LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA — Revealed to the public at the 2014 Los Angeles auto show, the 2014 Honda Civic Coupe is revised in every important way, from it looks to the kind of mpg it gets on the highway. But more important, it is more like itself than ever. And this is a very good thing, as we were reminded during a short drive.
Only two years ago, there was great pulling of hair and gnashing of teeth about the future of the Civic, a reaction to a new generation car that seemed more remarkable for what had been left out than what had been included. But after only a few miles of driving on the city streets near American Honda’s headquarters, we’re prepared to say that the revised 2014 Honda Civic Coupe is once again a leader, not a follower.
Look, new lights and flashes on the dash!
We’ve grown accustomed to tricky electronics for compact cars, but until now this has amounted mostly to assorted measures to hook up your iPod or smartphone, plus, you know, multicolor mood lighting. But just as with the 2014 Mazda 3 and the 2014 Toyota Corolla, the 2014 Honda Civic Coupe has an electronic interface that can incorporate navigation, audio, and telephone and internet connectivity, not to mention active safety measures.
For the premium EX, EX-L, and Si models of the 2014 Civic Coupe, the center control console incorporates a 7.0-inch touchscreen. While the navigation system is very intuitive to use and the audio system incorporates Pandora and HD Radio, the appearance of the interface is decidedly low-tech, much like the Corolla. Yet just like the Corolla, the emphasis here is on utility, not simple lights and flashes. This touchscreen system allows you to slide, flick, pinch/expand and multi-tap your inputs, just as you do with your smartphone. In addition, Honda tells us that it has tried hard to build in capacity for adapting to future smartphone-style features.
The 2014 Civic Coupe also delivers a range of useful features to enhance driving safety. First of all, the outside mirrors are pretty big – a rarity these days. The driver’s-side outside mirror has a beveled surface to expand your field of view to the rear, while EX, EX-L, and Si models incorporate the Honda LaneWatch system, which relays a video image from the passenger-side outside mirror to the video screen on the center console. The system also incorporates a rear-view camera that offers a normal view, wide view, and a top-down view.
Take a seat and enjoy the experience
Much of the criticism of the 2012 Civic actually had a lot to do with the stripped-down appearance of the interior, so it’s no surprise that the 2014 Civic Coupe’s cabin looks much better. The new interior console now comes only in black to make it look sporty, and a few metallic-look flourishes elsewhere support the statement.
The seats are available in either black or gray for the LX and EX models, and new, soft-weave seat upholstery is a big improvement. Meanwhile, the Si gets seats with center inserts that come in red as well as red-trimmed instrument dials.
In addition, the Civic Coupe is also quieter, because like the 2013 Civic sedan, the coupe gets acoustically insulated glass for the windshield and front windows.
The Civic Coupe gets a wedgie
There aren’t too many two-door cars left in the compact segment, so it’s great to see that Honda has given the car a more dramatic appearance for 2014.
The front fascia is new, and it has big ducts on either side. A character line at the base of the greenhouse’s A-pillar accentuates the front wheel well, and the result is a silhouette that seems to have an aggressive wedge to it. The rear fascia has more character lines, and there’s a new taillight treatment.
The Civic Si has a different grille as well as a vestigial aero splitter. At the rear, you’ll find a small wing and an aero diffuser. More important, the selection of new wheels includes optional 18-inch examples for the Si that carry 225/40R-18 tires.
Little things make a difference
The real surprise within the 2014 Honda Civic Coupe lies in its driving character, which you can’t see.
Power has increased fractionally, but you probably won’t really notice it, since the free-breathing exhaust adds only 3 hp and 1 lb-ft of torque to the output of the standard 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, for a total of 143 hp at 6500 rpm and 129 lb-ft of torque at 4300 rpm. The 2014 Civic Si 2.4-liter four-cylinder gets a bump of 4 hp and 4 lb-ft of torque, for a total of 205 hp @ 7000 rpm and 174 lb-ft of torque at 4400 rpm.
Instead it’s the way the coupe goes down the road that has changed. Part of the improvement comes from structural improvements incorporated last year to bolster performance in NHTSA-mandated testing of offset barrier crashes, so the car feels solid. Suspension rates have been increased fractionally for 2014. But the big difference comes from new dampers that furnish more wheel control, and while the Civic Coupe still feels lively, the ride feels supple, not springy. In addition, there’s more rear roll stiffness (especially in the Si) to help maintain agility in directional changes.
Not all the changes are for performance, as the former five-speed automatic transmission has been replaced by a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Just like the CVT featured in the 2013 Honda Accord, the Civic’s CVT has a progressive response to throttle action that makes the engine’s response feel (and sound) more natural. More important, the CVT helps boost the fuel economy of the 2014 Honda Civic HF sedan to 31 mpg city/42 mpg highway and 35 mpg combined – all class-leading numbers.
See you at the beach
It’s easy to get carried away and believe the 2014 Civic Coupe should be more like a sport coupe, but there’s more to the car’s personality than this. It leads its market segment over the Hyundai Veloster, Scion TC, Scion FR-S, Subaru BR-Z, Hyundai Elantra coupe, and Kia Forte coupe because it is and always has been an affordable, fuel-efficient, and friendly runabout.
When the 2012 Civic arrived, it was clear that affordability had become the most important factor in the Civic formula, and given the impact of the Great Recession, maybe this seemed like the right thing to do. But as the subsequent outcry indicated, the Civic Coupe’s message of value involves more than simple affordability. People love the Civic because it delivers a lot of car for what you pay – it’s practical to own, easy to use, and fun to experience. This makes the Honda Civic Coupe the kind of car that you see where people are having fun. Like, you know, the beach.
So while it’s more professional for us to say that the 2014 Honda Civic Coupe looks better, drives better, and gets better fuel economy than before, we like it just because it’s a better car to drive to the beach.
2014 Honda Civic Coupe
- December (LX/EX); January (HF); March (Si)
- $18,700 – $25,000 (est.)
- 1.8L I-4, 143 hp, 129 lb-ft; 2.4L I-4, 205 hp, 174 lb-ft