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2013 Honda Civic Sedan

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The revised 2013 Honda Civic sedan lives up to the “Better” advertising hype. Then again, “Better” is not exactly a lofty goal or a proud boast from the top compact car in U.S. sales. Is chrome on the grille and trunk lid enough to banish the memories of last year’s poverty-spec Civic sedan ?

Despite being a total snooze to sports car enthusiasts, the Civic sedan packs the most diverse powerplant options of any passenger vehicle ever sold commercially, including: gasoline, hybrid and CNG

This little econobox is singlehandedly preparing for the diverse energy mix we all have in our futures. The Civic’s hybrid system finally matches Toyota’s third-gen Prius for sophistication and economy, while the CNG option is looking more enticing than ever thanks to America’s natural gas revolution pushing prices to record lows.

Additionally, Honda has taken a number of complaints about the 2012 Civic to heart, such as the unacceptable road noise and harshness, negative amounts of road style, and an interior full of unusual shapes jammed together like a losing Tetris game. Can the 2013 Honda Civic sedan pivot from mediocrity with blankets of NVH material, some LEDs and infotainment tech from the new Accord ?

Click past the jump for the full review of the Honda Civic Sedan.

Exterior

Honda Civic Sedan

The styling of the Civic is very conservative with a high roof and surfacing details that barely give the metal any of the pronounced creases that it needs. The windshield is broad and flat with a steep rake but nothing about its execution says “high tech.”

From the front, the revisions for this year include a new grille with a tasteful chrome bar forming an upturn in the grille, and a re-profiled bumper and air dam region. The refinements help the car look wider versus last year, but aren’t enough to make the nose a selling point. Apart from the hybrid’s projector beams, the old-fashioned halogen headlights are a good example of the terminal dullness at the front.

The Hybrid model is the most interesting to look at from all sides because it features unique paint colors, lights, aero body kit and other detail tweaks, like the California Carpool Lane sticker on the lower passenger flank. It’s not cool, but marks the model apart, as do the blue-tinted LEDs, badges and chrome grille elements.

Similar to the CR-Z and Buick Encore , the Civic Hybrid’s headlight elements are tinted a visible blue even when off. The goal of this is to create an HID appearance from halogen bulbs, but the result is a tacky aftermarket appearance that few mature buyers want.

Blue tint aside, the Hybrid’s LED executions are better than average. A three-LED triangle of projectors lives in the front bumper corner, giving the Hybrid a unique nighttime signature. These mirror the four-pack of LED driving lights on the front of the Toyota Prius Plug-in, but the bulbs are spread out more to give the LED effect.

Out back, the clear taillight units recall the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid , with individual ribbons of LEDs forming an up-swept graphic under braking.

In profile and from the back, the Civic is less frumpy than before, but still suffers visually from an overly tall roof and extremely thick C-pillars that make the car look heavy. Some sculpting in the doors and a rounded shoulderline attempt to disguise the jelly-bean shape, but fail.

The rear bumper region and three-quarter view emphasize the door sculpting with pinched rear bumper tops that make little peaks just below the taillights. A smooth, chopped rear profile has long been a good aerodynamic secret, but there’s little excuse for these overwrought bumpers. The CNG trunk sticker is the only exterior difference between the gasoline and natural gas models.

The final nail in the coffin are the 15-inch standard rims, growing to 16-inch optionally, that appear weak and overwhelmed by the massive body shape and gaping wheel wells.

