2014 Honda Civic EX-L: Around the Block

The Honda Civic is one of the most logical car purchases you can make. It’s relatively inexpensive, has a long-standing reputation for reliability, and gets great gas mileage. For 2014, Honda installed a new continuously variable transmission that further improves the Civic’s efficiency proposition, as it boosts the compact sedan’s EPA ratings by 2 mpg city and 1 mpg combined for an impressive 30/39/33 mpg city/highway/combined.

To test out the CVT’s real-world mpg, we took this 2014 Honda Civic EX-L on a 220-mile test loop from Ann Arbor to Kalamazoo, Michigan. On the way there, we stuck to the freeway, and for our drive back, we drove on rural two-lane highways, passed through small towns, and spent some time in rush-hour traffic. We got 37.7 mpg for the loop, which is remarkably close to the 39-mpg highway rating despite the variations in our route.

Like most CVTs, the Civic’s feels like it’s sapping energy from the four-cylinder engine, though. Compared with the 2013 Civic and its five-speed automatic, the CVT-equipped 2014 Honda Civic feels significantly more lethargic even under mild acceleration. This is mostly due to the CVT’s efficiency-minded tuning. It’s reluctant to rev past 3000 or 4000 rpm despite the engine’s 6500-rpm power peak, meaning that the car is unresponsive when merging or passing at higher speeds.

This kind of tuning might seem necessary for achieving high mpg ratings, but some competitors attain similar numbers without sacrificing responsiveness. For instance, the 2014 Mazda 3 s Touring we brought along on the same drive loop achieved nearly the same mileage as the Honda—37.3 mpg—but boasts 41 more hp, 56 more lb-ft of torque, and a much more eager, quick-shifting six-speed automatic transmission. Credit such Mazda Skyactiv technology as direct gas injection; the 2014 Civic’s older port injected four is overdue for an upgrade to a modern Honda Earth Dreams engine.

Still, Honda’s consistent updates to the Civic have kept this car feeling and looking fresh inside and out. It’s comfortable and quiet on the freeway and makes for a near-perfect commuter car thanks to its stellar real-world mpg. It’s only lacking that extra fun-to-drive factor that other compacts like the Mazda 3 provide. Buying the 2014 Honda Civic is as rational a choice as ever. We just wish it were a more exciting one.

2014 Honda Civic EX-L with Navigation

Base Price: $19,980 (LX CVT)
Price As Tested: $25,030
Engine: 1.8-liter I-4
Power: 143 hp
Torque: 129 lb-ft
Transmission: Continuously variable
Drive: Front-wheel
Cargo Capacity: 12.5 cubic feet
Fuel Economy: 30/39 mpg (city/highway)

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