Once upon a time, the Honda Civic was like McDonalds: its wide-ranging menu had something to offer for everyone, in an easily-digestible and economical format. There was even a time when the Japanese compact was offered as a sedan, coupe, and a hatchback (and for a brief spell, it even offered some British go-fast goodness!).
The Civic used to be a fantastic thing.
Unfortunately, the ninth-generation Civic was a bad hamburger. When Honda served it up in 2012, they were treated to numerous complaints about the cheap interior, inexcusable road noise, and incompetent suspension. The outcry was so loud that Honda did something they’d never done before.
“Let us reheat that for you,” they said.
I’ll make one thing clear from the get-go: I didn’t get a chance to drive the Honda Civic Coupe in ’12 or ’13. Not that I’m overly sad about it. From the multitude of reviews available, it looks like I didn’t miss much.
However, I did own one of the last sporty-ish, mildly-hot Civics sold on our shores.
My 2000 Honda Civic Coupe, in Canadian Si trim (EX to you Yanks), was certainly no sports car. Yet, with a real trunk, upon which rested a fairly sharp spoiler, and a sleek-yet-subdued body, my silver Civic at least looked the part without being pretentious or trying too hard. Its SOHC VTEC-equipped 1.6-litre D-series four-cylinder gave a somewhat exciting growl above 6,000 revs. The shifter, too, felt very mechanical, providing a certain notchiness when throwing the lever into each gate.
Most of all, I felt connected with my old coupe. It got me back and forth to work each day before doing double-duty as an evening pizza delivery car. We spent a lot of time together and shared many great memories.
Unfortunately for me, and maybe Honda as well, I crawled into the new ninth-generation coupe with some possibly misplaced nostalgia.
My tester was a mid-level EX trimmed coupe with only a single option – the continuously variable transmission, which is new for this year and replaces Honda’s venerable 5-speed automatic transmission. The gearless transmission, along with a big, green ECON button to the left of the steering wheel, dashed all hopes of connecting with the latest Civic.
Powered by a 1.8-litre SOHC i-VTEC four-cylinder engine, the Civic is still motivated by aspirations of driving something faster on your way to the dragstrip. The engine has been slightly improved and now produces 143 hp and 129 lb-ft of torque (up from 140 hp and 128 lb-ft the year before), but you can still do better in the compact coupe segment. The Hyundai Elantra Coupe and Kia Forte Koup, equipped with identical 2.0-litre mills, get 173 hp and 154 lb-ft. If you desire more power, you may want to look across the street.
The new fangled continuously variable transmission may keep engine revs at the peak of the power band, but it’s far from exciting, especially with ECON mode engaged. Fuel economy was the main reason for introducing the CVT, though a real-world average of 29 MPG is far from the official mixed EPA rating of 33 MPG. The difference means you’d pay an extra $184 per year at today’s US average regular gas price of $3.67 per gallon if you drive 12,000 miles per year.
Fuel economy aside, the CVT’s paddle shifters provide some entertainment for the Gran Turismo set, and even some fairly quick ‘shifts’, but those of us familiar with clutch pedals or traditional automatic paddles will be disappointed.
In fact, the only connection made between myself and the Civic Coupe was with the headliner and my skull each time I sat in the car. The EX model tester came equipped with a power sunroof that takes away a serious amount of headroom for a 6’1″ human being. Even with the driver’s seat height adjustment all the way to the floor, my head made frequent contact with the Civic’s ceiling. My only way out of this situation was to go into “gangsta lean” mode, which, now that I think about it, explains the driving position of so many Civic Coupe drivers.
Elsewhere inside, the two-door did provide acceptable ergonomics. Materials were, again, acceptable, but the design did nothing for me in comparison to the knockout interiors in the Mazda3 and Toyota Corolla. Infotainment wise, Honda is still well behind the curve, and that applies to more than just the Civic. Even the Acura MDX, lauded in some circles, has a horribly designed headunit.
It wasn’t all bad, however, as the Civc did provide a good balance between ride and handling. Not all cars need to be sprung like race cars (I’m looking at you Hyundai and Kia) and, gladly, none of my head-on-ceiling contact in the Civic was suspension induced. Steering was slightly vague, though not bad by any margin.
Outside, the Civic Coupe still isn’t going to win any awards for earth-shattering design. While the emergency refresh available this year is certainly an improvement over the launch model, it’s still too close to the eighth-generation model to really be considered all-new. The painted pocket 16-inch wheels are a try-hard move to catch up to the Koreans, while the the overall shape screams “I’m mildly edgy!”
Overall, it seems like Honda is now fully content with resting on their laurels, bringing in repeat customers who’ll never cross shop. Considering this version of the Civic is built solely for North America, maybe Honda just doesn’t want to drop a ton of money into a vehicle with limited marketability. Hell, the Civic isn’t even sold in Japan anymore; Europe gets their own version that’s actually appealing with a nice selection of engines.
However, back on our shores, the 2014 Honda Civic Coupe is a bad hamburger, slightly warmed over.
Mark Stevenson is a freelance automotive journalist based in Nova Scotia, Canada with a certain penchant for dead brands, on both two and four wheels. He’s a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), former member of Texas Automotive Writers Association (NAMBLA), and the human pet of two dogs – Nismo and Maloo