BY NICK KURCZEWSKI / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
The 2014 Honda Civic is a smart and sensible compact car, though increasingly strong competition from Toyota, Hyundai, Ford, Mazda and GM no longer make the Civic the default purchase it used to be. Does the Civic keep pace with rivals that add newfound style and driving excitement to the small car market?
Our 2014 Honda Civic EX-L test car came loaded with just about everything you could load onto a Civic. That was reflected in our tester’s price, which rang in at more than $24,000.
We love when an exotic or luxury car crosses our path here at the New York Daily News Autos. But let’s be real, many of us (especially those on a journalist salary) have to balance these caviar dreams with a cheese-dip budget.
Hey, it’s not so bad driving a ‘normal’ vehicle, especially when it’s a model more than 336,000 U.S. car buyers opted to own in 2013.
The Honda Civic has been one of the best-selling small cars in the U.S. for many years. Affordable, efficient and reliable; there is plenty to like in the latest Civic.
During its lifespan, the Honda Civic has managed to be quite a lot of things to a wide range of customers. Automotive tuners took this budget-priced Honda to heart, and turned the Civic into the poster child for a generation of street racers. On the flip side of this equation, a whole lot of people bought Civics simply because they were affordable, reliable, and had surprisingly fun driving dynamics.
It’s not a head-turner, but the 2014 Honda Civic sedan is still plenty attractive. We especially liked the larger alloy wheels fitted to our test car.
Sure it was no Acura NSX – or Honda Prelude, for that matter – but the front-wheel-drive Civic packed a lot of charm into a tiny shape. This holds true today, despite a brief hiccup – more on that later. Today’s Honda Civic is a handsome machine, even if there’s nothing ground breaking about the exterior design. Rivals such as the Mazda3, Hyundai Elantra and, believe it or not, even the Toyota Corolla all have recently injected some racier design into this traditionally anonymous-looking segment.
Honda has upgraded the quality of the materials used in the Civic cabin. There are plenty of storage areas, and the optional 7-inch touch screen for infotainment and satellite navigation was useful. But we’re still not sold on the split-level gauge layout immediately ahead of the driver – it should be high-tech feeling, but comes off as too fussy.
As it stands, however, the Civic’s slightly conservative wardrobe should age gracefully. The same is true for the cabin layout and materials that, we’re very happy to report, are all a major step forward. When Honda updated the Civic back in 2011, the result was, to put it nicely, quite a disappointment.
The interior was noisy, the plastics were cheap, and the entire design seemed built to a cut-rate price. Thank you for listening Honda, because the current cabin banishes those memories. Our Civic EX-L came loaded with every available feature, so that definitely helped matters. A base Civic sedan starts are approximately $18,390, whereas our loaded EX-L with Honda’s navigation system with voice recognition stickered at $24,240.
Pop the trunk of the latest Civic and you’ll find 12.5 cu. ft. of cargo room. That’s about the same as a Toyota Corolla, but a few cubic feet short of the Chevrolet Cruze and Hyundai Elantra.
In this era of smartphone navigation systems, you could save a couple grand and still get luxurious with an EX-L minus the factory nav. That saves a couple grand, but still includes goodies like a leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated front seats, leather trimmed seating, fog lights and 17-inch alloy wheels.
Honda says there are 36.2 inches of rear legroom in the Civic sedan. We found the rear seats spacious for normal-sized adults, though squeezing three people back there would make things awfully cozy.
No matter which Civic trim level you specify – expect for the sporty Si, hybrid, and natural gas-powered model – the sole engine offered is a 143-horsepower 1.8-liter 4-cylinder. A 5-speed manual gearbox is standard only on the Civic LX. Our test car, like the majority of Civics, was fitted with a Continuously Variable Transmission.
Honda LaneWatch is a very cool safety feature. When signaling for a right turn, a camera mounted in the passenger’s side mirror displays anything lurking in the Civic’s blind spot.
This CVT automatic is actually more efficient than the manual gearbox. Our EX-L’s official mileage numbers are listed at 30/39-mpg city/highway. Meanwhile, the 5-speed manual Civic clocks in at 28/36 mpg.
This isn’t a powertrain that we’re going to wax lyrical about. It gets the job done and keeps up with traffic. When you really punch the gas, the 4-cylinder gets noisy but, in most driving situations, the Civic remains tidy and civilized. I only wish the electrically assisted steering had the bite of a Ford Focus, or the nimble new Mazda3 sedan and wagon. Now that Honda has fixed the cabin quality issues, it would be great if the next Civic regained the zippy, fun-to-drive nature that were synonymous with the automaker’s range of small cars.
The 2014 Honda Civic’s 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine delivers 143-horsepower and 129 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,300 rpm. All Civics with this engine run on regular unleaded gasoline.
As it stands, the Civic is very stress-free and easy to drive – if this is your first car, you’ll probably love it (and in a few years time you’ll move up to an Accord, or so Honda hopes). The Civic comes with a wide range of safety features, such as stability and traction control, ABS, dual-stage front airbags, front side airbags, a rear view camera, along with side curtain airbags with rollover sensors.
Our week with the Civic EX-L reminded us why so many people buy this car. It does everything is should, efficiently and without fuss. Yet with so many interesting alternatives out there, it’s worth doing some cross shopping to see what the competition is up to.