Exterior Dimensions:

Wheelbase 105.1 inches
Overall length 179.4 inches
Overall width 69 inches
Overall height 56.3 inches
Track 59.1 inches (front) / 60.2 inches (rear)
Curb weight 2866 (Gasoline) / 2880 (Hybrid) / 2928 pounds (CNG)
Weight distribution 61 percent (front) / 39 percent (rear)

Standard Exterior Features:

2013 Honda Civic LX

  • 15-Inch Wheels with Full Covers
  • Security System with Remote Entry and Trunk Release
  • Multi-Reflector Halogen Headlights with Auto-Off
  • Daytime running lights

2013 Honda Civic HF

  • 15-Inch Lightweight Alloy Wheels
  • Security System with Remote Entry and Trunk Release
  • Body-Colored Decklid Spoiler
  • Multi-Reflector Halogen Headlights with Auto-Off

2013 Honda Civic EX

  • All LX features, plus:
  • 16-Inch Alloy Wheels
  • One-Touch Power Moonroof with Tilt Feature
  • Security System with Remote Entry and Trunk Release
  • Multi-Reflector Halogen Headlights with Auto-Off
  • Variable intermittent wipers

2013 Honda Civic EX-L

  • All EX features, plus:
  • Heated Power Side Mirrors
  • Multi-Reflector Halogen Headlights with Auto-On/Off
  • Fog Lights

2013 Honda Civic Hybrid

  • 15-Inch Lightweight Alloy Wheels
  • Roof-Mounted Antenna
  • Security System with Remote Entry and Trunk Release
  • Body-Colored Power Side Mirrors with Integrated Turn Indicators
  • Body-Colored Decklid Spoiler
  • Multi-Reflector Halogen Headlights with Auto-On/Off

Interior

Honda Civic Sedan

The interior of the new Civic gets a light tech overhaul with better gauge graphics in its two-level instrument binnacle, plus an additional screen to the right of the top speedometer on CNG and Hybrids. As is the Honda Honda way, the main tech option is the $500 “Navi,” which is short for Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System with Voice Recognition, FM Traffic and Multi-Angle Rearview Camera with Guidelines. XM radio is optional.

The navi system is optional on EX models and above, and can be operated via the standard illuminated steering-wheel-mounted controls for the cruise, audio, nave and more. The steering wheel itself is smaller and finished in a tactile leather wrap for the EX-L model.

In terms of style and overall design, the Civic still lags well behind the Hyundai Elantra and Ford Focus, but is better than the Toyota Toyota Corolla. Versus the 1995 Camry time capsule interior of the 2013 Corolla, the Civic is like a space ship. Inside, the main complaint is from road boom, wind noise and compromised visibility because of the flat and steep windshield and thick A-pillars. The trunk is decently shaped but has a high load lip and offers a folding rear seatback only in the gasoline models.

Standard Interior Features

2013 Honda Civic LX

  • Air Conditioning with Air-Filtration System
  • i-MID with 5-Inch LCD Screen and Customizable Feature Settings
  • Rearview Camera with Guidelines
  • Bluetooth HandsFreeLink
  • SMS Text Message Function
  • Power Windows with Auto-Up/Down Driver’s Window
  • Power Door Locks
  • Cruise Control
  • Illuminated Steering Wheel-Mounted Cruise, Audio, Phone and i-MID Controls
  • Tilt and Telescopic Steering Column
  • Center Console with Sliding Armrest and Storage Compartment
  • Map Lights
  • Floor Mats
  • 12-Volt Power Outlet
  • Fold-Down Rear Seatback
  • 160-Watt AM/FM/CD Audio System with 4 Speakers
  • Pandora Compatibility
  • Bluetooth Streaming Audio
  • USB Audio Interface
  • MP3/Auxiliary Input Jack
  • MP3/Windows Media Audio (WMA) Playback Capability
  • Exterior Temperature Indicator

2013 Honda Civic HF

  • All LX features

2013 Honda Civic EX

  • All LX features, plus:
  • Automatic Climate Control
  • 160-Watt AM/FM/CD Audio System with 6 Speakers
  • Passenger-Side Seatback Pocket
  • Rear-Seat Center Armrest
  • Two 12-Volt Power Outlets

2013 Honda Civic EX-L

  • All EX features, plus:
  • Leather-Wrapped Steering Wheel
  • Leather-Trimmed Interior
  • Heated Front Seats

2013 Honda Civic Hybrid

  • All EX features, plus:
  • XM radio

Safety

The new Civic is an IIHS Top Safety Pick and even earned a “Good” score in the Insurance Institute’s tougher new test, the small off-set frontal collision. This new test crashes the car as before but only impacts on one side of a car’s hood, like hitting a light pole in real life. Limiting the impact site makes it tougher for manufacturers to model and predict the impact loads felt by just one side of the structure.

