Naysayers of the ’12 Civic will sing a different tune about the ’13 model


THE FIRST TWINK? | The sporty modifications to the 2013 Civic, including a likable new interior, should silence those who complained about the 2012 model. (Photos courtesy Honda)

CASEY WILLIAMS  | Auto Reviewer

Screen shot 2013-04-25 at 12.02.11 PMBetween Consumer Reports failing to bestow its somewhat over-hyped “Recommended” rating upon the re-designed 2012 Honda Civic, and the boo-hooing from the rest of the journalistic flock, you’d think a person would have had to be legally drunk to buy the little zipper. I could give you a very long list of big name compacts that are considerably less fabulous than the Civic; it just needed a little polish to become great. A quick makeover for 2013 makes the Civic more delicious.

Plastic interiors were not exquisite, but they alone do not justify the tears. What small car doesn’t have a Hollywood actress’ worth of plastic? No matter, because the revised 2013 Civic’s cabin has been stitched and tucked.

The two-tier instrument cluster, with tachometer behind the leather-wrapped steering wheel and digital speedometer above, is star shuttle cool. Lighted strips on either side of the speedometer glow between green and blue, depending on how efficiently you’re driving. Maybe it’s just my love of all things ‘80s, but I prefer digital, and especially like the Civic’s layout. I also like the multi-function LCD screen next to the speedometer that provides displays for audio, trip computer, temperature and time: All of the information you could ever want is in one sweep.

The navigation screen and automatic climate control land in the driver-oriented center stack. Two big cupholders, concealed armrest storage, USB plug and power jack live in the center console. Beyond stitched dash, door and console coverings, our test car spoiled with heated leather seats, fold-flat rear seats, flip-down rear armrest, Bluetooth and power moonroof.

Designers spent a little extra time outside, too. Chrome accents on the grille and lower fascia, smoked taillamps and a chrome beam across the deck lid sparkle. The silver and black 18-inch alloys are pretty sporty. There was something that seemed a little cheap about the car before, but it now looks more like an entry-level Acura. The armchairs should fall silent.

Under hood is a 140 horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, connected to a 5-speed automatic transmission. It definitely won’t overpower the senses, but it gets you there, cruising comfortably at 80.

2013-Honda-Civic-EX-cockpitWant more? Choose the 201 horsepower Si edition. Otherwise, hit the ECO button to make the throttle less sensitive, feather in a light loafer, and enjoy 28/39-MPG city/hwy. Although you won’t become intoxicated with power, joy burbles with little fuel bills.

Nothing drives like a Honda. As with the bigger Accord, suspension motions are crisp, dancing as if trained by an Arthur Murray engineer. Annoying vibrations and vague steering are mostly exorcised.

There are no squeaks or rattles; build quality is tighter than a miser. Eight hours on the highway, and over rough downtown streets, dispelled the myth there’s anything seriously wrong with the Civic.

Now that the plastic has been plushed, steering embraces the road and exterior lamps reflect an Acura, maybe the critics will stop being so critical. A long drive in the finessed Civic, and a drink of vino at the end, should dry the whiny tears — although the $24,555 as-tested sticker will be plenty sobering.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 26, 2013.