Honda wants nothing more than for you to approve of its current-generation Civic. So much so that the automaker's overhauled it an unprecedented two times since its late-2011 introduction in spite of what seemed to be already respectable sales. The entry-level compact—still in its ninth-generation despite an outbreak of exterior changes—has been revamped inside out. But are the changes worth it?
Styling: For 2014, Honda's designers went beyond any conventional mid-model refresh. Coupes now feature a new-for-2014 frontend that's made up of a chiseled-up-looking hood, redesigned fenders, headlights, and grille, and a bumper with what are possibly the largest ducts any Civic clip's seen—all of which now even further distinguish the two-door from the sedan. A new bumper and taillights also make their way out back as do plus-sized, redesigned wheels all around on most trims. It doesn't end there for coupes wearing the Si badge; here, front and rear valences outline the bumpers along with a taller, updated rear spoiler and 18-inch rims for both body styles. Styling preference is almost always subjective and is almost always subjected to groupthink. Take, for example, the ninth-generation Civic's initial debut where it was chided by the automotive press yet people who wanted Civics still went out and bought them. Compare the ninth-generation Civic—pre- or post-refresh—to any of its 1990s-era siblings, which it almost always is, and blasting it becomes easy. Comparatively, it's heavy. Its power-to-weight-ratio is discouraging. Its suspension and interior err on the side of plush at the expense of any semblance of performance. Times change, though, and so has the Civic. The ninth-gen's been resculpted (twice), and it appears as though those who didn't like it still don't and those who did still do. All of which makes us wonder whether or not changing the Civic—again—was even necessary.
Interior And Technology: Inside, added colors and a new soft-weave fabric make their way onto the seats, and the door panels feature updated trimming—good changes, all of them. A 7-inch, smartphone-like, swipeable touchscreen display, push-button starter, blind spot monitoring, and an optional eight-way-adjustable power driver's seat are also now available for 2014. It's all markedly less cheap feeling inside but likely not the deciding factor that'll convert once-Civic-chastisers into Civic buyers. Impressive it may be, but does a touchscreen display belong on a Civic—what's among Honda's entry-level fleet? Are the days of knobs, dials, and rockers fading away? To be sure, fumbling with a touchscreen at 70 mph is exponentially more challenging than any knob'll ever be.
Engine And Drivetrain: Exhaust system changes mean three more horsepower across the board on 1.8L models and an extra 4 hp on the Si; the changes are every bit as subtle as they sound, though. Paddle shifters make their way onto EX and EX-L trims and an all-new CVT supersedes the previous five-speed-automatic gearbox. Never mind that CVTs can be emotionless, rubber-band-like devices that further detach driver from car and, arguably, push the Civic further off course from what it once was but, here at least, the all-new CVT doesn't seem entirely out of place considering the non-Si's modest powertrain.
Suspension: All coupes now feature slightly stiffer spring rates all around (4 percent in front, 3 percent out back) along with a higher-rate rear anti-sway bar (25 percent stiffer). The same changes were bestowed upon the Si along with revised dampers. Aside from any aesthetic changes, suspension modifications are among the most noticeable. The marginally stiffer springs make for a more planted ride ... provided the previous models on hand for a side-by-side comparison. (If you haven't driven a Civic since 2011, when you and the blogosphere decided it was the worst car ever, then any suspension adjustments may not seem so obvious.) Just don't go comparing it to whatever fifth-gen or sixth-gen the Internet does.
The 2014 Civic, with all its changes, is still a very good car and, for that matter, so was the 2013. And the 2012. It's just not the Civic that many longtime Honda loyalists wishes it were and is a far cry from the decades-old Civics those very stalwarts have grown to love. Touchscreens and updated body bits are nice and all, but what everyone really wants is a Civic that's perhaps more like a Civic and less like the feature-packed semi-luxury-ride Honda seems to have turned it into.