The NHTSA has not fully tested the 2013 Civic sedan but previous results were good, and the new model did get a “Good” rating in rollover protection. It helps to know those thick pillars are actually doing something besides creating huge front and rear blind spots.

In terms of safety technology, the 2013 Civic meets all federally required items, like dual front and side airbags, stability control, ABS, electronic brake-force distribution and a tire pressure monitoring system. This lags well behind the latest Focus and Subaru compacts, which are including the latest safety features like adaptive cruise control, automatic parking and city braking assist as pricey, but available, options.

Drivetrain, Suspension and Brakes

Honda Civic Sedan

Non-Si Civic sedans are all devastingly slow movers who have to be totally flogged just to stay with traffic. That legacy continues with all the new models, with the quickest EX model reaching 60 mph in 9.1 seconds.

You know there is a problem when the desirable CNG and Hybrid models have more than 30 fewer horsepower than the base 1.8 liter, 140-horsepower aluminum four-cylinder. A five-speed manual transmission is standard equipment on the LX model and an automatic transmission is standard on the HF, EX and EX-L models. The CNG uses just the automatic and the Hybrid uses a special CVT.

For those with a keen interest in Honda VTEC engines, the gasoline and CNG are 16-valves, while the Hybrid uses an 8-valve engine on the Atkinson cycle. The Hybrid shows big efficiency gains versus its siblings with a 44 mpg score in all categories. The CNG doesn’t get better gas mileage, but will cost barely half as much to refill, making its poor performance a missed opportunity.

The numbers initially seem pretty low considering this is an economy car, no doubt hobbled by the non-Hybrid transmissions having only five gears.

Gasoline Engine Specifications:

Engine TypeIn-Line Four-Cylinder
Engine Block/Cylinder HeadAluminum-Alloy
Displacement1.8-Liter
Horsepower @ rpm 140 @ 6,500
Torque (lb-ft)128 @ 4,300
Redline (rpm)6,700
Valve Train16-Valve SOHC i-VTEC

Hybrid Drivetrain Specifications:

Engine TypeIn-Line Four-Cylinder
Engine Block/Cylinder HeadAluminum-Alloy
Displacement1.5-Liter
Horsepower @ rpm110 @ 5,500
Torque (lb-ft)127 @ 1,000 to 3,500
Redline (rpm)6,000
Valve TrainEight-Valve SOHC i-VTEC
Electric Horsepower @ rpm23 @ 1,546 to 3,000
Electric Torque (lb-ft @ rpm)78 @ 500 to 1,546

CNG Engine Specifications

Engine TypeIn-Line Four-Cylinder
Engine Block/Cylinder HeadAluminum-Alloy
Displacement1.8-Liter
Horsepower @ rpm 110 @ 6500
Torque (lb-ft)106 @ 4300
Redline (rpm)6,700
Valve Train16-Valve SOHC i-VTEC

EPA Fuel Economy:

ModelCity / Highway / Combined
Civic LX Manual28 / 36 / 31
Civic LX Automatic28 / 39 / 32
Civic HF29 / 41 / 33
Civic EX / EX-L 28 / 39 / 32
Civic Hybrid44 / 44 / 44
Civic CNG27 / 38 / 31

Pricing

Honda Civic Sedan

Honda has dropped the price on the cheapest Civics to $18,165 for the LX model, while the top of the line-up is the CNG with Navi at $27,965.

