Honda back on its game with 2013 Civic

The Honda Civic compact car has been around for 40 years in this country, selling like crazy the whole time and providing economical, reliable transportation for millions of people.

Civics seem to run forever. For years, my younger son drove an ancient Civic with badly faded red paint and thrashed upholstery. Whenever I suggested that it might be time to get a new car, he’d say, “Why? My Civic gets me where I want to go. I don’t care what it looks like. I’d rather invest the money than spend it on car payments.” He had a point, sort of, but I was happy when he put a “One Less SUV” bumper sticker on the car, because then he looked like an eccentric character with a sense of humor, instead of just riffraff. His Civic was still going strong after he finally gave it away, and he eventually changed his view on personal finances and bought a brand-new Accord.

Civic suffered a little setback recently when the 2012 model was deemed not quite up to Honda’s usual excellent snuff by a considerable number of auto writers and customers. Honda engineers wasted no time in regrouping to improve the Civic for 2013, and with this new version, they can sit back and relax.

For 2013, interior and exterior styling has been revised, steering and suspension recalibrated, gobs of new standard telematics and connectivity features added, NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) significantly reduced, and Forward Collision Warning and Lane Departure Warning systems made available.

I spent a week with the performance version, the 2013 Civic Si Coupe — not the most practical model in the lineup, but by far the funnest. It’s powered by a 201-horsepower i-VTEC four-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed manual transmission, delivering 170 lb-ft of torque and a fuel economy rating of 22 mpg city, 31 mpg highway.

Working the clutch pedal and manual shift lever requires almost no effort at all, and the car really likes to show itself off on twisty roads. It wouldn’t be a respectable compact performance coupe if it didn’t, but what’s also nice is how the new improvements make it so civilized on the freeway.

Judging from the amount of staring and head-turning the Civic Si Coupe caused during the test week, I’d say the exterior styling is a crowd-pleaser. Interior refinement has been elevated by the use of more upscale materials and freshened styling. My favorite features in the tester’s interior were the multi-contoured arrangement of the instrument panel, the wild pattern in the high-quality cloth seat fabric (along with seat comfort), the user-compassionate navigation system, and the 360-watt premium audio system’s fantastic clarity.

My least favorite feature was the storage pocket in the door panel, which has an open cutout area that allowed things to fall through it and onto the floor. And I was disappointed by the absence of heated seats, but the targeted young buyers for this vehicle, with their overactive circulatory systems, won’t mind it.

Pricing for the 2013 Honda Civic ranges from $18,755 for the LX Coupe to $25,150 for the Hybrid Sedan. The destination charge, $790, is included in these figures.

2013 Honda Civic Si Coupe With Navigation

Base price, including destination charge: $24,805

Price as driven: $24,805

Mary Lowry is a free-lance automotive writer who has been reviewing cars for more than 20 years. The cars are provided by the manufacturers as a one-week loan for review purposes only. In no way do the manufacturers control the content of the reviews.

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