2013 Honda Civic Hybrid Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
Restyled, refined, retuned suspension, back on track.
The Honda Civic began its ninth generation with the 2012 model, which was disappointing on account of cost-cutting. The 2013 Civic sedan is changed a bit, becoming what the 2012 should have been, with a pretty exterior, snazzy interior, satisfying suspension, and a cabin full of tricks from Bluetooth to Pandora.
The nose, hood, black honeycomb grille and angled headlamps are pleasing to the eye, with a humped hood and raked windshield that draw attention. The side sills are sculpted smartly, and with body-colored mirrors and door handles, the Civic looks classy, especially with the optional alloy wheels. The rear fenders flow nicely into a horizontal V over each side of the rear bumper.
In the cabin there's a ton of standard content, such as Bluetooth phone and Bluetooth audio, Pandora internet radio interface and MP3, USB, iPod and SMS text message capability. There's a nice color multi-information display (i-MID) with rearview camera.
The fabric upholstery is excellent, with seats that are well shaped, nicely bolstered and widely adjustable. The standard 60/40 split-folding rear seatback expands cargo capacity. We put a six-footer in the rear seat, and he didn't complain about legroom or headroom.
Interior refinements include a new headliner and soft-touch materials on the instrument panel, center console, and door panels. Silver accents here and there, along with faux stitching on the dashboard and door panels, add a touch of upscale. Black carpeting is standard. The colorful instrument backlighting is soothing.
Significantly, NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) has been improved over the 2012. More sound deadening material has been added to the firewall, wheel wells, flooring and trunk, while the windshield and front windows are thicker, all in the successful pursuit of silence. On the inside, the Civic neither feels nor sounds like a mere $20,000 car.
We found the i-VTEC 140-horsepower engine with its 128 foot-pounds of torque to be adequate. Acceleration performance is average but feels stronger because the engine is smooth and cabin quiet. The 5-speed automatic transmission is programmed to be invisible, while the ride is solid and comfortable. There's an Econ mode that remaps the engine and transmission for fuel mileage over power. We easily ran 75 mph in Econ and impressively got 32.1 miles per gallon.
The suspension has been reworked for 2013 with thicker anti-roll bars front and rear, quicker steering, and firmer bushings. The front subframe body structure is stiffer.The overall level of dynamic competence is hard to fault, predictable with no false moves.
If you want sporty, there's the Civic Si, with its high-revving 2.4-liter twin-cam four-cylinder making 201 horsepower and 170 foot-pounds of torque. We've had it on the track and its performance is marvelous.
There are also three high-mileage versions of the Civic. The Civic HF uses a specially tuned version of the same 1.8-liter engine to achieve an EPA-rated 29/41 mpg City/Highway, compared to 28/39 mpg for the Civic LX and EX. The Civic GX runs on natural gas, with its 1.8-liter SOHC 16-valve four-cylinder rated at 110 hp and 106 lb-ft of torque. It gets 27/38 mpg on the cheaper fuel. The Civic Hybrid pairs a 1.5-liter SOHC 16-valve four-cylinder engine rated at 110 hp and 127 lb-ft of torque with a 23-hp electric motor assist. Fuel economy is rated at 44/44 mpg. The bare bones and most affordable model, DX, has been discontinued: Dee-Xed.
New safety technologies built into the 2013 Civic include the application of the next-gen Advanced Compatibility Engineering II (ACE II) body structure, which includes additional front end structures designed to help increase occupant protection by dispersing crash energy in narrow overlap frontal crashes. Also new are SmartVent side airbags, side curtain airbags with a rollover sensor and the availability of Forward Collision Warning (FCW) and Lane Departure Warning (LDW) systems, which make their compact-class debut in the 2013 Civic Hybrid.
The 2013 Honda Civic comes in six models. Civic LX, EX, and EX-L are available as a coupe or sedan and come with a 140-horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine. The sporty Civic Si uses a high-revving 2.4-liter and 6-speed gearbox, coupe or sedan. Civic HF features a hybrid gas-electric powertrain tuned for high gas mileage. Civic GX runs on natural gas.
Civic LX Sedan ($18,165) and LX Coupe ($17,965) come standard with 5-speed manual transmission, fabric upholstery, air conditioning with air-filtration system, leather-wrapped steering wheel, power everything, Bluetooth, color multi-information display with rearview camera, USB/iPod connection, Pandora interface, SMS text feature, and steering wheel audio controls. The 5-speed automatic is available for the Civic LX Sedan ($18,965) and LX Coupe ($18,765).
