Honda’s venerable Civic Coupe has taken some interesting turns as of late, especially in the styling department. The 2014 Coupe received some small changes inside and out, but the big news is the newly available CVT in the transmission department.
Let’s take a closer look at Honda’s little 2-door and see what they’ve done for the current model year.
Pricing: 2014 Honda Civic Coupe
Base price (EX trim): $20,995
Options: $1,300 CVT (continuously-variable transmission)
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $23,890
Honda says that the restyled coupe is “unapologetically bold”. They’ll get no argument from me. This is one subjectively styled vehicle, I tell you. In my opinion, there are very few angles that this car looks good from. I don’t mind the front profile. At first, when I saw it from the front, I said “Whoa! Look at this massive lower side air intakes! Nice!” At which point I approached the car and realized they’re completely fake and closed off. Weak. The broad-shouldered rear profile is also acceptable, if nothing special.
The side silhouette is the coupe’s most favourable angle, but once you start heading toward the back, the strange character line that sweeps up toward the back makes for a very awkward rear quarter view. Although the Coupe is a small car, its 16-inch alloys still look too small for it. The rubber is appropriately sized at 205/55. Certainly not the best styling I’ve seen from Honda. Not saying that coupe buyers are more fickle folk, but coupes are a bit of statement as it is, and I would think that styling would matter more with this model than with the others in the stable.
Getting into the Civic reminds you that you got a pretty good deal on this car. The materials are hard plastic throughout – the exception is the small padded section on the dash’s front, facing the passenger and a tiny part of the door paneling. Fit and finish isn’t the best, and I even found some rougher moulding edges on the plastic here and there. Everything is dark, dark, dark and I wouldn’t call this cabin an uplifting place to be. The heated fabric seats are manually adjustable, and although I found the bottom cushions to be surprisingly springy, I found them to be quite comfortable with plenty of support for spirited driving. Head room was acceptable for me, but anyone taller won’t be happy – unfortunately, that will be most people.
Styling is subjective, of course, but the whole multi-level dash isn’t for everyone. Opinions aside, ergonomics are decent, and the multiple level dash ends up working alright. The upper eyebrow part contains a digital speedometer and some digital gauges for the fuel gauge and instant fuel economy, as well as a driver information screen. Below that, behind the nearly perfect steering wheel, is a large tach.
The centre of the dash holds the Display Audio System, a responsive 7-inch touchscreen with a relatively decently laid out user interface. The 6 speaker sound system (AM, FM, CD, USB, HDMI and Bluetooth streaming sources all work here) is controlled by it, as are phone and vehicle settings. The screen also acts as the monitor for the backup camera (which has useful trajectory lines) and Honda’s nifty LaneWatch, which turns on a camera when you signal to the right, letting you access your blind spot visually. The system also boasts Siri Eyes Free compatibility when you plug in your iPhone.
There are some convenient features, such as the automatic climate control, proximity keyless entry and a push-start ignition and a nice little power tilt-slide sunroof above. There’s nothing special about the console – gear selector, a traditional parking brake lever and an armrest.
Honda, the eternal optimists, put three seats in the back, each with a headrest and a seatbelt. First of all, getting into the back is no walk in the park for a bigger guy like me. The passenger side makes things slightly easier, as a handle tilts the seat forward and slides it out of the way – somewhat. It’s still tough to get in. Of note, there’s also a small latch the rear passengers can kick on the back of the seat, which will activate this “get out of my way” action as well, allowing them to help themselves get out of the claustrophobic back seat.
Once you’re in, the rear seats are surprisingly comfortable and the space is actually reasonable for a small coupe. At 5’10”, I had just enough head room and I could actually sit behind myself. Again, anyone taller than me will not enjoy their time in the Coupe’s back seats. There’s not a lot in terms of convenience or comfort – a couple of side cupholders and tiny storage bins and that’s it.
Our three kids were not comfortable in the back, width-wise, but then again, I’m certain that a family with three kids isn’t the demographic Honda is after with the Civic Coupe. You get LATCH anchors for kids’ seats though, and you can make it work with a small family if you need to.
Now once it’s time to get out of the back, you’ll be cursing whoever the youthful spirit is that bought a coupe and asked you to get in the back.
