2014 Honda Civic Touring. Click image to enlarge
Review and photos by Greg Wilson
The Honda Civic has been the nation’s bestselling car for many years, but recently redesigned competitors like the Toyota Corolla and Mazda3 are gaining ground on Canada’s favourite compact. Year to date (as of the end of April, 2014) the Civic is still the bestselling car in Canada, but its April sales slipped 14 percent compared to April, 2013. Sales of the second-place Hyundai Elantra slipped 15 percent in April as well, while sales of the hot-selling Corolla were up by 21 percent, the Mazda3 up by 29 percent, the Chevrolet Cruze up by 19 percent, and the Volkswagen Jetta up by 34 percent.
To Honda’s credit, the company didn’t waste any time before making needed improvements and upgrades: the less-than-stellar redesign of the Civic in 2012 was followed by ‘emergency’ upgrades in 2013 including exterior styling refinements, improved interior quality, improved handling and ride, and a quieter cabin.
For 2014, the Civic sedan adds more luxury, convenience and safety upgrades such as a new larger touchscreen with tap, slide and swipe capability, improved in-car connectivity, LaneWatch blind spot camera, push-button start and proximity keyless entry, a slight boost in horsepower, and most significantly, a new continuously variable transmission that replaces the optional five-speed automatic.
2014 suggested retail prices have gone up between $250 and $460, depending on the trim level. The base 2014 Civic Sedan DX model now starts at $15,690 (up from $15,440) but it’s not a popular choice as it doesn’t include air conditioning and is only available with a manual transmission and a one-piece folding rear seatback. The volume-seller Civic LX trim at $18,440 manual/$19,740 CVT (up from $18,190/$19,390) makes a continuously variable transmission available and adds standard air conditioning, heated front seats, split-folding rear seatbacks, and wireless Bluetooth phone and audio. Next up, the nicely equipped Civic EX at $20,500/$21,800 CVT (up from $20,190/$21,390) adds alloy wheels and larger 16-inch tires, four-wheel disc brakes, automatic climate control, seven-inch touchscreen, rearview camera, HDMI port, and power moonroof. The top-of-the-line Touring Sedan at $25,200 (up from $24,840) includes all that other stuff plus a standard continuously variable transmission, 17-inch tires and machined alloys, front fog lights, leather seats, power driver’s seat, navigation system, multi-angle rearview camera, and satellite radio.
Those who want more performance can opt for the Si sedan at $26,655 (up from $26,190). It has a bigger, more powerful 205-hp 2.4L engine, six-speed manual transmission, firmer suspension and premium audio system. Those who need better fuel economy can buy the Civic Hybrid at $26,990 with its 110-hp gas-electric hybrid powertrain.
Other than the Si and Hybrid, all Civic sedans have Honda’s enduring 1.8L SOHC 16-valve VTEC four-cylinder engine, now with an extra three horsepower and one more lb-ft of torque courtesy of a freer-flowing exhaust. More significant is Honda’s decision to replace their trusty five-speed automatic transmission with a new continuously variable transmission (optional on LX and EX, standard on Touring). This was done primarily to improve fuel economy, which, according to EPA figures, has improved by four percent over the 2013 Civic sedan equipped with the five-speed automatic.
2014 Honda Civic Touring engine bay & dashboard. Click image to enlarge
The 2014 Civic Sedan CVT is now rated at 7.8 L/100 km (30 mpg US) in the city and 6.0 L/100 km (39 mpg US) on the highway for a combined rating of 7.1 L/100 km (33 mpg US). During the week that I drove it, my fuel consumption display was showing 7.4 L/100 km. The Civic Sedan’s EPA rating matches the Nissan Sentra CVT (7.8/6.0) but is thriftier than the Toyota Corolla CVT (8.1/6.2), Hyundai Elantra (8.7/6.4), Kia Forte (9.4/6.5), Chevrolet Cruze (10.7/6.7), and Ford Focus (8.7/6.4). However, the top prize for fuel stinginess (other than hybrids and PHEVs) goes to the new Mazda3, which offers better highway fuel economy (7.8/5.7).
Replacing the Civic’s conventional five-speed automatic with a CVT is a big deal for Honda because these type of ‘gearless’ transmissions are frequently criticized in the media for the way they make the engine to drone continuously while accelerating. In theory, this could turn off buyers. However, like Nissan and Toyota, Honda has developed a CVT with a more “natural feel” (to quote their own advertising) by maximizing responsiveness and minimizing the “rubber band” effect. For the most part, this works. In my week of city and highway driving, I found the CVT delivered the power to the front wheels fairly quickly thereby minimizing the duration of continuous engine revving. It’s only when you put your foot to the floor, say when accelerating onto the freeway, that you’ll notice continuous engine noise – but even then it’s not too loud. The Civic’s engine revs up to 4,000 or 5,000 rpm but rarely reaches the redline of 6,700 rpm.