Full 2013 Honda Civic Review
What's New for 2013
The 2013 Honda Civic has been significantly refreshed. Highlights include styling updates, a longer list of standard equipment, improved interior materials and a quieter ride.
The 2013 Honda Civic proves that Honda is no slouch when it comes to acting on constructive criticism. The Civic was redesigned just last year, but the overhaul was panned as being too slight to give the car any real advantage in the very competitive compact car segment. This year, Honda responds by sprucing up the Civic with improvements that address the previous model's biggest flaws.
The most obvious changes are the styling upgrades, which give the car a sportier look that's also more distinctive compared to the previous-generation car. Inside the cabin, many of the cheap plastics that drew fire last year have been replaced with materials that boast a more high-end look and feel. The design is largely the same, though, meaning it lacks some of the visual pizzazz and sophistication of some rivals.
Also important to note in the cabin is the significantly expanded standard features list. Additional included amenities now include Bluetooth, a rearview camera, text message functionality, an iPod interface and Pandora functionality. Most of these items are often options on competitor vehicles as well.
There are mechanical revisions as well. Honda recalibrated the suspension and steering for more responsive handling, and added additional sound-deadening material for a quieter ride. On the safety front, the new Civic benefits from an updated body structure that's said to provide better frontal impact protection, revised front-seat side airbags, and the addition of optional forward collision warning and lane departure warning systems for the Civic Hybrid model. These are also very rare items in this price range.
So the 2013 Honda Civic is now truly up to speed with its well-dressed and fully loaded rivals, which means the list of excellent choices in this segment just got a little bit longer. We'd still suggest looking at some of our other favorites, including the 2013 Ford Focus, 2013 Hyundai Elantra and Mazda 3, as they're competitive in terms of value, feature content and interior quality. Civic Hybrid shoppers will find the Toyota Prius C and Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid to be strong alternatives. And gearheads hankering for the Civic Si should test-drive the Ford Focus ST, Mazdaspeed 3 and Volkswagen GTI since they still have the edge in most performance categories.
Overall, however, we're impressed with the revitalized Honda Civic, and it's once again among the top choices for a small sedan or coupe.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2013 Honda Civic is a compact car offered in coupe and sedan body styles.
The standard Civic coupe and sedan come in LX, midrange EX and top-of-the-line EX-L trims. The sedan is also available in a fuel-efficient HF trim.
Entry-level LX models come equipped with 15-inch steel wheels, full power accessories, air-conditioning, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a one-piece fold-down rear seatback and cruise control. Electronic features include a 5-inch central display screen, a rearview camera, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, SMS text messaging functionality and a four-speaker (six for the coupe) sound system with a CD player, an auxiliary audio jack, an iPod/USB audio interface and Pandora radio functionality.
The fuel-efficient HF sedan starts out with standard features similar to those of the LX sedan, then adds a few upgrades designed to deliver maximum mpg. These include low-rolling-resistance tires and aerodynamic cast-aluminum wheels, wind-cheating underbody panels and a rear spoiler.
The EX model adds to or supplants those features with 16-inch alloy wheels, rear disc brakes, a sunroof and 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks. EX coupes get an upgraded seven-speaker sound system, while EX sedans step up to a six-speaker sound system. The EX-L model adds foglights, automatic headlights, heated mirrors, leather upholstery and heated front seats.
The Civic Natural Gas is available in one trim whose features largely mirror those of the LX.
The Civic Hybrid sedan is available in two trim levels, with the base model's list of standard features being similar to those of the mainstream EX sedan. The Hybrid also comes with forward collision warning and lane departure warning. The top-of-the-line "Leather" trim level for the Hybrid adds extras found on the regular EX-L.
The sporty Si coupe and sedan come in a single trim level that includes 17-inch alloy wheels, a bigger engine, a limited-slip front differential, a sport-tuned suspension, foglights and front and rear spoilers. Inside upgrades include most of the items from the EX model's standard features list plus front sport seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, an aluminum shift knob and red backlit gauges.
A navigation system with voice controls, satellite radio and real-time traffic updates is optional on all Si, Natural Gas and Hybrid models, and on EX and EX-L sedans and coupes.
Powertrains and Performance
The front-wheel-drive 2013 Honda Civic is powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that puts out 140 horsepower and 128 pound-feet of torque. Transmission choices include a five-speed manual and an available five-speed automatic (HF and EX models get the automatic as standard equipment). With the automatic, the Civic returns an EPA-estimated 28 mpg city/39 mpg highway and 32 mpg combined. With the manual these numbers are slightly lower at 28/36/28, whereas they go up to 29/41/33 on the HF model. In Edmunds performance testing, a Civic EX went from zero to 60 mph in 9.3 seconds -- an average time for this segment.