For a small car, the Civic Coupe does a good job when it comes to places to put your stuff. There are a couple of open and closed bins in the centre stack – the open one is rubberized and home to USB and HDMI input plugs, as well as a 12V charging port. There’s another USB plug in the carpeted bin under the armrest.
The Civic’s trunk is a good size at 331 litres, and you can fold the rear seats down (they split 60/40) for more space.
Under the Hood
What you’ll find here is nothing particularly modern. A simple 1.8-litre 4-cylinder, eschewing direct injection and turbocharging in favour of keeping things simple, puts out 143 horsepower at 6500 RPM and 129 lb.ft of torque at 4300 RPM. As I mentioned, the big news is the continuously-variable transmission (CVT). If you don’t want to row your own gears, this is the only option for the Civic now – traditional automatic transmissions aren’t available any longer. Of course the Civic is a front-wheel-driver and it is still a pretty light car at 2875 pounds.
Fuel economy is rated at 6.9 L/100 km (34 US mpg) in the city and 5.1 L/100 km (46 US mpg) on the highway. I averaged 8.4 L/100 km (28 US mpg) during my week of commuting and dragging the kids around in the evenings, getting a couple of freeway runs in. The Civic has a 50 litre tank.
The Coupe’s engine and CVT combination feels snappy enough off the line but once you get moving, things seem less responsive. Paddle shifters can be used to navigate a series of programmed fake gear ratios, if you want to feel like you’re in control. Much like in the Subaru Forester or the Toyota Corolla, these “gears” are actually quite convincing and the up- and downshifts are exceptionally quick, since the transmission isn’t actually changing gears at all. Sport mode makes things a little more responsive and will let the engine sit at higher revs as it tries to get you moving but on the whole, the CVT does not impart a sporty feeling to this car. ECON drive mode really makes things sluggish, a fairly common issue with Honda’s fuel-saving green button.
The Civic’s trademark handling has remained intact. No, it’s not the razor-sharp Civic coupes of the past, but all things considered, the electronic steering is pretty well done and the car’s turn-in is sharp. The Coupe can easily be thrown around – it willingly plays along, and is a very competent little car, remaining relatively flat in the corners. The ride is good. It’s Honda firm (a controlled, comfortable level) and gets a bit jiggly on nasty roads, but I thought it was well sorted out. Those nasty roads will also cause the tires and suspension to drum a bit over the imperfections, but for this class, that’s not an issue.
My complaint on the last couple of Civics I’ve reviewed remains a problem in the Coupe. I found the road noise to be significant, and often intrusive. Engine and wind noise levels are not an issue at any speed, but it still lets you enjoy a little snort from the 4-cylinder during acceleration. Brakes are powerful and nicely balanced.
Visibility out of the front is fantastic, which makes up for the terrible view out of the back of the car.
I don’t take my chocolate milk habit lightly and when I find a car with square cupholders, it gets a shout-out. The Civic’s cupholders are terrific and will happily accomodate small milk containers. Yay Honda!
I found the placement for the push start ignition to be a bit odd, in that it is quite high up and difficult to see behind the steering wheel. Add to that the fact that there is a similarly sized (and also round) four-way flasher button right next to it, and I occasionally found myself pressing the hazards button instead of firing up the Civic. I’m guessing you’d get used to this placement after a while.
The Civic Coupe confused me. There are things that I really liked – the driving experience is, for the most part, enjoyable – there’s enough power, excellent handling and a smooth ride. The interior is comfortable, functional and works well. Yet things like the car’s strange styling, the CVT that sucks much of the sportiness out of the driving experience, the substandard materials and fit and finish, and the exceptional levels of road noise left me cold.
I give the 2014 Honda Civic Coupe a 6 out of 10.
WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) was low. She didn’t like the effort involved in getting our kids in the back, which isn’t a knock on the coupe – that’s obviously not a surprise to anyone who buys one. She wasn’t too keen on the interior, saying it felt a bit cheap and she noticed how noisy it was right away.
Potential buyers would need to weigh the pros and cons here, to ensure they’re getting what they want out of a vehicle. In the end, if it is the right car for you, the Civic Coupe is certainly priced well and can likely be counted on to be a reliable purchase.
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by Honda Canada.
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