2013 Honda Civic first drive
Already Canada's best seller, the Honda Civic also aims to be the best, period
Markham, Ont. — Sometimes it seems the Honda Civic succeeds despite itself. The perennial bestselling car in Canada has inserted foot in mouth a few times over the decades. The 2001-2005 generation, for example, alienated its enthusiast fan base by abandoning the signature double-wishbone suspension design and coming to market with a fundamentally flawed ride. Boring-as-all-heck styling didn't help, either.
For the next generation, Honda really raised its game with a bold redesign for 2006 that re-engaged enthusiasts without scaring away utility drivers. But then came the 2012 remake, and once again Honda took its eye off the ball. Timid styling, lazier steering response, stagnant powertrain technology ... critics had lots of different targets to snipe at. But arguably the most universal panning was directed at the new Civic's perceived quality — in particular, the hodgepodge of flimsy-looking plastic trim pieces that made up the dashboard.
None of which seemed to delay Civic's relentless charge to a fourteenth (and soon, fifteenth) consecutive year as Canada's bestselling passenger car. But still, as Honda president Takanobu Ito termed it, "Our goal is not just to have the best-selling car, our goal is to simply be the best."
An unusually early "midlife" facelift
Barely more than a year since the market launch of the ninth-gen 2012 model, it's way too soon for a full model change. But the suite of revisions and upgrades for 2013 go well beyond what is normal when a new design is just entering its second model year.
The 2013 Civic is immediately recognizable from the outside by its re-sculpted face and fanny. Inside there are upgraded materials and more standard features. Under the skin, there is more insulation to lower noise levels while suspension and steering have been significantly retuned.
So much for the broad brush strokes. Getting down to specifics, the exterior alterations include typical mid-cycle refresh fare: the bumper/fascias front and rear, lighting units, hood, black honeycomb-mesh grille and wheel designs are all new, as are horizontal chrome accents at both ends.
The redesigned dashboard and centre stack incorporate more richly grained plastics, new audio and A/C knobs, new seat fabrics and, on upper trims, chrome accents and available gloss black decor. Front seat-heaters are now standard on all except the base DX trim (though unlike Elantra, Civic still does not offer rear seat heaters); as well, automatic climate control and a rear-view camera are standard on EX and above models.
Less wheel-twirling required
When the 2006 Civic was introduced, it was notable for, among other things, its unusually quick, direct 13.7:1 steering ratio that needed only 2.67 turns from lock to lock. Apparently some customers couldn't handle that level of responsiveness, so for 2012 Honda significantly "slowed" the steering to 16.1:1 and 3.1 turns respectively. Now, in a bid to restore some of that lost agility, the steering has been re-revised: the new numbers split the difference at 14.9:1 and 2.87 turns.
The chassis work doesn't end there. A whole slew of tweaks to the springs, stabilizer bars and bushings pursue the holy grail of simultaneously enhancing both responsiveness and comfort. As well, additional sound insulation aims to endow this compact with the interior quietness of a midsize car.
According to one insider, the 2013 revisions have added 40-50 kg in mass — a significant increase that should be harmful to fuel economy. However Honda offset that burden with some finessing of the aerodynamics and the powertrain calibrations. As a result fuel consumption is unchanged for the manual transmission (7.2/5.4 L/100 km city/hwy) and for the automatic the city figure is actually trimmed by 0.1 L/100 km (now 7.1/5.0). Numbers for the Si (on sale in January) and the Hybrid (on sale in April) also stay as-is at 10.0/6.4 and 4.4/4.2 L/100 km respectively.