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2013 Civic: Everyday greatness

(Honda)

For 2013, just one year following its stem-to-stern makeover, the Civic gets another sweeping round of updates.

In late 2011, Honda debuted the all-new 2012 Civic.

The next year, the updated outsold all other compacts in the U.S., and was the country’s second-best-selling car.

Apparently, though, Honda has even greater things in mind for the Civic. For 2013, just one year following its stem-to-stern makeover, the Civic gets another sweeping round of updates.

This may seem like gilding the lily. The Civic has ruled its roost for years and has again beat back the competition. However, it’s that competition that forced Honda’s hand, though; every year seems to bring another powerful competitor.

While the Civic’s dimensions and powertrains are unaffected, the changes are deep and abundant. Dramatic sheet-metal tweaks produce a more aggressive look. New sound-reduction measures slash wind and road noise and, along with upgraded interior materials, make the Civic cabin a more tranquil and inviting spot for whiling away time in traffic.

Meanwhile, suspension and steering tweaks improve ride and handling.

Finally, the standard-features list grows substantially and all models now receive rearview cameras, Bluetooth handsfree connectivity, Pandora Internet radio, audible SMS text messaging and steering wheel audio controls.

The new Civic is also safer. Its body structure is reinforced to provide better frontal-impact protection, earning it top marks from the testing agencies.

The cost for these updates is surprisingly modest. Ever sensitive to the competitive environment, prices are up just $160 across the line. Sedans start at $18,995, including destination; coupes at $18,775.

For the record, there are some 25 versions of the new Civic, including the high-mileage HF ($19,765) and sporty Si ($22,715). There’s the Civic Hybrid ($24,360) and Civic Natural Gas ($27,095).

Powering most of the stable is a 140-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that’s mated in most cases to a five-speed automatic. The focus here is efficiency, not performance. Economy-minded drivers won’t mind that the transmission hurries to shift into a higher gear, or that 0-60 acceleration is more like a stroll than a sprint.

What they will appreciate are EPA ratings of 28 city/39 highway/32 combined. Hybrid owners should see city and highway numbers both in the mid-40s.

As before, the Civic comfortably accommodates four adults, all of whom enjoy plenty of leg- and headroom. Seat quality is good, though I’d prefer more lumbar support for the driver’s seat.

The Civic’s unique, two-tier dash remains. It places the speedometer high in the driver’s line of site and makes room for abundant display screens. Depending on trim and options, displays can number as many as four displays.

Similarly, the quantity of buttons and knobs grows with the options chosen. Fortunately, they are arrayed in an orderly and logical fashion. Switchgear is of a high quality.

This year’s suspension upgrades produce a comfortable ride while limiting unwanted body motions at speed. Among the family members, only the 201-hp Si has sporting pretensions; the rest tend to the everyday needs of everyday drivers.

Which, in fact, is not a bad way to account for the success of one of the world’s most popular cars. Doing the everyday better than anyone is precisely the greatness Honda expects of its mighty Civic.

Don Adair is a Spokane-based freelance writer. Contact him at don@dadair.com.

2013 Honda Civic EX

Vehicle base price: $17,965

Trim level base price: $20,815

As tested: $21,605

Optional equipment: Our EX tester included no options.

EPA rating: 28 city/39 highway

Regular unleaded fuel specified