2013 Honda Civic Coupe EX-L Navi Road Test Review

Simon Hill - CAP staff
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Don't let appearances fool you: Unlike the Civic Sedan, which was updated inside and out - and much improved - for the 2013 model year, the Civic Coupe appears externally unchanged from the 2012 version. But that's because the Coupe's styling was one of the strong points of the recently introduced ninth-generation Civic, and it really didn't need changing.

The good news is that while the styling may look the same, the Coupe has been upgraded throughout, just like the Sedan. Which means that my Rallye Red test car was swathed inside with new soft-surface door uppers and a new dashboard design featuring a soft, stitched-look dash pad. The dash still features Civic's split-level look, but it has been tweaked and enhanced, and I have to admit that I like it more and more with each passing year - the big digital speedo sits up high so it's always in your line of sight, almost like the head-up displays in various high-end cars. Graphics on either side of the speedo change from blue to green when you drive efficiently, so it's easy to keep track of both your speed and your thrift. Below the speedo, in its own binnacle, is a big analog tachometer, and to the right of the speedo is a configurable multi-information display.

The centre stack is nicely canted towards the driver, and for 2013 includes a backup camera in EX trims and above (this is good to have in the Coupe, because rearward visibility is somewhat compromised by its swoopy aft pillars). My EX-L Navi test car took the camera idea a step further with a multi-angle backup camera, premium seven-speaker audio system with satellite radio, and GPS navigation system. My only complaint is that the controls on this system were a bit on the fiddly side, but Honda gets credit for making text message capability, Bluetooth connectivity with audio streaming, and USB connectivity standard across the board.

My car's EX-L trim meant that in addition to the Coupe's new premium interior materials it also got leather upholstery with contrasting stitching (heated front seats, by the way, are now standard throughout the range). I found the front seats comfortable and supportive, and the back seat was big enough to be usable, although at 5'11" my knees were touching the seatback and my hair brushing the rear window. Split rear seatbacks mean that when you aren't carrying rear passengers you'll be able to fit in things like snowboards and water skis.

Under the hood the Civic Coupe remains unchanged from last year with a 1.8-litre 16-valve single-overhead cam four-cylinder that produces 140 horsepower and 128 lb-ft of torque and can be hooked up to either a five-speed manual transmission or a five-speed automatic, which is optional in LX and EX trims and included in EX-L trim. There's the Civic Si too, of course, which gets a bigger 2.4-litre engine and 6-speed manual, but it's really a different car for another review.

The 1.8-litre engine in the Civic Coupe is well suited to the car, offering lively feeling performance if not exactly rocket ship acceleration (0-100 km/h takes about 10 seconds). One thing I missed in my automatic-equipped test car was any kind of manual shift control, whether in the form of paddle shifters or a shift-lever control (you can select lower ranges, but that's not the same thing). I'm not sure manual mode would be necessary on the Sedan, but it its absence on the Coupe somewhat belied the car's sporty styling. On the bright side fuel economy is excellent, with official city/highway ratings of 7.1 / 5.0 L/100km and observed readings in 9.0-9.5 L/100km range during city driving (it helped that I left the car in "Econ" mode a fair amount of the time, which dulls the throttle response somewhat to help lead-footed drivers like me avoid excessive jack-rabbit acceleration).

To provide improved driving dynamics and refinement, Honda made a whole bunch of changes to the Civic's suspension for 2013, including increasing the spring rates, adding a thicker front stabilizer bar, designing new suspension bushings and recalibrating the steering. The upshot is that the 2013 Civic is noticeably quieter than the 2012 version, and offers a compliant yet very well controlled ride, with reasonably flat cornering. In a tip-of-the-hat to Honda's engineers, I ended up driving the new Civic back-to-back with a BMW 3 Series, and it compared remarkably well. Certainly in everyday around-town driving the Coupe was a pleasure to toss into corners and swing around the off-ramps, and it soaked up the inevitable city potholes and bumps with little complaint.

In practical matters the Civic has always scored well, and the 2013 Coupe is no exception. It comes with all the expected safety equipment and features (ABS, traction and stability control, a full array of airbags, and so on) and all the usual conveniences (power locks and windows, air conditioning, remote entry, tilt and telescoping wheel, and the list goes on), and starts at a competitive $20,085. My test car priced out at $26,735, which includes the navigation system, leather upholstery and other features already mentioned, plus things like 17-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, automatic climate control and automatic headlights.

Thanks to some smart upgrades the 2013 Honda Civic has reclaimed its "top pick" status among leading auto reviewers, and certainly the Civic Coupe makes a nice practical runabout that offers sporty style, decent economy, improved refinement and, in EX-L Navi trim, a surprising level of luxury.

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Sports Coupe, Honda, 2013, Civic Coupe, $20,000 - $29,999, Compact,

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