The 2013 Honda Civic represents a mid-cycle refresh of a car that was introduced as all-new for the 2012 model year. While that’s more than a bit unusual, the circumstances behind the development of the 2012 Honda Civic were themselves unusual. Designed in the midst of the global economic crunch of 2008-09, the 2012 Civic was rushed to market, perhaps with one corner too many cut in the name of cost savings.
Though the new Civic sold well, Honda listened to complaints from customers and journalists alike, and a mid-cycle refresh was hastily commissioned for the 2013 model year. The net result is a 2013 Honda Civic that’s better in every regard than the car it replaces, even though that car itself is just a year old.
Even the 2013 Civic’s styling has been upgraded, and the car now carries more of a resemblance to the Accord than it has in years past. Perhaps it’s an effort to make the Civic look more mature or more sophisticated, but we’d call the subtle exterior changes tasteful and evolutionary. As for the inside, the Civic still wears its funky dash and instrument panel design, but the quality of materials has taken a big step forward. The Civic’s interior once again looks like it came from Honda, not from a Chinese automaker trying to replicate a Honda interior.
What hasn’t changed is the Civic’s fuel efficiency, and we say that’s a good thing. Leading the pack is the Honda Civic Hybrid, which sports the same 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine and Integrated Motor Assist hybrid drivetrain that it did last year, delivering 44 mpg combined (44 mpg city, 44 mpg highway). If the Hybrid’s price is beyond your means, the 1.8-liter HF version, which comes with a five-speed automatic transmission, still delivers 33 mpg combined (29 mpg city, 41 mpg highway).
Even the base Civic, which also uses the 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, delivers up to 32 mpg combined (28 mpg city, 39 mpg highway) when equipped with the five-speed automatic transmission. Opting for the five-speed manual will lower these numbers slightly, but the row-it-yourself Civic still manages a respectable 28 mpg combined (28 mpg city, 36 mpg highway).
Another version worth mentioning is the Civic Natural Gas, sold in select markets only, which delivers 31 mpg combined (27 mpg city, 38 mpg highway) using natural gas instead of gasoline for fuel. Finally, there’s the Civic Si, which uses a larger 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine for added performance, but manages only 25 mpg combined (22 mpg city, 31 mpg highway).
As for the driving experience, the 2013 Civic’s modest suspension changes produce nimbler handling without creating an overly-harsh ride. The cabin is a quieter place to spend time, too, thanks to thicker glass and added soundproofing, while the car’s softer dash also seems to help with interior acoustics. Front seats are quite good, especially in light of the car’s price positioning, but rear seats would benefit from a bit of re-sculpting.
While the 2013 Honda Civic hasn’t been crash tested, the structurally-identical 2012 model received an IIHS Top Safety Pick designation as well as five-stars in NHTSA testing. The 2013 model ups the safety factor with the addition of a new SmartVent airbag design (as used in the new Honda Accord), while the Honda Civic Hybrid now gets Forward Collision Warning and Lane Departure Warning systems as standard equipment.
Overall, Honda has upped the content across the entire Civic line for 2013, including features like Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming; Pandora integration; SMS text messaging; automatic headlights and cruise control as standard equipment on all models. Navigation is an available option for all Civic models above the base LX trim, which replaces last year’s DX model as the least expensive Civic.
For more details, see the full review of the 2013 Honda Civic on our sister site, The Car Connection.