published Saturday, April 12th, 2014

Test Drive: Honda Civic Coupe has bold new look

The 2014 Honda Civic two-door coupe sports an aggressive new front-end design.
The 2014 Honda Civic two-door coupe sports an aggressive new front-end design.
Photo by Mark Kennedy.

FAST FACTS

Model: 2014 Honda Civic Coupe EX

Exterior color: Crystal Black

Interior color: Gray

Engine: 1.8 liter, four-cylinder

Horsepower: 143

Transmission: CVT

Fuel economy: 38 mpg highway, 29 mpg city

Dealer: Economy Honda

Price (as tested): $21,880

Honda’s new Civic TV spot features a gritty product anthem called “Today is Pretty Great” by blues-rock band Vintage Trouble. The message: Let the old folks worry; millennials think times are good and getting better — much better if you’re driving a brand new Civic.

The sporty Honda Civic coupe gets a visual upgrade for 2014 with an expressive face-lift and new tail-light treatment.

Long known for its practicality and sweet-sounding, four-cylinder engine, the Civic line is dominated by practical four-door models. Still, for those who value a sleek profile the coupe is a stylish choice. (You can even opt for a manual transmission and the SI performance package for the full boy-racer effect.)

Earlier this week, we checked out a Crystal Black Civic Coupe in EX trim from Economy Honda, one of Chattanooga’s true high-volume car stores, where the inventory seems to stretch to the horizon.

Sales team member Jason Bryant walked us through the improvements to the 2014 two-door Civic, which include new 17-inch alloy wheels and a Smart Entry feature on EX and EX-L trims which allows you to keep the keys in your pocket (or purse) when you’re ready to roll.

STYLING AND FEATURES

The Civic’s new nose — actually a new grille and head-light treatment — suits the car’s aggressive stance. Meanwhile, new trapezoidal tail-lights frame a U-shaped trunk-lid.

Two horizontal character lines, one that sweeps from the fascia to the rear deck-lid and another that bridges the wheel arches, give the Civic design balance and a sense of forward motion. The 10-spoke alloys have black outlines that result in a cool, spidery effect.

Inside, the Civic is ergonomically sound and visually interesting. The two-tier dash — a Civic trademark — has aged well. Instruments are arranged in an arc that aims everything at the driver’s eyes. There’s a seven-inch LED display that serves as a hub for audio, navigation, SMS (voice) text messaging, digital traffic reports, rear-view camera and more. The new HondaLink interface, available in the Civic, brings together social media, personalized restaurant searches, Internet radio and audiobooks. Any more, driving a car is like living inside a lap-top computer.

The seats, upholstered in a durable gray fabric in our test car, are supportive. Back seat space is reasonable for a compact coupe, although you might want to test out the knee room if you regularly transport adult friends and family.

The EX trim comes with some upscale touches such as push-button start and steering-wheel mounted audio controls. The sound system includes a 360-watt head unit with seven speakers and a sub-woofer.

For the safety minded, the Civic coupe has side-curtain airbags with a roll-over sensor. Honda’s ACE body structure is one of the safest frames in the world. The Civic also has my favorite safety improvement of the 21st century, a blind-spot camera that gives you a plain view of any traffic at your rear flanks when you decide to change lanes.

DRIVING IMPRESSIONS

Our Civic Coupe tester is powered by a standard-issue 1.8-liter, single overhead-cam engine that makes a spirited 143 horsepower. The engine is mated to a CVT transmission. There are also steering wheel mounted paddle-shifters to simulate a manual transmission to introduce an element of fun to your daily commute.

The CVT and efficient four-cylinder engine together make the Civic a gas-sipper. The government estimates the coupe will get 38 miles per gallon on the highway and 29 miles per gallon in city driving.

During our test drive on Highway 153, the Civic coupe was surprisingly quick. Accelerating through a semi-circular onramp, the Civic was fast and sure while throwing off lateral G-forces.

BOTTOM LINE

The Civic coupe is a driver’s car with enough practicality and safety cooked in to satisfy a mom or dad helping with the down payment.

It’s a great choice as a college commuter car or as a fuel-efficient run-about for empty-nesters.

Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6645. Follow him on Twitter @TFPCOLUMNIST. Subscribe to his Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/mkennedycolumnist.

about Mark Kennedy...

Mark Kennedy is a Times Free Press columnist and editor. He writes the "LIfe Stories" human interest column for the City section and the "Family Life" column for the Life section. He also writes an automotive column, “Test Drive,” for the Business section. For 13 years, Kennedy was features editor of the newspaper, and before that he was the newspaper’s first Sunday editor. The Times Free Press Life section won the state press award for ...

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