By Aaron Bragman on November 20, 2013
Honda took a lot of heat for its most recent redesign of the Civic compact and responded with a rushed redesign of the sedan for 2013. Now we have an earlier-than-expected refresh of the coupe for 2014 revealed at the 2013 Los Angeles Auto Show.
The new coupe offers some mildly tweaked styling, some new features like push-button start, Honda's innovative LaneWatch technology and a new multimedia system on top trim levels that introduce capacitive touch technology to the Civic lineup.
The new Civic coupe has a more exterior aggressive design, but it can't be said that it's a more attractive look. It seems that with the most recent redesigns, Honda keeps shuffling styling elements around without actually showing any progress. The front bumper, grille, headlights and fenders look different, but not necessarily better, newer or fresher than the previous design. The front end does more closely resemble the truly striking European Honda Civic hatchback, but the rest of the car does not, leaving me to shrug and wonder why Honda even bothered. The sedan is visually unchanged from the 2013 model.
Inside, the big change for 2014 is the introduction of a 7-inch Display Audio capacitive touch-sensitive screen for the EX, EX-L and Si trims audio system. Honda says that the new system allows for screen manipulation much like an iPhone, with pinch to zoom and left and right swipe to change screens.
While there's nothing wrong with a touch-screen display for multimedia systems, the replacement of all of the audio system controls with touch-sensitive "buttons" is a step in the wrong direction (as Ford will tell you, suffering as it is from downgrades in its Consumer Reports ratings due to customer displeasure with the MyFord Touch system). Even the volume control knob has been replaced by a touch-sensitive up-and-down faux toggle switch. Honda would have been better served by repositioning the existing screen so that it doesn't completely wash out whenever anyone opens the sunroof.
A more positive development is the introduction of Honda's LaneWatch technology to the Civic. Previously available only on the Accord, it is a novel blind spot monitoring system that uses a camera mounted in the right-side mirror that displays a view of the car's blind spot on the i-MID screen in the upper dashboard whenever the driver activates the right-hand turn signal. It will also only be available on the EX and Si trim levels.
Overall, the new 2014 Honda Civic does not appear appreciably different from the 2013 model it replaces. The styling changes are more a matter of taste, but the exterior modifications to the coupe to keep it fresh while sadly falling short of their intended purpose.
Detroit Bureau Chief Aaron Bragman grew up in the Detroit area, comes from an automotive family and is based in Ann Arbor, Mich. Email Aaron