2014 Honda Civic Coupe Review

Does a CVT Ruin the Honda Civic?

2014 Honda Civic Coupe Review
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It’s been high times for the Honda Civic since the debut of its ninth generation for the 2012 model year with sales strong enough to beat the Toyota Corolla: it’s key competitor.

FAST FACTS

1. Pricing starts at $19,780 including delivery for the coupe model with a CVT

2. The car is officially rated for 30 mpg city, 39 highway or 33 overall.

3. The Civic is currently the only car with Honda’s new “Display Audio” system.

4. For 2014, the car gets Honda’s Lane Watch side-view camera

5. Horsepower and torque increase mildly to 143 hp and 129 lb-ft

Numbers aside, feedback on the new compact was less than positive and one year after its launch, the Civic underwent emergency surgery to come out with revised looks and repackaged content better able to compete in an increasingly competitive market.

That brings us to the 2014 model year and once again, Honda has something hidden up its sleeve. For 2014 they went back to the drawing board for a second time to re-think the affordable compact, scrapping its automatic transmission in favor of a CVT.

Then again, it’s hardly a surprise considering the brand-new Corolla is also being packaged with exactly that. 

Honda Scraps the Slushbox

The base model is still available with a five-speed manual for $19,170 (sedan) or $200 less for the coupe, but the traditional automatic is a goner as of 2014.

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As you can probably guess, the new transmission is supposed to bring fuel economy gains. But they’re small. The base CVT model is rated for 30 mpg in the city, 39 on the highway and an overall 33. That’s two more in the city and one on average.

CivicExterior4The more efficient “HF” model sees bigger gains with 31 in town 41 on faster thoroughfares or 35 on the whole, which is three in the city, two on the highway or three mpgs on average.

The same 1.8-liter engine powers the front wheels, but a new exhaust means it’s a little more powerful with 143 hp and 129 lb-ft. 

Pricing for the CVT-equipped coupe starts at $19,780 including delivery while the top-tier EX-L model with navigation gets a similar increase and comes in at $24,830.

The sedan starts at $19,980 if packaged with the CVT and runs up to $25,030 for the EX-L. 

What’s New?

Civic Exterior 2

Compared to last year, the sedan's styling is untouched. The coupe, on the other hand, gets a more aggressive look at the front and rear end with more pronounced features.

There are still 16-inch steel wheels are standard on the base car with 16-inch alloys optional. Our test car has 16-inch alloys and there are also available 17's.

This isn't a new generation, so the cabin is pretty much the same as last year's model with one key exception. For 2014, you get a similar touch screen to the unit found in the larger Accord. I'm a fan of it there and nothing's changed in this application.

Civic Interior 2The base model comes with a rear-view camera, but stepping up to the mid-level EX trim and above also brings in Honda's Lane Watch, a camera mounted on the passenger side mirror that gives you a much wider angle.

You can access Siri directly through the car and starting with the EX model, you can also get Honda's Display Audio that essentially mirrors your iPhone so you can use it through the car's screen. In the future, it will allow drivers to port a growing list of applications from their smart phone onto the in-dash display.

Honda offers a navigation app that costs $60 and is one of a handful currently included under an “approved” list of programs. The company says it won’t open Display Audio to be a free-for-all because it isn’t safe. Translation: playing Angry Birds and driving don’t mix.

For now, the iPhone 5 is the only compatible device and the Civic is the only car sold with Display Audio. Both of those facts will change soon, but in the compatibility case it’s because other device manufacturers are still working to make their handhelds work with the system.

Not So Different After All

Civic Interior 1

Otherwise it’s the same cabin as the 2013 model year. Leather seats are available in the top-trim EX-L, but most models put your bottom in cloth buckets. Other premium feature like heated seats and navigation are also reserved for the most expensive version. That is, unless you have the right kind of cell phone and buy the right app. Bear in mind that it uses data from your mobile plan.

But the biggest changes for this year have to do with the powertrain. The Civic – and especially the coupe – traditionally airs on the sportier side of its segment. If you’re anything like me, the biggest question before actually driving the car is whether or not the CVT spoils how the car drives.

Honda claims the car is actually a little bit faster to accelerate compared to the traditional automatic model. Power is supposed to come on sooner after the driver depresses the throttle, although the difference isn’t prominent enough to stand out on its own.

All “Couped” Up

Civic Engine 2

The CVT isn’t particularly noisy and to the company’s credit, it feels fairly responsive. Coupe models come with paddle shifters, and dropping the shift lever from “D” to “S” leaves the car hanging on to its current ratio until you tap one of the paddles. It isn’t quick like, say, a dual-clutch gearbox and the simulated shifts seem sort of silly. The “S” implies sportier characteristics, but the Civic isn’t designed to be a performer. For 2014, it gets a slightly thicker rear stabilizer bar that should help it handle better although the real-world merits of that enhancement are debatable.

Civic Exterior 5What you’re more likely to notice is the small steering wheel and stress-free forward sightlines. It’s easy to see out thanks to relatively thin a-pillars. Building cars that are fun to drive is job number one for Honda these days and the Civic still delivers in that regard.

Of course, seeing out of the rear window is another matter. The heavily raked rear porthole’s angle is severe enough to cause a reflection from the rear cargo shelf. In bright light, you’ll be lucky to see out and that’s annoying.

A revised exhaust makes the 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine a smidgen stronger, but the gain is too small to make a real difference during day-to-day driving.

The Verdict:

Civic Exterior 1

Concessions from the transmission swap are small if they exist at all. More importantly, it brings better gas mileage. That combined with updated technological features give the Civic an advantage that makes it one of the most compelling compact cars currently on the market.

LOVE IT
  • Better looking body
  • Display Audio
  • Lane Watch
  • Improved gas mileage
LEAVE IT
  • Annoying volume control on center stack
  • Poor rear visibility through window
  • Five-speed manual only offered on base model and Si
  • Steel wheels on base model need to be dropped

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