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2013 Honda Civic Debut

Honda attempts a second chance for a first impression.

2013 Honda Civic Research Click to hide

What's New

Now this is a little more like it.

The 2013 Honda Civic is the car Honda should have introduced last year. Without expressly admitting it, the new Civic is a mea culpa of sorts, an admission that the 2012 Honda Civic just wasn't very good. OK, fine, it sold well, but the low-end interior, mushy driving experience, loud cabin and many other foibles of the 2012 Honda Civic weren't just bad for the class. They were actually worse than the 2011 Honda Civic it was replacing.

It may seem odd that Honda is putting so much into the 2013 Civic. After all, a normal model cycle for a vehicle is at least four years between all-new models, and a couple years at least for a significant improvement. But this is different. This is the Civic we're talking about, and Honda's pride is on the line. See, when the 2012 Honda Civic came out, the reaction among the automotive press--us included--was almost overwhelmingly negative, and the car, frankly, was beneath Honda. And the company knew it.

Yet most of that is forgiven. The interior is significantly upgraded, with higher end materials, a better design, more features, and an overall more inviting feel. The exterior styling on the sedans--significantly, no coupes were shown--is also updated, with a thin chrome strip on the lower bumper that adds a bit of class to the design, and makes it look a bit like the new 2013 Honda Accord. Honda says it has improved the driving characteristics of the new Civic as well, and has improved interior noise levels, too; we'll know more about that after we get behind the wheel.

Who It's For

Despite the negative press -- and in one of those "why do we even bother" moments -- the Civic continues to sell extremely well. The 2013 Honda Civic is designed to keep up that momentum, but also re-capture some of those lost by the perceived backward step of the current car compared to the previous model. In other words, anybody looking for inexpensive, reliable, stylish transportation. Surprisingly, Honda managed to make all these improvements but only increased the price by $165; despite the extra 50 pounds of standard equipment and sound deadening, fuel economy stays the same.

Key Features

There was a lot wrong with the 2012 Honda Civic, most of which Honda says it has improved with this model. Primarily:
  • Better exterior styling. The new nose and tail, redesigned taillights, chrome accents and other touches give the 2013 Honda Civic a much more upscale appearance.
  • A better interior. This is where the Civic arguably needed the most help. The previous interior was a backwards step; this one uses soft-touch surfaces in numerous places, higher-quality plastics in others, and keeps little things like textures even through most of the cabin. It's a huge improvement.
  • Better driving. The Civic used to be the hot-rod of compact cars, so much so that it inspired a whole generation of enthusiasts to eschew cars like the Mustang in favor of the Civic. Yet over the years, the Honda Civic has gotten a little softer in an effort to get more buyers. But the 2012 Honda Civic was several steps too far. The car's suspension was harsh on the road, but there was no handling payoff. Same with the steering, and the brakes. To top it off, it was noisier than its competitors. Honda promises improvements in all areas.

What We Think

We applaud Honda's effort to address the 2012 Honda Civic's shortcomings so quickly. So far, we like what we see, too. The exterior styling is definitely a step in the right direction, and the interior is a huge step forward. We're not going to declare the Civic's interior or exterior styling best-in-class at this point, but it's at last back in the hunt, and no longer a backmarker. As for the other issues--interior noise and how it drives--we'll find out as soon as we can get behind the wheel.

Yet there's one question that hangs in the back of our minds. This vehicle should have worn a 2014 model year; it's been pushed through the development cycle a full year earlier than that. So it begs the question: We all know haste makes waste, and we can't help but wonder if Honda's rush job will lead to problems down the road. Time will tell, but for now, the Civic looks like it's back in the game.

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