Civic EX Sedan ($20,815) comes standard with the 5-speed automatic. Civic EX Coupe offers a choice of 5-speed manual ($20,115) or automatic ($20,815). All Civic EX models include a six-speaker audio system, 60/40 split rear seat, and power moonroof. Opting for the Civic EX Sedan Navi ($23,765) adds Navigation and XM Radio.
Civic EX-L ($22,265) Coupe or Sedan upgrades with leather upholstery and heated front seats. Civic EX-L Navi ($23,765) include navigation and XM.
Civic HF sedan ($19,765) is designed for maximum fuel efficiency with an economy tuned engine and 5-speed automatic.
Civic GX sedan ($24,465) burns natural gas.
Civic Hybrid ($24,360) uses a gas-electric powertrain with CVT and is available with leather ($25,560), Navi ($25,860), or both ($27,060).
Civic Si Sedan ($22,715) and Coupe ($22,515) feature a high-performance 2.4-liter engine and 6-speed manual. Navi and XM radio are available ($1500).
You can forget whatever you've read about the uninspired looks of the 2012 Civic Sedan (unless you bought one). The 2013 Civic actually catches some eyes with its changes. We got comments about the car's good looks, driving an EX for one week.
Honda had made a decision to go with the austerity times on the redesigned 2012 Sedan, which sported new fascias and character lines, but nothing bold. (The previous-generation Civic was the bold one, and its then-radical aerodynamics flow through to the 2013 model.) By playing it close to the vest, the class-leading Civic Sedan was upstaged in all directions; witness the SkyActiv Mazda3, stylish Ford Focus, and the Hyundai Elantra, a swoopy good deal. So for 2013 Honda responds with a rapid comeback, starting with the body makeover of the Sedan. (Meanwhile, the Coupe, with its own identity, doesn't get changed because there was no demand to change it.)
The nose and tail are new, up to the hood and trunk lid. Is that a hump in the hood like a muscle car? Yes! The black honeycomb mesh grill looks serious, if disguised, undermined by a thin chrome smile and half-hidden behind the mundane (but universally recognizable) Honda emblem. The front bumper offers excellent definition, dipping into black open-mouthed fascia with clear corner lights at each end. We could do without the gratuitous horizontal chrome strip within the fascia.
The A-pillars have been thinned, but the steep rake of the windshield is untouched. The side sills are sculpted smartly; with body-colored mirrors and door handles, the Civic looks classy. But not the LX with its awful plastic wheelcovers. Yes to the EX with its lovely optional alloy wheels.
The rear fenders flow nicely as they vector into the rear bumper, like a horizontal V on each side under the taillight, providing back-end definition. Honda designers did good on bumpers. At the tail above the bumper, it's restyled but still ordinary, even with big new two-piece taillamps. We could do without the gratuitous horizontal chrome strip across the trunk. But that's a generic statement; we could say that about every car.
Some less noticeable parts of the body have also been changed, especially the front floor and upper wheel housing. Fifty-percent of the body is high-strength steel, providing a rigid structure and light weight.
In the cabin there's much new content to bring the 2013 Civic upscale to match its competitors. However, there's some sleight of hand, because much of what's now standard in all models got there by discontinuing the low-cost bare-bones DX. But back on the upside, the price increase is only about $300, so the buyer does get a lot more interior content and quality in 2013.
There's standard Bluetooth phone and Bluetooth audio, along with Pandora internet radio interface and MP3, USB, iPod and SMS text message capability; the car reads your text messages to you, and allows you to respond with a default: 'I'm driving.' Nice color multi-information display (i-MID) with rearview camera. There's a new and classy all-black interior color. Living with our EX for one week, the upgraded fabric upholstery suited us just fine, leather not missed. The seats are well shaped, nicely bolstered and widely adjustable. We did a couple of four-hour runs, and enjoyed every minute behind the wheel.
The two-tiered dashboard is unique, some would say funky. The most useful information is repeated at the top of the dash, allowing the driver to scan without taking his or her eyes much off the road. Forward sightlines, even over that cool humped hood, are excellent. We appreciated the thinner windshield pillars, and small window set in the angle where the pillar intersects the car's hood. A lot of new cars have thick A-pillars that can obstruct the driver's view of pedestrians and other vehicles, but not here.
