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Motoring: Civic is back in action

Credit: Nauman Farooq

The Honda Civic, the best selling car in Canada for the last 16 years in a row, looks like it will maintain its dominance with the 2014 model.

Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | February 10th, 2014

The last time Honda gave the world an all-new Civic was back in 2006; since then, the Japanese manufacturer has been evolving its globally popular model.

However, for the 2012 model year, they got it a bit wrong. The 2012 update was seen by many as a downgrade. The quality of the materials used for both inside and outside the car looked cheap, and the reviews for this model were mostly negative.

Honda was quick to respond, and within months had a much more pleasing update ready for the 2013 model year. This update, which concentrated on righting all the wrongs they committed the year before, largely concentrated on the Civic sedan model.

For this year, Honda has given the Civic coupe the priority. The styling for the two-door coupe has been refreshed, and the mechanical and technology updates will benefit the coupe and sedan model.

The biggest mechanical change with the 2014 Civic is with its automatic transmission. Gone is the old five-speed autobox, replaced by a new CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) gearbox.

According to Honda, they have worked very hard to make this CVT gearbox feel like a normal automatic, while still providing the benefits of the CVT, such as improved fuel economy. While the 2014 Civic — when equipped with its regular 1.8L I4 motor — produces just three horsepower and one pound/feet of torque more than its predecessor (for a total of 143 hp and 129 lb/ft of torque), thanks to a new exhaust system, it is also a bit more frugal, consuming just 6.0L/100km on a combined city and highway run (this figure is for a model equipped with the CVT transmission). That is an improvement of 0.2L/100km over the 2013 model. That might be a small improvement, but it is a step in the right direction.

To sample all of the goodies offered on the 2014 Civic coupe, Honda flew a few journalists down to Orlando, Florida, to check out the improvements firsthand.

The weather in Orlando might have been chilly for Floridians, but it was bright and sunny with no snow in sight — perfect to admire the new styling details on the 2014 Honda Civic coupe, which has adopted a much more aggressive stance.

It now has a more muscular hood, along with much more pronounced flanks. The grille between the headlights looks like the teeth protectors that boxers wear, and the new tail-lights and bumper complete its aggressive appearance, which should help pull more coupe buyers into Honda showrooms.

The interior is not all new, but has benefitted from some new gadgets, like its touchscreen infotainment system. A Honda rep accurately referred to this system as “having an iPad on your dashboard.” It has apps for various functions, like a Honda-specific navigation app that will set you back $59 — and it uses data from your phone (a conventional builtin navigation system is also available on the EX-L trim and up). If you like high-tech gadgets, you'll love this system.

The 2014 Civic coupe has also borrowed a feature from its elder sibling, the Accord. LaneWatch, which displays images of almost two lanes next to you on the screen, is now also offered on the Civic. This feature almost eliminates any blind spot to help you make a lane change. It works well in day time, but at night, not so much.

I had the chance to try out both the five-speed manual and CVT automatic versions on the wide open, mostly traffic-free roads around Orlando.

First up was a model equipped with the CVT. Normally, I am not a fan of CVT gearboxes; however, Honda worked hard to improve the drive feel and performance of their CVT, and it started to show promise within minutes. Soon I had forgotten I was driving a vehicle with a CVT. Honda's CVT tries to mimic the way a regular automatic works; it revs and speed climbs up, settles and then accelerates again. Only under very hard acceleration did this CVT feel like a CVT. You can also have some fun with this transmission in the “S” mode, which, when combined with its steering wheel-mounted pedal shifters, will almost make you think you're driving a car with a dual-clutch gearbox.

As good as the CVT in the 2014 Civic is, the five-speed manual is even better. The gearbox has the right amount of weight and feel to it, making stirring the stick a lot of fun — plus the clutch now also has a weighted feel, which is a lot better than the 2012MY clutch which felt like a sponge.

Thanks to the right pedal position and a decently light flywheel, rev matching on downshifts is a delight. Couple that with precise steering and a taut chassis, and the 2014 Civic coupe certainly reminds you of fun Hondas from the past, like the CR-X and the Integra (the latter was sold in North America under the Acura banner).

All in all, the 2014 Civic coupe is a very satisfying car. It might not be all-new, but its evolution has been a successful one.

The Honda Civic has already been the bestselling car in Canada for the last 16 years in a row — the changes to the 2014 model will help ensure it continues on with that tradition.

The Alliston, Ontario, built 2014 Honda Civic coupe is on sale now, with pricing starting at $18,840.
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