Pricing Details:

ModelMSRP
Civic LX Sedan$18,165
Civic LX Sedan$18,965
Civic HF Sedan$19,765
Civic EX Sedan$20,815
Civic EX Sedan Navi$22,315
Civic EX-L Sedan$22,265
Civic EX-L Sedan Navi$23,765
Civic Hybrid Sedan$24,360
Civic Hybrid Sedan Navi$25,860
Civic Hybrid Sedan w/ Leather$25,560
Civic Hybrid Sedan w/ Leather Navi$27,060
Civic Natural Gas$26,465
Civic Natural Gas Navi$27,965

Reliability and Recalls

Honda Civic Sedan

The 2013 Civic has yet to issue an NHTSA mechanical recall, however models built before June 2013 may be affected by the global Japanese airbag recall of more than 3 million vehicles after the discovery that the airbags were made incorrectly and may not inflate.

Overall, the Civic has historically had better-than-average reliability in the J.D. Power Predicted Reliability study. The 2012 Civic fell from its long-time spot on the Consumer Reports ‘Recommended’ list in 2012 and has yet to return.

The Civic comes with a 3-year or 36,000-mile limited warranty, plus a 5-year powertrain and 5-year unlimited-mileage rust warranty. This is on par with the shorted warranties in the automotive industry, particularly compared with the generous 10-year powertrain coverage still offered by Hyundai and Kia .

Competition

2013 Hyundai Elantra

Hyundai Elantra

The Elantra has more sophisticated and modern styling throughout the exterior and interior, better technology solutions and a better warranty at or below Civic prices. The lack of CNG or Hybrid Elantras means gasoline power is the only choice.

the 2013 Elantra Sedan starts out at a very economical $16,965 in the GLS trim and caps out at $21,115 in its Limited trim level.

Ford Focus

Ford Focus

The Focus is a much wider and larger car than the Civic, and feels more mature on the road with larger engines, and more zesty performance and handling. Ford’s twin-clutch automatic is worthwhile, as well. In terms of economy, the Focus is worse in town but better on the highway versus the gasoline Civic. The Focus is also available in full electric and forthcoming plug-in hybrid variants, called the Focus Electric and Focus Energi, respectively.

The Ford Focus sedan checks in at a base price of $16,200 in its S trim and its Titanium trim tops off the gasoline models at $23,200. To get into the Focus Electric, you’ll have to move into a five-door hatchback body and jump into a $39,200 base price.

Conclusion

Honda Civic Sedan

For cars like the Honda Civic and Toyota Camry , being a perennial best-seller is a grand spot to few the carnage of price-conscious automotive sales. Despite both the Civic and the Camry lacking any reliability or tech advantage over modern American and Asian rivals, both continue to sell thanks to their huge and loyal owner base.

As it took General Motors more than 30 years to learn, squandering that top market position is done at the company’s own peril. How do you waste away a good reputation? De-contenting via cheap mechanicals or materials, odd styling, and missing features are just three of the ways. Was Honda guilty of this in 2012? Oh yes.

The 2013 Civic takes a meaningful step in the right direction but offers too little comfort, efficiency or performance to make it worthwhile to anyone who likes cars. It’s noisy and bouncy, slow and not great on gas in all but the Hybrid specification.

The facelift still lacks any actual style, and lack of LED DRLs – even optionally – on the non-Hybrids is a glaring disconnect with the reality for new car buyers.

Alas, the only Civic worth a second look are the CNG, Hybrid or especially the Si models. The Si packs much more power and torque, better seats and interior materials, plus (limited) street cred that the other models lack entirely.

Category RatingDetails
Driving CThe Civic is joyless to drive
Performance DAcceptable 9.1-second 0-60 sprint masks gutless real-world ability
Look CThe Civic is ugly and dated
Value BGood value and simple trim levels simplify buying process, but a $28k CNG Civic has some stiff competition from mid-size cars
Overall CAlright keep it moving people, nothing to see here
LOVE IT
  • Realistically priced Navi option at $500
  • Consistency with previous Civics will help repeat purchases from loyalists
  • Plenty of powertrains to choose from
LEAVE IT
  • Miserable real-world acceleration
  • Still harsh and uncomfortable with too much bouncing and noise
  • EPA economy is knee-capped by 5-speed transmission
  • Higher base pricing


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