Though the current-generation Civic began life as a lackluster also-ran, Honda quickly and thoroughly revised the compact sedan to bring it back into contention. Still not as sporty as some rivals, the Civic is nonetheless a strong buy due to its excellent fuel efficiency (especially when the gas-electric drivetrain is selected), reputation for reliability and generous level of standard features.
The Civic sedan is just one of many members of the Civic family, which includes the Civic Coupe>, the sporty Civic Si Sedan and Si Coupe as well as the Civic Natural Gas model.
While the sleek, futuristic shape that has defined the Civic for nearly a decade remains in place, Honda recently added an updated lower bumper with chrome accents, a black honeycomb mesh grille, clear-lens corner lights and a more sculpted hood to address complaints that the sedan appeared too much like its predecessor. Out back, the Civic also received a new-look bumper as well as a lower diffuser panel with a honeycomb mesh vent.
Even more attention has been lavished on the Civic's interior, which now features a healthy amount of soft-touch trim and upscale plastics. The space-age, multi-tier dashboard, which places the tachometer and speedometer on different levels, remains, while a newly available seven-inch touchscreen allows users control the audio system with tablet-like pinch, tap and swipe gestures.
Optional on many of its competitors, a rearview camera and dashboard-mounted five-inch info LCD screen are standard with the Civic, and an exclusive feature is Honda's Lane Watch system (explained in detail here), which helps the driver keep tabs on the sedan's blind spot.
Siri Eyes Free
New to the Civic is Apple's Siri Eyes Free integration, which lets drivers with an iPhone 5, 5S or 5C access their device's Siri assistant function from the car's steering wheel controls. Siri Eyes Free lets drivers send text messages and e-mails, read incoming texts and e-mails, modify their calendars, check weather information, use turn-by-turn navigation and access sports and stock information at the press of the "talk" button on the car's steering wheel.
The system includes access to HondaLink apps that use a connected device's mobile network to deliver search information, weather, messaging and more to the screen. In addition, the system's navigation app includes 3D mapping and live traffic information for an extra charge. By integrating with a smartphone, the system will let drivers pre-plan routes using Nokia's HERE mapping data.
The Civic is powered by a SOHC 1.8-liter four-cylinder with 143 horsepower and 129 lb-ft of torque. Though slightly underpowered relative to the competition, the mill does return excellent fuel economy when paired with the newly available CVT: 30/39 city/highway mpg. A snick-snick five-speed manual, standard on the entry-level Civic, facilities quicker acceleration but reduces efficiency to 28/36 mpg.
Those looking for even better mileage can opt for the Civic HF, which features low-rolling resistance tires, a lower ride height that helps achieve better aerodynamics, wind-cheating underbody panels and a rear spoiler. It returns 30/41 mpg.
Standard and Optional features
The Civic is available in LX, HF, EX and EX-L trim levels (the latter of which offer navigation system-equipped sub-trims).
The LX comes standard with a manual transmission, A/C, power windows and locks, a rearview camera, a five-inch LCD info screen, a four-speaker, 160-watt AM/FM/CD sound system with USB and AUX inputs, steering-wheel mounted audio controls, cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity with Pandora radio compatibility and 15-inch wheels with hubcaps.
The HF mirrors the LX's features but adds a number of efficiency-focused elements. It also comes standard with the CVT.
The EX builds on the LX with a standard CVT, a seven-inch touchscreen audio display, a sunroof, automatic climate control, Lane Watch, Siri Eyes Free integration, two additional speakers for the sound system and 16-inch alloy wheels.
The top-shelf EX-L adds leather upholstery, heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, fog lights, auto on/off headlights and heated power side mirrors.
Both EX and EX-L models can be had with a satellite-linked navigation system with voice recognition.
The Civic Hybrid is powered by a gasoline-electric drivetrain that consists of a 1.5-liter i-VTEC four-cylinder that teams with an electric motor for a total of 110 horsepower and 127 lb-ft of torque. With the help of a continuously variable transmission, the pair can achieve 44 mpg in the city and 47 mpg on the highway - that's the best mileage of any Civic model, although it's worth nothing that the similarly priced Toyota Prius returns 48/51 mpg.
Outside, the Hybrid features many of the same stylistic revisions as the rest of the Civic family, though touches such as triangular fog lights and blue-tinged headlights and taillights set it apart. Aiding in the Hybrid's efficiency mission are a number of model-specific, aero-focused exterior elements, including a special body kit, a rear spoiler and unique wheels.
All Civic Hybrids come standard with keyless entry and start, a rearview camera, a 7-inch color touch screen, forward collision warning (FCW) and lane departure warning (LDW). FCW provides the driver with visual and audible alerts if it detects a potential collision with a vehicle or object ahead, while LDW similarly warns the driver if it senses that the vehicle is wandering out of a lane without a turn signal.
Other standard features on the entry-level Hybrid trim level are air conditioning, power windows and locks, a six-speaker, 160-watt AM/FM/CD sound system with AUX/USB inputs, cruise control, Bluetooth smartphone connectivity with audio streaming, a five-inch LCD information screen mounted atop the center stack and 15-inch alloy wheels.
The unimaginatively-named Hybrid with Leather trim level brings leather-upholstered seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated front seats and heated, power-adjustable side mirrors.
The Hybrid with Navigation brings a navigation system, XM radio and FM traffic. Finally, the Hybrid with Leather and Navigation combines the features included in the previous two trim levels.
All Civic sedans feature two-row side curtain airbags, dual-stage, multiple-threshold driver's and front passenger's airbags, driver's and front passenger's side airbags, Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) and anti-lock braking (ABS) with brake assist.
The Civic sedan plays in the heart of a crowded segment against the stalwart Toyota Corolla, the efficient and well-appointed Hyundai Elantra and the sporty, Euro-chic Ford Focus sedan.
Rivals to the Civic Hybrid include the 51-mpg Toyota Prius as well as Honda's own Insight hybrid. Another option is the diesel-powered TDI variant of the Volkswagen Jetta.