First Drive: 2014 Honda Civic honda first drives
First Drive: 2014 Honda Civic honda first drives
First Drive: 2014 Honda Civic honda first drives
2014 Honda Civic Touring & 2014 Honda Civic Coupe EX. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Peter Bleakney

Orlando, Florida – You sure can’t accuse Honda of resting on its laurels when it comes to the Civic.

Less than a year after launching the ninth generation of its compact sedan in the fall of 2011, Honda hauled her back into the workshop to make a number of significant improvements. Call it planned evolution or an emergency makeover (most would pick the latter), the automaker was quick to address criticisms leveled at the 2012 Civic pertaining to its subpar interior quality, uninspired handling and somewhat dull styling.

And so the 2013 Civic sedan got a classier snout and derriere, while both sedan and coupe saw suspension upgrades, better plastics, colour-matching interior bits and a few new features.

Honda could have left it there. After all, this North American–only Civic does very well in the US, and up here in Canada it is currently celebrating its 16th year as our county’s top-selling passenger vehicle.

But this is a super tough segment. The cars might be small, but they don’t play nice. The stylin’ Hyundai Elantra has been nipping at Civic’s heels in the sales race here for the past three years, and with all-new players like the impressive 2014 Toyota Corolla and 2014 Mazda3 on board, Honda once again sees fit to upgrade the Civic.

The mantra for 2014 is more power, more connectivity, better fuel economy, and in the case of the Coupe variants we drove in Florida, a bump from 15-inch to 16-inch rolling stock, suspension mods to improve body control and exterior styling tweaks.

But first we’ll look at the changes that affect both 2014 Civic Sedan and Coupe.

A freer-flowing exhaust system has netted three more ponies and one more torque – the 1.8L VTEC four now makes 143 hp at 6,500 rpm and 129 lb-ft at 4,300 rpm.

The biggest news for 2014 is a Honda-developed CVT (continuously variable transmission) that replaces the old five-speed auto. Coupe models get paddle shifters – the sedans don’t. While unavailable on the base DX sedan (a five-speed manual is the only transmission), the CVT is a $1,300 option on the LX and EX versions of both sedan and coupe, and standard on the top-trim Touring sedan and EX-L coupe.

The CVT is lighter than the outgoing auto and widens the ratio range by 22 percent. This bodes well for fuel economy. Strangely, Honda is only claiming economy gains in the city cycle (consumption drops from 7.1 to 6.7 L/100 km) while highway mileage remains at 5.0 L/100 km.

On the connectivity front, both the EX sedan and EX coupe get a new touchscreen interface dubbed Display Audio. Move up to the Touring sedan, Hybrid sedan, EX-L coupe or either Si performance variants and we get Display Audio with Navi.

A seven-inch capacitive touchscreen with slide, flick, pinch and multi-tap functions lives at the top of the centre stack. For those into connectivity it’s a boon. If you care about ergonomics, well…

The good old-fashioned volume knob, which most manufacturers still appear to deem essential no matter what, is AWOL here. So you’ll be using the steering wheel controls. Otherwise, your eyes must leave the road and follow the fingertip as it tries to hone in on the screen’s digital rendering of a slider. From which imprecise adjustments are yours for the poking.

First Drive: 2014 Honda Civic honda first drives First Drive: 2014 Honda Civic honda first drives First Drive: 2014 Honda Civic honda first drives
2014 Honda Civic Touring & 2014 Honda Civic Coupe EX. Click image to enlarge

At least the radio preset icons are pretty easy to hit, but it does take a fair amount of dicking around with submenus to find said stations in the first place. So once again, basic ergonomics are sacrificed on the altar of connectivity.

That said, Display Audio delivers most of the goods for those who live through a smart phone and need all that in a car. There is USB, HDMI connectivity and Bluetooth streaming. Various apps are coming online. Currently Aha, Honda Link (like GM’s OnStar) and a $59 navigation app if you just have the basic system sans built-in navigation. iPhone users can also chat with Siri. When the car is stationary, YouTube streaming is available.

No text-to-voice capability though.

Display Audio with Navi–equipped cars get a three-mode rear-view camera (normal, wide and top down).

On EX trim and higher, Honda’s LaneWatch, first seen on the 2013 Accord, presents a clever solution for lessening the chance of an “oops” with objects in your right-side blind spot. Turn on the right turn signal and a rear-facing camera on the wing mirror shoots up a clear image on the centre display. Especially good for checking for cyclists coming up on the inside when driving in the city.




About Peter

Peter Bleakney is a Toronto-based automotive journalist. He is also a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).