2013 Honda Civic EX sedan review: That was quick…and not

2013 Honda Civic EX sedan

2013 Honda Civic EX sedan

Wow, that was quick. Most car companies let a model year pass before making even minor changes to an all-new model. But not Honda. The 2012 Honda Civic marked the beginning of a new generation of Honda’s venerable economy sedan, and before the ink is barely dry on the 2012 press releases, along comes the 2013 Honda Civic with new features starting at the grille and going until they ran out of car to change.

It’s possible to overstate the changes. The body of the Civic hasn’t changed last year to this, just the front and rear clips, and the 2012 Civic had continued the one-box styling—an almost continuous arc from front to rear of the car but for a slight crease at the cowl. The grille has changed, however, with a U-shaped chrome bar underneath rather than a horizontal bar at the top, pulling down the front end to further emphasize the downward slope of the front end. A horizontal element at the bottom of the front fascia gives the 2013 Honda Civic a wider, more planted look.

2013 Honda Civic EX sedan

The 2013 Honda Civic EX sedan has a “one-box” profile. (click to enlarge)

At the rear, Honda replaced rather mundane taillights with a distinctive J-hook design to give the 2013 Honda Civic a distinctive identity after dark.

Surprising for a year-old model is a strengthened chassis under the unchanged body. New ACES II (Advanced Compatibility Engineering) is a refinement of last year’s ACES, with additional front end structures to meet forthcoming narrow offset crash testing. The 2013 Civic also gets new side and side curtain airbags with a rollover sensor, and the option of frontal collision warning and lane departure warning.

2013 Honda Civic EX sedan instrument panel

The 2013 Honda Civic continues the two-level instrument panel. (click to enlarge)

Inside, Honda replaced the hard plastics we criticized in our review of the 2012 Civic with an abundance of soft-touch surfaces. It’s not just soft for hard, however. While the internals of the dash, for example, have been carried over, the shapes of the surface elements, including the vent outlets for example, are new, and the center stack mildly massaged. However, molded “stitching” in the plastic of our 2013 Honda Civic EX sedan isn’t fooling anyone, Honda.

That means, however, that the Honda Civic’s bi-level instrument panel continues. The driver sees the large tachometer by looking through the steering wheel while the digital speedometer and other data elements are located above. It’s not universally admired. We like it for the size of the tach. But we also found that the rake of the windshield allowed sunlight to hit the horizontal surface in front of the upper i.p. and make it hard to read. It’s something only a deep hood would solve, and we wonder why Honda designers/engineers didn’t notice this during development.

2013 Honda Civic EX sedan front interior

The dash of the 2013 Honda Civic sedan is angled towards the driver. (click to enlarge)

Honda’s rework of the audio controls wasn’t changed, and we found it an unnecessary deviation from the basic two-knob volume/tuning basic layout. The central rocker element is, well, probably OK once driver knows its distinctive procedures. Maybe it’s just a way of keeping the front passenger from fiddling with the controls. The center stack is noticeably angled towards the driver anyway.

However, the 2013 Honda Civic also gains a host of new electronic features, including a standard rearview camera, plus Bluetooth and Pandora, USB/iPod sockets, and SMS text message capability.

In our last go ‘round with the Civic, we complemented the interior room with its ability to accommodate six-foot-plus passengers in the back seat, and of course that hasn’t changed.

Honda did make changes to the suspension, however, to the suspension, making it do some push up for for better road feel and sharper handling. Thicker anti-roll bars (by 0.9 inch in front and 0.2 inch at the rear), stiffer springs (increased 15 percent front and by 18 percent rear), and retuned shocks. It’s a definite improvement.