The Civic Natural Gas features a version of the same 1.8-liter engine powered by, as its name suggests, natural gas. It produces only 110 hp and 106 lb-ft of torque, however. A five-speed automatic is standard. EPA-estimated fuel economy is the gasoline equivalent of 27/38/31 mpg.
The Civic Hybrid gets a 1.5-liter gasoline four-cylinder engine and an electric motor, a combination that's good for 110 hp and 127 lb-ft of torque. A continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) is standard. In Edmunds testing, it hit 60 mph in 10.1 seconds -- on par with most economy hybrids. Not surprisingly, this powertrain is the most fuel-efficient of the bunch, with EPA numbers of 44/44/44.
The Civic Si's engine provides output of 201 hp and 170 lb-ft. A six-speed manual is the only transmission offered. EPA fuel economy estimates stand at 22/31/25. In Edmunds testing, an Si coupe hit 60 mph in 6.9 seconds, which is slower than average among sport compacts.
The 2013 Honda Civic comes with standard safety features that include stability control, antilock brakes (four-wheel discs with the EX and Si), front side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. Forward collision warning and lane departure warning systems are standard on the Civic Hybrid.
In Edmunds brake testing, a 2013 Civic EX came to a stop from 60 mph in a longish 130 feet. A 2012 Civic Hybrid was a bit better with a stop of 124 feet. At 120 feet, the 2012 Civic Si stopped the shortest for us, but this is still a disappointing distance considering the car was fitted with summer performance tires; other so-equipped sport compacts fared better.
The government updated its scores for the 2013 Civic coupe and sedan. The sedan received a perfect five stars overall, with four stars for frontal and five stars for side crash categories. The 2013 Civic coupe received four stars overall, also with four stars for frontal and five stars for side crash categories. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the 2013 Civic sedan and coupe the highest possible rating of "Good" in its frontal-offset, side and roof strength tests, as well as its highest "Top Safety Pick+" award.
Interior Design and Special Features
Inside its cabin, the 2013 Honda Civic maintains its familiar two-tier dash display, which includes a 5-inch monitor that displays information for audio, hands-free phone use and various vehicle systems. Materials quality gets a noticeable upgrade this year, and anyone who bemoaned the cheap look and feel of the dash material, switchgear and door panels in last year's Civic will be glad to know that it has been replaced with more textured, premium-looking alternatives.
Most of the cabin's controls are well-placed, and the keypads and menu buttons on the steering wheel are intuitive enough for anyone who's spent time with a smartphone. But it's an overload of input sources; there can be up to 14 buttons and directional commands on the steering wheel alone, and the dash design with the optional navigation system looks quite busy. In addition, the nav system, although useful for finding addresses, is largely antiquated. It's hard to justify paying extra for a system whose graphics and underlying data are behind the times compared to the up-to-the-minute mobile device you probably carry with you already.
That said, in a nod to modern times, the Civic has a few useful tech amenities for smartphone users, including text messaging functionality, which allows you to listen to and respond to text messages while you drive (provided your phone supports this functionality), and Pandora radio functionality.
In the Honda Civic sedan, legroom and headroom for front passengers is competitive, while rear passengers benefit from more legroom than in rivals like the Chevrolet Cruze and the Ford Focus. The Civic offers 11.7 cubic feet of cargo capacity in the coupe and 12.5 cubic feet in the sedan, which means that the Cruze and Focus sedans have the advantage when it comes to trunk space. The hybrid models sacrifice trunk space to the battery pack, leaving 10.7 cubic feet. The large fuel tank needed for the Natural Gas model curtails trunk space even further.
The Honda Civic has long been one of the better-driving cars in its class, and the suspension and steering refinements seen in the 2013 model should make it even more appealing. The Civic offers one of the most comfortable and composed rides in the class, while its handling is reassuring. We also welcome the extra sound-deadening measures, as wind noise has been a problem with previous models.
Power from the 1.8-liter engine is merely adequate when fueled by gasoline, but its fuel efficiency and refined, Honda-typical character nevertheless make it a strong suit. One minor annoyance is the automatic transmission's propensity to upshift early (a concession that can make the Civic feel sluggish in traffic even as it promotes better gas mileage), and the lack of a dedicated manual-shift gate for drivers who want to take matters into their own hands. On the upside, the automatic shifts very smoothly, and if you're really bothered by the inability to select gears yourself, well, you can still get a manual transmission on the LX and Si models. As for the alternative fuel models, expect glacial acceleration with the Natural Gas and a far more refined driving experience from the Civic Hybrid than you'll find in Honda's Insight.
The 2013 Honda Civic Si is a fun car to drive. Refined suspension tuning, improved electric-assist power steering and additional torque at lower rpm give it a sharp attitude in and out of corners. However, it's outgunned by the competition in this class, as most rivals beat it in straight-line acceleration and handle as well or better when the road turns twisty.