After having sat through dozens of hours of sofa time the last couple of weeks watching the Sochi Olympics, we were reminded of the parallel between competitive athletics and the car business.
While each of the Olympic competitors was strong and talented, there were those who had advantages in training or experience or just the good luck that day. It could be said that the same advantages apply to the car business. For example, consider the compact sedan event. The field has about a dozen strong, well-built and innovative new cars for 2014, but some have a technological advantage or have more heritage to draw from. In this tough group of competitors, we think the 2014 Honda Civic is at the top of its game.
The Civic went through some tough conditions and some harsh criticisms when the ninth generation pushed off from the starting line in 2011, but rather than falter or fall, Honda made some quick adjustments and now the 2014 Honda Civic is in the metal chase.
The Civic has actually become an international icon of compact cars. The latest generation shows a new level of sophistication and refinement with a super streamline design that looks almost futuristic. The Civic has a low, wide stance and the windshield is one of the most steeply raked of any mass production car. Combined those features work to make the Civic more efficient and perhaps a bit exotic-looking. Aerodynamics extends to the underside, too, with the flat-bottomed unibody construction.
The interior is clean looking with a redesign of the innovative two-tiered instrument panel that debuted with the last generation. It features a digital speedometer, gauges and new ?intelligent? Multi-Information Display (i-MID) mounted under a broad visor that extends over about half the dash just below the windshield. A large tachometer and other display elements are housed in a traditional position behind the steering wheel. The combination of the two levels makes this one of the easiest instrument panels to see at a glance.
Controllers for the i-MID are mounted on the face of the new steering wheel, making for easy, intuitive adjustments. The audio and climate controls are conveniently mounted high on the center stack facing toward the driver to create cockpit style layout for the driver. The switches are well designed and easy to use but they look a bit ?plastic? on models without the Navigation option. We like the look and convenience of the dash, but find it a little cold; lacking the soft touch dash materials that would give it more of an upscale feel.
All models, except the Si and Hybrid are powered by a sophisticated 143-horsepower, 1.8-liter i-VTEC four-cylinder engine. The engine produces an 8.8-second 0 to 60 mph time and fuel economy of 30 mpg city and 39 mpg highway. We averaged 33.3 mpg after a week of local driving.
All Civic versions, except the performance Si model, have an ECO-Assist economy driving coach. When activated by a button on the dash, ECO-Assist displays how drive energy is being used and advises the driver with blue and green ?coaching bars? that illuminate on either side of the speedometer. Blue bars indicate you are probably having too much fun, while green bars say you are driving efficiently.
A five-speed manual transmission is standard, with a CVT (continuously variable transmission) as an option. As we?ve often said, we?re not fans of CVTs, but overall they seem to be improving with a more positive feeling and the Honda version is better than average.
Sedan prices range from $19,180, including the $790 destination charge, for the 2014 Honda Civic LX with manual transmission and go up to $25,030 for the EX-L sedan with navigation and the CVT. The 2014 Honda Civic Coupes are priced $200 less than the sedans.
All Honda vehicles, including the Civic, are engineered with Honda?s exclusive Advance Compatibility Engineering? (ACE) ?. In the event of a head-on collision, the system is engineered to transfer the energy away from the passenger compartment. It?s used in conjunction with all the other Honda safety equipment including airbags, Vehicle Stability Assist and various braking aids.
We think the 2014 Honda Civic is one of the best compacts in the business, but Honda needs to watch the completion closely because the competitors are coming on strong with impressive new products that could ultimately finish with better scores or times. We know Honda has the skills and innovation to keep them at the top but winning gold will take work and even more innovation.