All About Cars: Honda Civic marks 40 years of growth

In 1972, for the 1973 model year, Honda introduced a vehicle designed to succeed during the U.S. oil crisis. It launched a subcompact called the Honda Civic. Civic has continually grown, from generation to generation, and in its fourth generation, Civic become a full compact.

Now in its ninth generation, and in its 40th year of service, the Honda Civic continues to grow, but in terms technology and safety, without losing sight on its original focus of being a fuel-efficient vehicle.

Redesigned last year, Civic has made extensive interior upgrades for 2013, added more cabin elegance, included more tech in the basic trims and has added more safety features than ever.

The nation’s best-selling compact car has modified steering and suspension to improve handling, upgraded body structure to enhance safety, ride comfort and cabin silence, and has added a cornucopia of interior accouterments including Bluetooth HandsFreeLink, rearview camera, Pandora Interface, SMS text message feature, and steering wheel audio controls.

Top in safety

Regarding safety, the 2013 Honda Civic sedan and coupe remain the only small cars to earn the top rating of “Good” in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) crash tests. The Civic sedan and coupe are also the only small cars to earn both the highest possible rating of Top Safety Pick from the IIHS and the top 5-Star Overall Vehicle Score in the NHTSA’s New Car Assessment Program. New SmartVent side-impact air bags and a significantly modified underlying structure add to the vehicle’s safety attributes. The body frame is designed to make Civic safer in collisions by deflecting crash energy away from the occupant compartment. Standard safety equipment includes two-row side curtain air bags, dual-stage, multiple-threshold driver’s and front passenger’s air bags, driver’s and front passenger’s side air bags, Vehicle Stability Assist, an anti-lock braking system with Brake Assist, and a Motion Adaptive Electric Power Steering system that helps the driver steer in the ideal direction to mitigate oversteer or understeer situations.

Angular exterior

Civic’s unibody construction is angular and forward-wedge facing, measuring 179.4 inches long, 56.5 inches high and 69.0 inches wide on a 105.1-inch wheelbase. Civic sedan’s curb weight with an automatic transmission is 2815 lbs., and provides a weight distribution of 62 percent up front and 38 percent in the rear. Standard exterior features include security system with remote entry, body-colored power side mirrors, body-colored door handles, integrated rear-window antenna, 2-speed/intermittent windshield wipers, auto-off headlights and 15-inch wheels with full covers.

Fuel-efficient

Under the hood, Civic continues with its 1.8-liter in-line 4-cylinder aluminum alloy engine linked to a 5-speed manual transmission for 140 hp and 128 lbs-ft of torque. The set-up is EPA rated at 28 mpg in the city, 39 mpg on the highway and 32 mpg overall. My week of mixed-use tests showed an average of 31.8 mpg.

Civic is still a slow and steady ride, accelerating better at speed than from a stop. It’s zero to 60mph dash time is a spec under 10 seconds, with a quarter-mile time of 17.6, but it handles long highway hills and passes confidently with just a bit of pre-pass strategy. Cabin noise (wind nose and engine murmur) was annoyingly loud last year and the new construction has improved quietness and has limited the interference noticeably.

Handling is also improved, as the motion-adaptive electric power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering responds better in turns and there is a secure feel on long cruises. Power-assisted ventilated front disc and rear drum brakes provide predictable stopping and the MacPherson strut front suspension and multi-link rear, both with stabilizer bars level most road issues.

Improved interior

The Civic cabin has been upscaled with new, richer materials that replace last year’s cheap plastics. The interior is accommodating, with head room of 39.0 inches up front and 37.1 inches in row two; leg room is 42.0 inches in the front and 36.2 inches in the rear and shoulder room is 56.6 and 53.3.

Standard cabin amenities include a 160-watt AM/FM/CD audio system with four speakers, MP3/Windows Media audio Playback Capability, air conditioning with air-filtration system, speed-sensitive volume control, power windows with auto-up/down driver’s window, power door locks with auto-lock feature, cruise control, tilt and telescopic steering column, illuminated steering wheel-mounted cruise, audio and i-MID controls, rear window defroster with timer and Maintenance Minder system.

The 2013 Honda Civic sedan line starts at $18,165 for the LX trim; $20,815 for the EX, which adds 16-inch alloy wheels, 5-speed automatic transmission, one-touch power moonroof, automatic climate control, and the 6-speaker audio system mentioned above to the base LX; and $22,265 for the EX-L as was my test vehicle. The EX-L adds leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather-trimmed interior, heated front seats, fog lights, heated power side mirrors and multi-reflector halogen headlights with on/off to the EX. My Crimson Pearl exterior and beige interior test ride was outfitted with a decklid spoiler for $299, bodyside molding for $225, door edge guards for $84, rear bumper appliqué for $62, door visors for $148, moonroof visor for $138, all-season floormats for $142, auto day/night mirror for $312, XM Satellite radio for $367 and remote engine start for $399. Adding a destination and handling charge of $790 brought the price-as-tested to $25,231.

Visit http://www.CarlisleEvents.com for more on the automotive hobby.

Mike Blake, former editor of KIT CAR magazine, joined Carlisle Events as senior automotive journalist in 2004. He’s been a “car guy” since the 1960s and has been writing professionally for about 30 years.

Louisville Kentucky Honda Dealer, Bob Montgomery Honda, http://www.bobomontgomeryhonda.com

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