You can forget whatever you've read about the uninspired looks of the 2012 Civic Sedan (unless you bought one). The 2013 Civic actually catches some eyes with its changes. We got comments about the car's good looks, driving an EX for one week.
Honda had made a decision to go with the austerity times on the redesigned 2012 Sedan, which sported new fascias and character lines, but nothing bold. (The previous-generation Civic was the bold one, and its then-radical aerodynamics flow through to the 2013 model.) By playing it close to the vest, the class-leading Civic Sedan was upstaged in all directions; witness the SkyActiv Mazda3, stylish Ford Focus, and the Hyundai Elantra, a swoopy good deal. So for 2013 Honda responds with a rapid comeback, starting with the body makeover of the Sedan. (Meanwhile, the Coupe, with its own identity, doesn't get changed because there was no demand to change it.)
The nose and tail are new, up to the hood and trunk lid. Is that a hump in the hood like a muscle car? Yes! The black honeycomb mesh grill looks serious, if disguised, undermined by a thin chrome smile and half-hidden behind the mundane (but universally recognizable) Honda emblem. The front bumper offers excellent definition, dipping into black open-mouthed fascia with clear corner lights at each end. We could do without the gratuitous horizontal chrome strip within the fascia.
The A-pillars have been thinned, but the steep rake of the windshield is untouched. The side sills are sculpted smartly; with body-colored mirrors and door handles, the Civic looks classy. But not the LX with its awful plastic wheelcovers. Yes to the EX with its lovely optional alloy wheels.
The rear fenders flow nicely as they vector into the rear bumper, like a horizontal V on each side under the taillight, providing back-end definition. Honda designers did good on bumpers. At the tail above the bumper, it's restyled but still ordinary, even with big new two-piece taillamps. We could do without the gratuitous horizontal chrome strip across the trunk. But that's a generic statement; we could say that about every car.
Some less noticeable parts of the body have also been changed, especially the front floor and upper wheel housing. Fifty-percent of the body is high-strength steel, providing a rigid structure and light weight.
In the cabin there's much new content to bring the 2013 Civic upscale to match its competitors. However, there's some sleight of hand, because much of what's now standard in all models got there by discontinuing the low-cost bare-bones DX. But back on the upside, the price increase is only about $300, so the buyer does get a lot more interior content and quality in 2013.
There's standard Bluetooth phone and Bluetooth audio, along with Pandora internet radio interface and MP3, USB, iPod and SMS text message capability; the car reads your text messages to you, and allows you to respond with a default: "I'm driving." Nice color multi-information display (i-MID) with rearview camera. There's a new and classy all-black interior color. Living with our EX for one week, the upgraded fabric upholstery suited us just fine, leather not missed. The seats are well shaped, nicely bolstered and widely adjustable. We did a couple of four-hour runs, and enjoyed every minute behind the wheel.
The two-tiered dashboard is unique, some would say funky. The most useful information is repeated at the top of the dash, allowing the driver to scan without taking his or her eyes much off the road. Forward sightlines, even over that cool humped hood, are excellent. We appreciated the thinner windshield pillars, and small window set in the angle where the pillar intersects the car's hood. A lot of new cars have thick A-pillars that can obstruct the driver's view of pedestrians and other vehicles, but not here.
The i-MID, or Intelligent Multi-Information Display, uses a toggle on the leather-wrapped steering wheel that enables the driver to scroll through a variety of vehicle info. The optional satellite navigation system includes voice recognition. The 160-watt audio system sounds good, using six speakers in our EX. As always, maybe what we appreciated the most, was the standard 60/40 split-folding rear seatback that expands cargo capacity. We put a six-footer in the rear seat, and he didn't complain about legroom or headroom.
With no options, our EX had everything a car needs for safety and a driver needs for comfort and functionality, for $21,605 out the door (EPA-rated at 32 Combined city and highway miles per gallon). Actually, more than everything, most notably considering the power moonroof that's standard on the EX. But also smaller things like height adjustment for the driver's seat, and auto-off headlights.
The 2013 Civic interior feels premium, which couldn't be said of the 2012, which Civic customers noticed. Refinements include a new headliner to replace what's been called mouse fur, and soft-touch materials on the instrument panel, center console, and door panels. Silver accents here and there, along with faux stitching on the dashboard and door panels, add a touch of upscale. Black carpeting is standard. The colorful instrument backlighting is soothing. Radio and climate-control buttons on the center console are redesigned, no longer square, now trapezoidal and stylish. Symbolic of the attempt to change the image of the whole car, you might say.
Less visible but probably just as significant, NVH has been improved, so there is less noise, vibration and harshness. More sound deadening material has been added to the firewall, wheel wells, flooring and trunk, while the windshield and front windows are thicker, all in the successful pursuit of silence. On the inside, the Civic neither feels nor sounds like a mere $20,000 car.