2013 Honda Civic EX Drive Review and Road Test
People assume that car companies know their competition’s ever move as if there was some sort of mission impossible crew sent in every weekend to monitor R&D progress. While there are no doubt some less-than-ethical information exchanges in the industry, on the whole, a car manufacturer like Honda finds out what the competition’s latest widget looks like around the same time as we do. Need proof? Look at the 2011, 2012, 2013 Honda Civic. The 9th generation Civic was intended to debut as a 2011 model, but the financial implosion caused Honda to go back to the drawing board and the re-design to land as a 2012 model due to the need to re-design the redesign. In the perpetual game of auto-leapfrog, Honda miscalculated the direction Ford, Hyundai, Kia and even Nissan were headed. The result was bashed by Consumer Reports and raked across the coals by most of the press. Did buyers care? Apparently not since the 2012 Civic was purchased in impressive quantities by real-people. Honda could have found solace in their sales, but instead they did something unusual: they re-re-redesigned the Civic for 2013. Say what?
The 2013 Civic isn’t just a second-year options package shake-up, and it isn’t even a mid-cycle color and trim shuffle. The changes after only a year on the market land somewhere between a refresh and the ever-so-popular redesign-on-the-same-platform. How can I call it a redesign? Well, if Lexus can call the “new” LS a new car… But I digress.
While I didn’t hear as many complaints from my comrades in the auto-biz about the Civic’s curb appeal, Honda took the opportunity to graft the chrome smile from the 2013 Accord onto the Civic, redesign the bumper covers (front and rear), add some smoked tail lamps, new wheels and finished it off with a trendy honeycomb grille. While I didn’t have a single issue with the way the old Civic looked, I have to admit this one looks better, especially from the front or back where Honda spent some cash to have the tail lamps cross onto the trunk lid giving the Civic’s heinie a more premium feel. From the side it would appear that noting has changed with the same four-window silhouette, but the difference is in the glass: it’s thicker this year for improved sound isolation.
The problem with the 2012 Civic wasn’t the exterior. And, in my mind, it wasn’t the interior design OR the interior plastics quality. Yep, you heard me right with that. The old Civic’s plastics weren’t great, but they were easy to clean, textured attractively and I just didn’t expect anything different from an $18,000 car. What I did have a problem with was a lack of color-matched bits and ill-fitting panels. Our 2012 tester’s four main dash components sported four different variations of the same target color. For 2013 Honda cranked the thumbscrews on the parts suppliers and all the colors in our Civic EX were the same.
In addition to the color change, Honda had an eye on touch points, swapping out the hard doors and dash “faces” for squichy-injection molded units with fake stitching. Keeping costs d0wn, the same gauge cluster and dash structure remain from last year as well as the dash parts farther from your reach, but they have all been re-cast to texture-match the new bits. Even the radio’s plastics have received a color and texture upgrade to look classier. The change has brought the Civic from slightly below average to a solid contender running neck-and-neck with the new Focus and Elantra.
Honda continues to integrate a fairly exaggerated lumbar support contour in the front seat backs, something I prefer, but since it isn’t adjustable you should spend some time in the Civic to be sure you can live with the shape.
As with most cars that have families in mind, the Civic’s rear seats are close to the floor and the door openings are wide and tall making ingress/egress easy with or without a child seat in tow. Honda has a reputation for function over form, and that pays dividends in the rear with a high roofline that allows a more upright seating position and adequate head room, more than can be said of the Elantra. Fold those 60/40 rear seats down and you’ll notice an area Honda didn’t touch: cargo. The Civic’s trunk pass-through is still somewhat small and oddly shaped preventing larger items from riding along. The trunk’s 12.5 cubic feet is in line with the Focus and Corols, but it’s a few Cubes behind the Elantra and Sentra. When it comes to bag carrying, the Sentra has a further trick up its trunk: a 24-inch roller bag can ride vertically in the Sentra’s cargo hold allowing you to carry a surprising seven carry-on sized rollerbags, try that in your Panther replacement.
Music by Kevin MacLeod
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