AUTO REVIEW: Sporty Honda Civic EX-L Offers Long List of Safety, Comfort Features

(Fort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS) —

The Honda Civic lineup was upgraded for 2014, with the upgrades carrying over to 2015 models. The Coupe exterior was redesigned, new wheel designs were introduced, the interior was refined, a new continuously variable transmission (CVT) was added, along with numerous available premium features.

A long list of high-value standard features includes an expanded-view driver’s mirror, rearview camera with guidelines, and Bluetooth HandsFreeLink. A seven-inch capacitive touchscreen Display Audio/LaneWatch display, HondaLink next-generation connected-car technology, and Smart Entry with pushbutton start are available to upgrade some models.

Four basic models are available: LX, SE, EX and EX-L. Prices range from $18,490-$24,340. The SE (Special Edition) model is new for 2015, and adds $1,100 worth of upgrades for only a $700 increase in price. Telematics, convenience, audio, comfort and style upgrades give customers a higher-value option over the LX Sedan.

The new SE comes with 15-inch alloy wheels with black painted inserts, Honda LaneWatch, HondaLink, additional tweeter speakers, automatic climate control and the CVT, priced at $19,900. Civic Coupe LX and EX, and Civic Sedan LX have a standard manual transmission and offer the CVT, which is standard on all other trims. The CVT enhances the responsiveness of Civic’s 1.8-liter in-line four cylinder engine and helps provide excellent fuel efficiency. With this engine and the CVT, EPA ratings for the Civic Sedan are 30 city/39 highway/33 combined.

Among the sedans, there is also a hybrid model for $24,735, an HF (high-fuel-economy) model for $20,040, and a natural-gas model for $26,740. The hybrid is highway rated at 47 mpg and the natural-gas model at 38 mpg. The HF makes the most of every drop of gas (highway rating 41 mpg) by adding special aerodynamics and unique alloy wheels with low-rolling-resistance tires, while still providing the styling, amenities and high-tech standard features of the basic Civic Sedan.

For this review, I drove a Crimson Red Civic EX-L with Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System with Voice Recognition, and beige interior, priced at $24,340. My tester came with diamond-cut alloy wheels, an accessory package that added $1,822.

Honda doesn’t offer options, instead adding features to each successive model. But some accessories are available, from a cargo net for $49, remote start for $399, blue interior lighting for $125, to a wing spoiler for $399.

Standard equipment for my EX-L included dual-mode paddle shifters, antilock disc brakes with brake assist, vehicle stability control with traction control, compact spare tire, daytime running lights, fog lights, tire-pressure monitoring, and auto on/off halogen headlights.

Safety features started with Honda’s ACE (Advanced Compatibility Engineering) body structure (distributes collision energy evenly, away from the passenger compartment and reduces damage to other vehicles) and included multi-threshold front air bags, Smart Vent front side air bags, side-curtain air bags with rollover detection, LATCH for child safety seats (lower in the outboard seats and upper in all seating positions), and childproof rear-door locks.

Lane Watch is another Honda safety feature, which aids safety by showing the area to the right of the vehicle on the display screen when the right turn signal is activated. A camera in the right-side mirror provides the image. Keyless Smart Entry, remote entry and remote trunk unlock/open added convenience and safety, which also were aided by the one-touch turn signal, heated expanded-view driver’s mirror, variable-intermittent windshield wipers, pushbutton start, and illuminated driver’s window and door lock buttons and steering-wheel controls (cruise, audio, phone, i-MID and navigation). Cruise control, Bluetooth HandsFreeLink, voice-controlled texting and the rearview camera with dynamic guidelines (a multi-angle version is available) added more safety, convenience and confidence.

My tester was comfortable and attractive, with top-stitched plush leather seating, heated and bolstered in the front with an eight-way power driver’s seat, a power tilt/slide moon roof, and chrome trim on the front and rear fascia.

Door panels were off-black on the top, with quilted beige on the middle, black on the armrests, and beige plastic on the bottom. Door handles and mid-door trim in the front were brushed-silver metallic. Front passengers had 37.7 inches of headroom and 42.2 inches of legroom. Rear passengers had 34.3 inches of headroom, but were cheated on legroom with 30.8 inches — enough to sit comfortably, but not to stretch out.

A sliding armrest on the front center console opened to a medium-sized cubby with a USB port and cord. A 12-volt outlet and another USB port were under the center stack with a rubber-lined coin tray. The front-door pockets had cupholders, while the rear doors had only pockets. A cupholder accessory is available for $46.

Other standard equipment included a 360-watt AM/FM/CD audio system with seven speakers and seven-inch display. The Honda Satellite-linked Navigation and Voice Recognition system included Honda HD digital traffic, a high-resolution touchscreen, customizable feature settings and satellite radio.

My Civic had next-generation HondaLink, Pandora compatibility, Bluetooth streaming audio, MP3 and Windows Media Audio playback capability, radio data system and speed-sensitive volume control.

An i-MID (intelligent Multi-Information Display) with a five-inch LCD screen and customizable feature settings, located in the instrument panel, supplied information on average fuel economy and speed, elapsed travel time, miles-to-empty, odo/trip; maintenance minder system; turn-by-turn navigation; Pandora, Bluetooth HandsFreeLink; exterior temperature, clock; and Honda Welcome.

The rear seatback folded 60/40, using a lever under the lip of the trunk, to allow longer items to be transported. The pass-through to the trunk was narrow, however, making it impossible to haul a standard sheet of plywood or wallboard. The trunk can hold 11.7 cubic feet of cargo and has enough room for a large stroller or two or three golf bags straight across.

With an $820 destination charge added to the $26,162 base price, the total cost for my sporty, youthful, fun-to-drive Civic EX-L Sedan was $26,982.

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