The gasoline-electric hybrid version of Honda’s popular Civic compact sedan has better fuel economy for 2014, and the new model is now arriving at dealerships nationwide.Prices begin at $24,635 (plus $790 freight) for the base model, and range as high as $27,335 with both leather seats and a navigation system. In between are the hybrid with navigation only, for $26,135, and with leather only, for $25,835. No factory options are offered.EPA ratings for 2014 are 44 mpg city/47 highway/45 combined, up from the 2013 model's 44/44/44. The vehicle officially went on sale this week.Also on sale beginning this weekend is the 2014 Civic Natural Gas model, the only factory-produced natural gas-powered vehicle from a major automaker, with prices ranging from $26,640-$29,290 (plus freight). The natural gas model has EPA ratings of 27 city/38 highway/31 combined. It’s available only in 37 states, including Texas, with dealers carrying the vehicle in the Metroplex, Austin and Houston. New for the Civic Hybrid and Natural Gas models for 2014 are a seven-inch touch-screen audio display, and an expanded-view driver's outside mirror. The Natural Gas version is offered with leather seating for the first time.With the new audio display, users can pinch, swipe and tap just like the screen on a tablet or smartphone to access audio, phonebook, media, vehicle information and navigation features, Honda says.Honda says the new display "is also the interface for the next-generation HondaLink, an application-based platform that allows a seamless integration between a user's smartphone and the car, providing access to online and cloud-based content and information both inside and outside the car."Available on both models is LaneWatch, which enhances the driver's view around the vehicle. And now standard on the hybrid is Honda’s Smart Entry system with pushbutton start. It allows for entry and engine starting without having to use a key.All hybrid models come with a continuously variable automatic transmission, while the natural gas version has a traditional five-speed automatic.New for 2014, the natural gas model with leather and navigation also comes with heated front seats and outside mirrors, and a six-speaker audio system. The standard interior has been upgraded with premium seating materials and door trim.Both vehicles are assembled at Honda’s plant in Greensburg, Ind.Honda introduced the current generation of the Civic for 2012, but because of some criticism, the automaker made more changes for 2013, giving the sedan bolder styling, a better interior and some extra standard amenities.Sedan and coupe versions of the Civic are offered, although the hybrid and natural gas models come only in sedan form.Trim levels include LX, EX, and EX-L — each building on the other, adding features as the price rises. Regular gasoline Civic sedan models begin at $18,390 with a five-speed manual gearbox, and $19,190 with the CVT. The sporty Si Sedan, available only with a six-speed manual, starts at $22,990. Gasoline Civic sedan prices top out at $24,490 for the Si with navigation, and at $24,240 for the regular sedan with navigation. Originally introduced in 1972 as a hatchback, the Civic continues to provide a good value, with excellent fuel economy even in the gasoline-only versions. The best mileage comes from the HF sedan (high fuel economy, $19,940), at 29 city/41 highway. It comes with an aerodynamic rear-deck spoiler, unique alloy wheels with low-rolling-resistance tires, and special underbody panels to improve air flow.Under the hood of the regular gasoline models is a 140-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, connected to the CVT.Rear passengers have 36.2 inches of headroom and 36.2 inches of legroom for the outboard seats. The middle seat is usable for a medium-size adult, but has slightly less legroom than the outboard positions.The Civic includes the LATCH system for child seats in the rear, along with and multiple air bags, including side curtains with rollover sensors for both rows, dual-stage front bags, and front seat-mounted side bags with SmartVent technology.Side-impact door beams and Honda’s Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structure further enhance passenger safety, along with antilock disc brakes with brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution, front-and-rear crumple zones, daytime running lights, and automatic pre-tensioning front seat belts.
The automotive columns of G. Chambers Williams III have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 1994. Contact him at email@example.com.