Maybe Honda designers were taken with the saga of the 1957 Studebaker Scotsman when they decided to try to make the iconic Civic available to a wider market. Or perhaps they thought the U.S. economy would revive even more slowly than it has, bolstering the market for inexpensive cars. (The Scotsman, shockingly cheaply made even by 1950s standards, more than doubled its manufacturer’s sales projection.)
Whatever the motive behind the 2012 redesign of the Civic, it was so widely panned that Honda redesigned it again for 2013. It worked. The Civic that America has known and loved for 40 years is back, and no harm done.
We didn’t test-drive the post-redesign 2012 Civic, but the reviews were uniformly negative. The Civic suffered the same fate borne by the Volkswagen Jetta a year earlier; VW also cheapened one of its best-loved models and paid the price in bad press.
Whatever was wrong with the 2012 Civic, the 2013 proved to be an impressive, fuel-efficient little car that was quieter and more refined than Civics we’ve test-driven in past years. Priced at $21,605, and built in Greensburg, Ind., our Alabaster Silver Metallic Civic EX sedan offered excellent fuel economy, too: 28 mpg city, 39 highway.
The base Civic, the LX, is priced starting at $18,165, about $2,000 more than a base Toyota Corolla. Comparable Korean compacts, such as the Hyundai Elantra, also are priced below the Civic. Competitors are many and in many cases highly competent: In addition to the Japanese models, consumers can choose among U.S. nameplates like the Ford Focus, Chevrolet Cruze and Dodge Dart.
Our Civic’s standard-equipment list included some attractive features, including a rear-view camera, Bluetooth hands-free link, automatic climate control, 5-speed automatic transmission, cruise control and power moon roof. The rear-view camera is standard on all Civic trim levels.
Honda was able to blend the wedge shape of past compacts with the more upright stance of today’s small cars, giving the Civic a functional, comfortable cabin and respectably sized (12.5 cubic feet) trunk.
Designated a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Civic consistently is among the most reliable cars on the road.
Honda has extracted everything it can from the Civic line, developing the sporty Si, a 44-mpg hybrid and the familiar 4-door sedans, as well as a line of Civic coupes. Engine choices range from a hybrid system to a 201-horsepower, 2.4-liter Four in the Si.
On the highway and around town, the Civic handles with crispness and confidence. The road noise, once prominent even in premium Civic trim levels, is no longer obtrusive. Quality and fit of interior fabrics and plastic surfaces are excellent.
Designers retained the two-tier gauge layout, with a single large round tachometer just above the steering column and a digital speedometer set higher on the dash. This arrangement is a little jarring at first, but drivers become accustomed to it quickly.
Steven Macoy (email@example.com) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.
Engine: 1.8-liter inline Four, 140 horsepower, 128 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 5-speed shiftable automatic
Weight: 2,855 lb.
Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear
Wheels: 16×6.5 inch alloy
Tires: P205/55R16 89H all-season
Seating capacity: 5
Luggage capacity: 12.5 cu. ft.
Fuel capacity: 13.2 gallons
Fuel economy: 28 mpg city, 39 mpg highway
Fuel type: regular