Honda’s compact car, the Civic, has been around since 1972, introduced as an affordable hatchback with excellent fuel economy.Over the past decades, Civic has grown in size and popularity, and is available in sedan and coupe versions. For 2014, four models offer 21 trim levels, from the LX Coupe five-speed manual for $18,190 to the Natural Gas five-speed automatic with navigation for $29,290. Each trim level is complete, with only a few accessories available such as spoilers, splash guards, body-side moldings and car covers.All Civics have front-wheel drive, and either a manual or continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), in sedan or coupe; and 1.8-liter or 2.3-liter gasoline, hybrid (added in 2003) or natural gas engines (introduced in 1998 with limited availability), with horsepower ranging from 110 to 205.EPA estimates for fuel economy range from 22 city/31 highway to 31/41.The newest generation, introduced for 2012, increased in size, although the look was similar to the previous model, which had been all-new in 2006.New for 2014, all Civic models have upgraded interiors, the coupe has a redesigned exterior, most engines have been upgraded, and the CVT replaces the old automatic transmission. Also new for 2014, Civic offers better smartphone integration and keyless ignition.My tester, the EX-L sedan w/Navigation ($24,240 plus $790 freight), came with the 143-horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine and CVT, in the Kona Coffee Metallic exterior with a black and gray leather interior.The darker color was on the dash, center stack, upper door panels, door armrests and floor, and the lighter color on the lower door panels, front center console armrest, knitted fabric pillars and headliner, and seats.Honda’s ECON drive mode allows the driver to choose from power (ECON off) or economy (ECON on). Even with the ECON button pressed, my Civic had plenty of power for merging and overtaking, allowing me to average 35.6 miles per gallon, more than the projected 33 mpg for the model I drove.The door handles, mid-door trim, shifter knob and lower steering-wheel spokes were satin-finish silver; metal-flake black plastic surrounded the shifter and the touch-screen; and small touches of shiny silver trimmed the air vents and climate-control knobs.Honda interiors always have plenty of storage, and Civic didn’t disappoint with a deep open cubby with outlets and jacks conveniently located under the center stack; a medium cubby under the front center armrest with a USB port and cable; four cupholders; map/bottle pockets on all doors; and a “fast food” area on the passenger side dash. Of course, never drive with anything on the flat area covering the air bag.Outside, my Civic had subtle chrome trim on the lower front bumper, the lower lip of the Honda “smile” grille, and the trunk between the spoiler and the top of the taillights, with a chrome Honda badge and model name. Fog lights were integrated into the front bumper at the ends of the chrome trim. My tester had heated outside power mirrors with an expanded-view driver’s mirror, intermittent windshield wipers, and Smart Entry System with security and engine immobilizer theft deterrent. A moon roof (I prefer “moon roof,” as I don’t open it in the bright sunlight) had a manually operated shade and power tilt/open function.The tilt/telescopic steering wheel had illuminated controls for audio, phone, text, Bluetooth, vehicle information and more. Those functions required some study and a trip to the owner’s manual.Under the chiseled body, my tester had side-impact door beams, front and rear crumple zones, Honda’s Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structure, front MacPherson-strut suspension, rear multi-link suspension, and electric power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering.The 10-spoke, 17-inch alloy wheels with summer tires were painted black inside the spokes, with silver paint on the chiseled spoke faces. The hood creases started at the front door pillars and met the black honeycomb grille at the corners.The quilted leather seats were plush and comfortable – even the dreaded middle rear seat. The rear seatback folded 60/40 by pulling a handle under the upper lip of the trunk. The seatback could only be released with the trunk open, and the middle seatbelt had to be removed from the belt guard on top of the seat. The outboard headrest had to be raised in order to reach the belt to remove it. In the trunk, the cargo area was deep and wide enough for several pieces of luggage, several large bags of groceries or a good sized stroller, holding 12.5 cubic feet. With the seatbacks down, there was a limited opening due to the intrusion of the seat support all around. Long items such as lumber and other DIY supplies, skis, snowboards, or a small canoe would fit nicely.The middle rear seat had enough legroom and headroom for an average adult female or a child. Legroom for the outboard rear seats was 36.2 inches, with 36.2 inches of headroom, as well. Legroom in the front was better at 42 inches, with 37.9 inches of headroom. The front seats were heated, the driver’s seat was power-adjustable and the passenger seat was manually adjustable. Child safety seats fit well in all three rear seating positions, with lower anchors on the outboard seats and tethers on all three. The headrests have to be removed in order for some seats to fit.Front seatbelts have automatic tensioning. In addition to the usual dual-stage front air bags, Civic has front side air bags and side curtain air bags, front and rear, with rollover sensors.My Civic was equipped with a seven-inch display audio system with Honda’s satellite-linked navigation with voice recognition, rearview camera and Lane Watch (a camera on the passenger side exterior mirror which displayed objects and the roadside on the right side of the vehicle whenever the right turn signal was activated); HD traffic; satellite radio; HD radio with 160 watts, AM/FM/CD, six speakers, and MP3/WMA playback.Also included were Bluetooth streaming audio and HandsFree Link, Pandora Internet interface, USB audio interface; and text messaging. I haven’t tried the hands-free text messaging – practice while sitting in the driveway would probably be a good idea.The touch screen was angled slightly toward the driver and within easy reach. The controls for the screen were all touch-activated, with a home menu for all functions – navigation, phone, information, audio, settings and Honda Link Connect.Honda Link is an app to access news, social media, restaurants, audio books and more. Honda Link can also be used to contact emergency services automatically in the event of air bag deployment. Although not complicated, the functions were sometimes difficult to find, often requiring some guessing and several steps to accomplish.The audio system was basic, with unimpressive sound quality. But I did like the speakers located on the front door pillars.Overall, my Civic was easy to handle, fun to drive, nice to look at, comfortable for all passengers, practical and economical. Total sticker price was $25,030, including freight, for my EX-L model with Navigation.
The automotive columns of Emma Jayne Williams appear weekly in the Star-Telegram. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.