls for audio and cruise control, automatic climate control, power moon roof, integrated fog lights, remote entry system, and all the expected stuff.

A couple of features I was disappointed not to find on the Civic are cargo related. We have no rear seatback releases on the seatbacks. You can only release them through the trunk. And there is no trunk release button on the lip of the trunk lid. You must open it with the fob or the remote release inside the cabin. There are many times I would like to lay those seatbacks down to accommodate special cargo but don’t want to go through the trunk. And I often want to open the trunk without opening the car or digging the fob out of my pocket. A bulkhead behind the rear seatbacks also restricts the cargo area.

Otherwise I found the Civic a pleasant car to live with. With some additional sound deadening it was admirably quiet on the road, even over rough pavement. The comfortable cabin, excellent visibility and intuitive controls make a road trip easy. The differences in fuel mileage in this segment are insignificant.

While you might find competitors in this compact sedan segment besting the Civic in one category or another you still can’t go wrong with this little car – one that has earned its reputation over eight generations of the model. It would be a smart choice – if not a particularly emotional one.

Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions