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2013 Honda Civic EX-L Sedan Review: Technology, Efficiency, Affordability

When the 9th generation of the Honda Civic was introduced for the 2012 model year, it was met with harsh criticism to which Honda was quick to respond with changes from top to bottom – changes that make the Civic a very impressive high tech compact sedan with the efficiency and affordability that you would expect from the Honda brand.


The new 2012 Honda Civic was criticized for a variety of reasons ranging from the exterior styling to the ride quality to the lack of interior quality so when Honda tore into the “emergency refresh” for the 2013 model year Civic, the company aimed to address all of those complaints from the 2012 model year vehicles. The result is the 2013 Honda Civic – a compact sedan that offers a tremendous amount of content in top of the line EX-L with Navigation trim while the exterior and drivability make this car better look and better to drive.

My 2013 Honda Civic EX-L Sedan with Navigation is the tip top of the line with very little left to want for in the compact sedan segment with standard features like heated leather seats, a premium infotainment system and a sunroof but even all loaded up, this Civic carried a price tag of just $24,555.

The Exterior
The 2013 Honda Civic EX-L Sedan received a pretty substantial exterior refresh after the basic exterior styling had been introduced just a year earlier. What I believe hurt the 2012 Civic the most was that it didn’t look enough like the super sporty Civic Concept that debuted at the 2011 Detroit Auto Show. There was really nothing wrong with the look of the 2012 Civic but after Honda had shown off the sporty 2011 Civic Concept in Detroit – everyone expected something with more attitude than the 2012 Civic production model. While the emergency refresh for the 2013 Civic Sedan is still nowhere near as aggressive as the 2011 concept car, the few changes go a long way in giving the 2013 Honda Civic a more prominent, “notice me” look.

Civic front

The most substantial change to the 2013 Honda Civic EX-L comes up front, where a new u-shaped grille with a bold chrome trim piece sits tucked under a more angular hood. This new hood and grille design combined with the naturally aggressive looking headlights gives the 2013 Civic a bolder look while the added chrome provides a more upscale look. Aiding in that effort is a set of circular fog lights mounted in a black housing on the outer edges of the lower front fascia with another very bold chrome strip connecting the two fog light bezels.

Along the sides, the 2013 Civic has a very slippery profile that is almost a smooth line from nose to tail with a short hood and trunk area allowing for more interior space. This provides incredible aerodynamic properties for improved fuel economy but it also gives the 2013 Civic a very sleek, sporty feel. Another feature that goes a long way in helping to make the 2013 Civic more striking is the 16 inch wheel option that is standard on the EX-L package. With a machined wheel face, painted pockets, split spoke design and angular blade-like layout to the spokes, these wheels look more like something that you would see on a performance or sport package and I love how they look on the new Civic.

Civic side

Out back, the 2013 Honda Civic EX-L wears the next most significant portion of the emergency refresh with a new tail light design that is leaps and bounds better looking than those lights featured on the 2012 Civic. Where the 2012 Civic tail lights were smaller and contained entirely on the area outside of the trunk lid, the 2013 Civic rear end lights extend from the quarter panels onto the face of the trunk lid. When combined with the more aggressive lower rear fascia and the bold chrome strip running between the redesigned tai lights, the rear end refresh for the 2013 model year really gives the new Civic a ton of personality across the back end – an area in which many modern cars are lacking.

Civic rear

While there was really nothing wrong with the 2012 Civic when it ushered in the 9th generation of the fabled Japanese compact, the refreshed exterior of the 2013 Honda Civic proved to be a great move as the newest Civic has an exterior that allows it to stand out – rather than blend in. The compact segment has become one that demands a certain level of sportiness and the 2013 Civic provides that sporty, aggressive feel.

The Interior
The 2013 Honda Civic EX-L with Navigation is a top of the line package and when you climb into the driver’s seat, that becomes immediately apparent. The EX-L package adds heated leather seats up front, leather seats in the rear, leather trim on the door panels and dash, automatic climate control, standard Bluetooth connectivity, steering wheel stereo and cruise controls and the innovative two unit driver information display. This combination of technology and tons of leather gives the cabin of the 2013 Civic a very upscale look and feel that would have once been unheard of for the Civic name. However, as the compact segment has evolved – so has the Civic.

Civic dash

The heated leather front seats of the 201 Civic EX-L provide a ton of space in almost every direction for the driver and front passenger with the only shortage of space coming across the small center armrest where the two people up front may find themselves jockeying for position. However, even the tallest (within reason) driver and passenger should find the knee, hip, leg, shoulder and head room to be more than adequate. In the rear seats, the leather surfaces are arranged in a way that gives the outboard passengers a bucket seat like feel with an impressive amount of shoulder, elbow, hip and head room but as is the case with many compact sedans – tall rear passengers who are seated behind a very tall driver or front passenger will be a little cramped in terms of leg room. The Civic does offer easier entrance to the rear seats for adults along with a fair amount of leg room for shorter adults or children. In other words, this car might not be ideal for a family of 6’2” people including the mother, father and two kids but for the average family with smaller children – the 2013 Honda Civic provides plenty of space to keep everyone comfortable.

Civic front seats

Our test 2013 Honda Civic EX-L included the Navigation package with voice control and an integrated backup camera. The navigation and backup camera system work through the 5 inch infotainment touch screen mounted high on the dash. This screen isnt as massive as some others on the market today but it does the job with touch capability for those who like that feature along with traditional buttons and knobs mounted on each side of the screen for those who don’t love touchscreen controls. Of course, there are also controls mounted on the steering wheel along with a very good voice control system and like many higher end navigation systems, the one featured in the 2013 Civic features live traffic updates that can guide you around road work or accidents that bog down your driving progress. In addition to the advanced navigation system, the Civic also features a 160 watt sound system that is a solid setup for an affordable vehicle. This isnt the type of system that audiophiles will fall in love with but when compared to other standard sound systems – the Civic will hold its own.

Civic gauges

One of the more unique aspects of the 2013 Honda Civic EX-L Sedan is the multi-unit gauge interface that has a tradition gauge cluster located just beyond the steering wheel along with another display that is mounted high on the dash. The lower gauge cluster includes things like the tachometer and the gear indicator while the upper readout puts the vehicle speed, fuel level, instant fuel economy figures and the economy coaching system closer to the driver’s direct line of sight. This allows the driver to see the vehicle speed without looking very far from the road while the innovative coaching system located on either side of the vehicle speed helps to direct the driver towards the best fuel economy figures possible.

The 2013 Honda Civic EX-L with Navigation is the top of the line trimline and with a high level of interior technology paired with the plush leather seats, the 2013 Civic top of the line model offers everything that you could ask for in a very comfortable environment. This isnt an interior that is going to rival a true luxury car but when compared to other vehicles in the same class as the Civic – the sporty little Honda can go toe to toe with any competitors on the market today.

The Drive
My 2013 Honda Civic EX-L Sedan test car was fitted with the 1.8L 4-cylinder engine that sends 140 horsepower and 128lb-ft of torque to the front wheels via a standard 5-speed automatic transmission. Unfortunately, the EX-L package does not offer a manual transmission and that is one of my main complaints as I vastly prefer rowing my own gears in an efficient compact car but I also understand the lower take rate for manual transmissions so my complaint is a very minor one. This drivetrain is expected to return an average of 32 miles per gallon with 28mpg in the city and 39mpg on the highway. Under normal driving circumstances, I fell a little short of those expected numbers but with the Civic set to Eco Mode and when I was using the built-in efficiency coaching system, I was able to comfortably hit those expected numbers at the minor cost of some acceleration pep around town. When I drove out of Eco Mode and drove the Civic hard, I averaged around 30mpg but when I drove closer to the speed limit in an effort to get the best fuel economy possible, I was able to exceed the expected numbers around town and on the highway.

Civic front corner

Fuel economy aside, the 2013 Civic Sedan’s 140 horsepower makes it quite a bit of fun to drive. It packs plenty of power to accelerate quickly away from a stop light or to quickly climb up over 70 miles per hour to merge into fast moving highway traffic. This engine is designed to optimize efficiency but it will also allow you to get from point a to point b in a hurry if you are short on time with the ability to comfortably cruise down the highway well above the posted speed limits – if that happens to be your thing. In the long run, the 2013 Civic competes in a segment where some vehicles are starved for power in an effort to offer better MPGs but with 140 horsepower and a very real chance of nearing 40mpg on the highway, the Civic offers a great blend of power and efficiency.

Areas in which the earlier 9th generation Civics were criticized included the handling, ride quality and interior noise so the 2013 Honda Civic features a retuned suspension system, a revamped steering system and added sound insulation – all of which are appreciated in the new Civic. Whether you are tolling around town or speeding down the highway, the Civic suspension system offers confident handling and a nice smooth ride with very little road noise…even when driving on the pothole ridden highways of the metro Detroit area. Better yet, the combination of the retuned suspension system and the revamped steering setup make the Civic Sedan surprisingly fun to drive in tight quarters. While this isnt a car that is going to shatter many sports car owners dreams on the road course, the 2013 Civic willingly zips through tight turns with surprising confidence and appropriate feedback through the steering system. In other words, Honda did a wonderful job of addressing the handling and noise complaints of the 2012 Civic with the 2013 model year sedans in a way that makes the 2013 Civic better to drive and better to ride in for the passengers.

Civic rear corner

Honda could have done nothing after the complaints with the 2012 model year Civic and they would have likely sold just as many cars but the suspension, steering and sound insulation added for the 2013 model year Civic really makes this compact Japanese sedan a very pleasant car to drive every day with enough handling personality to make this car fun to drive.

The Final Word
The Honda Civic has always been one of the top competitors in the compact segment while also being one of the bestselling cars in America and the revisions made to the 2013 Honda Civic should allow it to maintain the reputation as a go-to car for those shopping with efficiency and affordability in mind. When you factor in the added goodies of the EX-L with Navigation package, the 2013 Civic offers a level of luxury that was once unheard of both in the Civic lineup and throughout the affordable compact sedan segment so if you are shopping for a new compact sedan with great fuel economy figures, solid drive qualities, impressive interior space and a shocking number of high tech amenities – the 2013 Honda Civic EX-L with Navigation should be a car that you test drive before making your next purchase.