The i-MID, or Intelligent Multi-Information Display, uses a toggle on the leather-wrapped steering wheel that enables the driver to scroll through a variety of vehicle info. The optional satellite navigation system includes voice recognition. The 160-watt audio system sounds good, using six speakers in our EX. As always, maybe what we appreciated the most, was the standard 60/40 split-folding rear seatback that expands cargo capacity. We put a six-footer in the rear seat, and he didn't complain about legroom or headroom.
With no options, our EX had everything a car needs for safety and a driver needs for comfort and functionality, for $21,605 out the door (EPA-rated at 32 Combined city and highway miles per gallon). Actually, more than everything, most notably considering the power moonroof that's standard on the EX. But also smaller things like height adjustment for the driver's seat, and auto-off headlights.
The 2013 Civic interior feels premium, which couldn't be said of the 2012, which Civic customers noticed. Refinements include a new headliner to replace what's been called mouse fur, and soft-touch materials on the instrument panel, center console, and door panels. Silver accents here and there, along with faux stitching on the dashboard and door panels, add a touch of upscale. Black carpeting is standard. The colorful instrument backlighting is soothing. Radio and climate-control buttons on the center console are redesigned, no longer square, now trapezoidal and stylish. Symbolic of the attempt to change the image of the whole car, you might say.
Less visible but probably just as significant, NVH has been improved, so there is less noise, vibration and harshness. More sound deadening material has been added to the firewall, wheel wells, flooring and trunk, while the windshield and front windows are thicker, all in the successful pursuit of silence. On the inside, the Civic neither feels nor sounds like a mere $20,000 car.
We found the standard Civic 1.8-liter i-VTEC engine with its 140 horsepower and 128 foot-pounds of torque to be adequate. Acceleration from 0 to 60 mph is 9.2 seconds, about average for the class, meaning slow; but it felt stronger than that, maybe because the engine was smooth and the cabin quiet. We ran 75 mph from Portland to Seattle, with the flow of faster traffic, and the power was always available. The 5-speed automatic transmission didn't struggle to keep up or kick down. Not only that, the ride was solid and comfortable.
There's an Econ mode that remaps the engine and transmission for fuel mileage over power. We switched it on and kept driving hard. We felt the difference but not so much it made us grumble. We still kept up with the other cars going 75. We watched the fuel mileage climb. We got 32.1 miles per gallon, on Regular. We were impressed.
The suspension has been reworked, too, and it shows. Thicker anti-roll bars front and rear, slightly quicker steering (7 percent), and firmer bushings. The front subframe body structure is stiffer as well, and these things definitely make a difference; flatter cornering, for one. These tweaks are all upside, as there are no negative consequences to the ride or anything else. The overall level of dynamic competence is hard to fault, absolutely and totally predictable, no surprises, no false moves.
Don't forget, we're talking about a Civic sedan, here. The sedan's primary goal is not to be fun to drive, so don't go comparing it to the sporty compacts like the Dodge Dart or Mazda3. If you want sporty, there's the Civic Si, and that one is hard to beat. It uses a high-revving 2.4-liter twin-cam four-cylinder making 201 horsepower and 170 foot-pounds of torque. We've had it on the track and the handling is marvelous. It's yahoo fun. Huge bang for the buck.
But back to the boring. There are three high-mileage versions of the Civic. The Civic HF uses a specially tuned version of the same 1.8-liter engine that achieves a government-rated 29/41 mpg, compared to 28/39 mpg for the Civic LX and EX.
The Civic GX runs on natural gas. Its 1.8-liter SOHC 16-valve four-cylinder rated at 110 horsepower and 106 foot-pounds of torque, significantly less power than that produced by the standard engine. Civic GX gets 27/38 mpg on the cheaper fuel, but be prepared to spend thousands if you want your own natural gas tank.
The Civic Hybrid pairs a 1.5-liter SOHC 16-valve four-cylinder engine rated at 110 hp and 127 lb-ft of torque with a 23-hp electric motor assist. Fuel economy is rated at 44/44 mpg.
You can't go wrong with the Civic. Styling, suspension, powertrain, interior, economy, safety, price. It's got it all, including vastly different models to choose from, from Sedan to Coupe to hot Si. There are also alternative models: high-mileage HF, natural gas GX, and Hybrid.
Sam Moses filed this NewCarTestDrive.com report after his test drive of the Civic EX sedan in Washington state.
Honda Civic LX Sedan ($18,165), HF ($19,765), EX ($20,815), EX-L ($22,265), Si Sedan ($22,715); Si Coupe ($22,515); Hybrid ($25,860).
Options As Tested
Honda Civic EX Sedan ($20,815).
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