Pros: Plentiful model variations; good fuel economy; lots of standard features

Cons: Uninspired driving experience; pricey compared to some competitors

What's New: Revised exterior styling for sedan models; updated interior materials and design; more standard equipment

Fresh from an update, the 2013 Honda Civic lineup remains robust, with no fewer than five models to choose from. Along with the Civic and sporty Civic Si, shoppers can choose the fuel-sipping Civic HF, the Civic Hybrid or even the Civic Natural Gas. Updates include revised exterior styling for the sedan and interior design updates throughout the lineup. The Civic also receives more standard features for the 2013 model year, including Bluetooth and a backup camera.

Comfort & Utility

In our review of the 2012 Civic, we liked the simplicity and roominess of the Civic's interior but were not so impressed with the overall aesthetic. It was too plain, we thought. Fortunately, Honda updated the design and materials in the 2013 Civic with positive results.

Small touches such as silver trim and more obvious changes such as black carpeting give the Civic's interior a more upscale appearance. More soft-touch surfaces and better material for the seats, door panels and headliner improve the look and feel, too.

Still, the interior of the Civic remains simple and sturdy. All its bits are robust and well built, with no extraneous items to worry about ruining or breaking. While modern, its sturdiness is reminiscent of vehicles from an earlier time.

The Civic isn't a big car, but delightfully the interior isn't small. Even tall drivers will find it roomy and comfortable in every direction. That's truly rare in small, fuel-efficient vehicles of any kind.

Technology

The latest generation of the Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System is available on the Civic EX, Civic EX-L, Civic Si, Civic Natural Gas and Civic Hybrid models and features a 6.5-inch display and a fast 16-GB flash memory in place of the DVD-based system used on previous Civics. Turn-by-turn driving directions appear on both the navigation screen and on the new color i-MID display, which is positioned high in the instrument panel close to the driver's line of sight. For 2013, Honda's i-MID display is standard across the Civic lineup.

The Bluetooth HandsFreeLink interface is designed to offer hands-free operation for many Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones. It's now standard on all 2013 Civic models and includes an audio-streaming feature.

Performance & Fuel Economy

The 2013 Honda Civic comes with a choice of gasoline, hybrid and compressed natural gas powertrains. At the top end in the Si Coupe and Sedan is the 2.4-liter i-VTEC 4-cylinder that makes 201 horsepower and 170 lb-ft of torque. It's mated to a close-ratio 6-speed manual transmission.

The Civic Hybrid has an ultra-efficient 1.5-liter i-VTEC 4-cylinder engine with Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) that makes 110 hp and 127 lb-ft of torque, along with a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), resulting in 44 mpg in both city and highway driving.

The standard Civic Sedan, Coupe and HF models are powered by a 140-hp 1.8-liter i-VTEC 4-cylinder that makes 128 lb-ft of torque. Civic Sedan and Coupe models offer a choice of a standard 5-speed manual transmission or an available 5-speed automatic transmission. The Civic HF comes standard with the automatic. The Sedan and Coupe achieve 28 mpg city/31 mpg hwy with the 5-speed manual and 28 mpg city/32 mpg hwy with the 5-speed automatic transmission. The HF, true to its High Efficiency moniker, returns 29 mpg city/41 mpg hwy.

The Civic Natural Gas is powered, as its name suggests, by compressed natural gas (CNG). It has a variant of the standard 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine that develops 110 hp and 106 lb-ft of torque and comes with a standard 5-speed automatic transmission. It's good for 27 mpg city/38 mpg hwy.

Safety

The 2013 Civic exemplifies Honda's dedication to safety. The Civic incorporates the newest generation of Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA), ABS with Brake Assist, side curtain airbags, front side airbags with a passenger's side Occupant Position Detection System (OPDS) and a front seat design that can help reduce the severity of neck injury in the event of a rear collision.

Similarly to the previous generation of Civic, an Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structure in the front of the vehicle helps to make the vehicle absorb and disperse energy in case of a front-end crash.

Additional standard safety features include: a backup camera; dual-stage, multiple-threshold front airbags; front seat belts with automatic tensioning system and load limiter; and front-end pedestrian injury mitigation.

Driving Impressions

The simplicity of the Civic is palpable, and it has a wonderfully effortless driving feel. While it's not the most entertaining car in terms of performance, it exhibits a feeling of lightness that inspires confidence in the driver.

The braking is forgiving but firm. The steering is light but exact. The climate control is laid out in a highly intuitive fashion. The drivetrain barely makes noise. And, although it's a very fuel-frugal vehicle, it has the power to get up and go if you need it. Viewed with a positive attitude, this is a Zen-like driving experience.

Other Cars to Consider

Subaru Impreza: Starting at $17,895, the base Impreza is priced very closely to the $17,965 base Civic Coupe. But in the Subaru, drivers get four doors, all-wheel drive and a significantly nicer interior complete with soft-touch dash.

Hyundai Elantra: Starting at $16,965, the Elantra is also cheaper than the Civic, which is good. What's even better? The Elantra won the 2012 North American Car of the Year award and includes a 10-year/100,000-mile warranty.

Volkswagen Jetta: Starting at $16,720, the Jetta is shockingly cheap. For this newest generation, VW has pared the Jetta down to its bare bones to attract entry-level shoppers. For folks wanting to join the German motoring world without breaking the bank, the Jetta is a great place to start.

AutoTrader Recommends

We recommend buyers look past the base model to the HF, which starts at $19,765. The HF looks sleeker than the standard Civic because it shares its body panels with the Civic Hybrid. It also offers 41 mpg hwy without adding thousands of pounds of hybrid components and batteries. Its simplicity makes the HF the version that's truest to the spirit of the Civic.

author photo

Nick Palermo is an automotive writer and lifelong car nut. He follows new and late-model used vehicles for AutoTrader.com, writes about vintage cars for Hemmings Classic Wheels and blogs on all things automotive at LivingVroom. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and twins.

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