It used to be that a car company would introduce a new or redesigned model and wait several years to update the vehicle, but the 2014 Honda Civic bucks convention. For the second year in a row following a complete redesign for the 2012 model year, the Civic receives numerous updates designed to defend its status as the best-selling compact car in America.
If you're buying a 2014 Civic Sedan, you won't notice many exterior design changes. The luxury-themed EX-L and performance-tuned Si models receive redesigned wheels in larger sizes, and those are the most noticeable changes.
The 2014 Civic Coupe, however, is restyled this year. Everything forward of the windshield and the doors is new for 2014, giving the Civic Coupe a more aggressive and muscular look and eliminating, to some degree, the car's boomerang-style shape in profile. Honda has also revised the taillights and rear bumper, and redesigned the wheel choices for the Civic Coupe. The Si version also has a larger rear spoiler than last year.
Look closely and you'll see that all 2014 Honda Civic models are equipped with a new expanded-view driver's-side mirror, and that most Civics have a new camera mounted to the right-side mirror that powers the new LaneWatch blind spot monitoring system. Also, new colors are available for 2014.
If you're buying a Civic Coupe, its new styling could make the difference when choosing whether to pay more for a new 2014 model. The Civic Sedan, though, essentially looks just like last year's car.
Following a significant upgrade in terms of materials and appearance for the 2013 model year, all 2014 Honda Civic models get nicer seat fabrics and improved door panel trim. Unless you're a die-hard Civic fan, however, you're unlikely to notice the difference. The better reason to get the 2014 Civic has to do with the numerous new convenience features and technology that Honda has added to the car, which are detailed below.
For 2014, Honda makes a big change to the most popular versions of the Civic. In LX, EX and EX-L models, a continuously variable transmission (CVT) replaces the previous 5-speed automatic transmission, and fuel economy estimates rise from 32 miles per gallon to 33 mpg in combined driving. The Civic EX Coupe and EX-L Coupe also include paddle shifters with the CVT, giving the car a sportier driving character when desired.
Honda has also revised the exhaust systems for the LX, EX, EX-L and Si models, giving these versions of the 2014 Honda Civic modest increases in horsepower and torque. Civic Coupe models get sportier suspension tuning for 2014, and all Civic Si models have a reworked suspension to give the performance-oriented versions more athletic handling.
If maximizing fuel economy is important to you or you want a more engaging car to drive, the 2014 Civic is the way to go. Still, the improvements aren't dramatic, so you won't be missing out on much by going with a leftover 2013 Civic or a certified pre-owned version.
All versions of the 2014 Civic now come standard with automatic on/off headlights, except for the base LX and the version of the model designed to maximize fuel economy, the Civic HF. A new Smart Entry keyless passive entry system with push-button starting is also included for all Civics except the LX, HF and Natural Gas models.
If you decide to buy the Civic Natural Gas, which runs on compressed natural gas and is regionally available, this model can now be equipped with a package containing leather seats, heated front seats, heated side mirrors, automatic climate control, an improved sound system and a navigation system.
Some people don't like keyless entry and push-button starting systems. They should buy a 2013 Civic. Everyone else is likely to prefer the 2014, for this reason and much more.
Another major change to the 2014 Honda Civic is the new 7-inch Display Audio system that is standard equipment for all models except the LX and HF. The capacitive touchscreen resembles a tablet computer such as an iPad and offers pinch, tap and swipe operation, making it familiar to car buyers who are used to smartphones and tablets. Icons designed to resemble smartphone applications help users to access system functions quickly, and Pandora Internet Radio is built right in.
The new Display Audio system also features next-generation HondaLink smartphone integration and services technology, which debuts in the 2014 Civic. It features Siri Eyes Free mode when an iPhone is paired to the system, activated by pressing a button on the car's steering wheel. This allows the driver to receive and send text messages and emails, among other functions.
Honda has designed the new HondaLink system to provide four primary applications that give the user access to all features and services, including a cloud-based navigation app that the Civic's owner can purchase for much less than the optional factory-installed navigation system that is offered on the EX-L, Si, Hybrid and Natural Gas models. Additionally, HondaLink provides access to weather forecasts, Aha audiotainment, Twitter and Facebook updates, and listings for nearby business establishments.
Again, some people don't like touchscreen radios and don't care about checking #socialmedia while they are #driving. They are better served by an older Civic. Technology geeks, however, should get a 2014 model.
All versions of the 2014 Honda Civic except for the LX and HF models are equipped with LaneWatch blind spot monitoring. LaneWatch uses a camera mounted to the right-side rearview mirror to project what's happening on the right side of the car onto a screen in the dashboard. The driver monitors the Civic's left blind spot using the standard expanded-view left-side rearview mirror.
Another new safety feature for the 2014 Civic is HondaLink Assist, which is a part of the next-generation HondaLink technology. This feature automatically notifies an emergency services operator if the car's airbags deploy, helping to speed rescuers to the scene of the accident in order to administer assistance.
Savvy car researchers might notice that the 2014 Civic's crash-test ratings are different from last year. Only the Civic Hybrid qualifies for a Top Safety Pick+ rating for 2014, whereas last year all Civic models received this designation. The reason has nothing to do with the 2014 Civic's performance. Rather, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety revised conditions for earning the top rating and now requires Top Safety Pick+ models to offer front crash-prevention technology in addition to excelling in all crash-test parameters.
Because the Civic Hybrid is the only version of the car offered with a Forward Collision Warning system, it is the only model that received the top rating. All other Civic models qualify for the standard Top Safety Pick designation.
When it comes to safety, the 2014 Civic is the better vehicle in terms of preventing a collision and calling for help following an accident, but class-leading crash-test ratings also make a 2013 Civic a smart buy in terms of safety.
Once again, Honda moves the needle when it comes to the 2014 Civic. It might not be the most affordable compact car on the market, but it sure is one of the most sophisticated. Thanks to the changes it makes for the 2014 model year, Honda capably defends the safe, fuel-efficient and technologically advanced Civic's position as the best-selling small car in America. Whether or not you personally want or need the improvements for the 2014 Civic is up to you.