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2014 Honda Civic Coupe First Impressions

ORLANDO, Florida -- The sweeping, cobblestone road, flanked on either side by vineyards and tall juniper columns, ends at a sprawling, $40 million stone fortress surrounded by Italian cyprus. Proof that with enough money, a central Florida landscape can be transformed into a convincing Tuscan estate.

An ultra-exclusive country club seems an odd place to showcase a Japanese compact car, and our convoy of grey Honda Civics looked a little out of place amongst the sun-drenched vines. However, when you consider that the Civic has been Canada’s top-selling car for 16 consecutive years, it could easily buy the place outright.

What is the Honda Civic Coupe?
Introduced in 1973, the Civic, now in its 9th generation, is Canada's top-selling car. Of those sales, 15% are two-door coupes. The combination of economic decline, fierce competition, and interior quality complaints took a big chunk out of Civic sales recently, but it rebounded for 2013 with a 10.4% increase.

Dave Gardner, Honda Canada's VP of Sales and Marketing credits the Civic's well-rounded packaging for its popularity.

"The word ‘Civic’ is defined as 'relating to a citizen,'" he explains. "We have a Civic for every walk of life."

The Civic returns in 2014 with new exterior styling, upgraded safety and technology, and a new CVT.

2014 Honda Civic Coupe Price and Specs
The Civic Coupe is available in four trim levels: the volume-selling LX $18,840 (39%); EX $20,900 (37%); EX-l Navi $25,600 (14%); and the performance-enhanced Si at $26,665 (10%).

Returning is the familiar 1.8L VTEC 4-cylinder, but exhaust tweaks have increased its output to 143 hp/129 lb-ft (up from 140/128). The Si Coupe's 2.4L engine increases to 205 hp/174 lb-ft (up from 201/174).

LX and EX models have a choice of 5-speed manual or CVT, while the EX-L is available with CVT only, and the Si comes exclusively with a 6-speed manual transmission. Fuel economy (L/100 km): 7.3 city; 5.5 hwy (manual); 6.7L/100km city; 5.0 hwy (LX); 6.9 city; 5.1 hwy (EX, EX-L Navi); 9.9 city; 6.6 why (Si coupe).

Driving the 2014 Honda Civic Coupe
Our morning was spent at the wheel of a Civic Coupe EX with a CVT, unfortunately there were no Si models available for testing.

A firmer suspension with revised dampers gives the Coupe flatter cornering ability without undue harshness. Florida's mostly flat terrain didn't present much opportunity for the car to really exert itself, but it handled the winding back country roads nicely. The big news for 2014 is the addition of a continuously variable transmission (CVT).

Although universally disliked by performance fans for their characteristic moaning and sluggish response, CVTs are extremely efficient when it comes to fuel conservation. Thanks to a set of wheel-mounted paddles (Coupe only) the Civic's CVT can emulate a seven-speed transmission allowing the driver to gear down and use the engine brake while cornering or, when in "S" mode, control the transmission shifts entirely. This almost completely alleviates the traditional droning and brightens the drive experience considerably in the 2014 Honda Civic Coupe.

Inside and Out of the 2014 Honda Civic Coupe
Externally, the Civic Coupe remains much the same, with the exception of a more aggressive grille and updated rear fascia. The new "solid wing face" incorporates new headlamps into the sweeping grille, underlined by a new fascia with larger air openings. A more chiselled rear finishes it off nicely. Si models receive new 18" rims, a "floating" decklid spoiler, and an even more aggressive front fascia and rear diffuser.

Inside, the cabin retains the same driver-centric layout with its "two-tier dash," but adds a black colour theme and new upholstery fabrics.

Honda ramps up the tech content with a new "Display Audio" multimedia system resembling an iPad. Geared to appeal to younger buyers, the system works through touch using two fingers to flick, slide, pinch or tap through various controls. Like many such systems that work well in theory, this one entails cumbersome screen-shuffling that could more easily be executed by simple knobs.

New technology includes HondaLink connectivity, which lets the driver access a variety of services using their own cell phone data. Facebook, Twitter, thousands of music stations, and even audio books can be accessed using steering-wheel or voice-activated controls. While EX-L Navi and Si models come with embedded Navigation, Display Audio-equipped models can download a HondaLink navigation app ($59).

Lane Watch, which first appeared on the Accord, uses a passenger mirror camera to reveal blind spots in the inside lane when the turn signal's activated.

Comparing the 2014 Honda Civic Coupe
Although the folks at Honda declined to name their main competitors, the Elantra and Mazda3 have really upped the ante over the last half-decade, with the Corolla a perennial favourite, too. On sale since December, the new Civic sold 1,715 cars in January to the Elantra's 1,078, Corolla‘s 990 and Mazda3’s 749.

Upgrades in features and technology have made this segment more cutthroat than ever, and the Civic's improvements will help in the fight to maintain its position as segment leader.

"I can't recall a better time to buy a new car," said Dave Gardner.

"It's a pretty good fight with Elantra and Mazda3. But let's just say we will be as competitive as the market requires us to be."
 

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