Doing My “Civic” Duty…

It’s the summer. It’s race season. And that means it’s time for some test drives!

Living in the heart of Toronto, I don’t do a lot of driving. It’s impractical, and incredibly frustrating to be honest. I don’t even own a car. But, come the summer months, I spend my weekends traveling cross country and cross border to attend and cover races for the IZOD IndyCar series (and any other series races I can squeeze into my schedule)

So what better opportunity to test drive some vehicles? I get to put them through their paces while getting a true sense of their capabilities and comfort.  I also get some honest reactions to said vehicles from some true gear heads in the process.

Oh, and let it be noted that every event I have attended whilst test driving a Honda has ended with Honda atop the podium! In fact the last event was a Honda sweep!!

My most recent test drive took me from Toronto to Indianapolis to Detroit to Elora to Toronto. Last year’s journey saw me traveling in style in the Honda CR-Z.  My chariot of choice this year? The 2013 Honda Civic Coupe EX-L Navi.

I had recently driven a 2013 Chevy Cruze, and requested something in the same category for comparison. Full disclosure, It had been a couple of years since I drove a Civic, and admittedly I didn’t enjoy it when I did. While the driving itself was top notch, I remember I found the car to be cumbersome, with an awkwardly elongated dash, and not very esthetically pleasing on the outside either. The 2013 coupe version of the Civic is much sportier inside and out, while still providing the reliable driving Honda customers seek. (after all, it’s been Canada’s best selling car for over 15 years!)

My ride for the week was described to me as a “brown Civic”, which invoked a “Mr. Yuck” face from me. That was a severe misrepresentation. It was actually a gorgeous metallic espresso colour “Kona Coffee Metallic” to be specific. (yes, colour is as important to me as any other feature, I am still a girl afterall). Throw on some 17x7J aluminum-alloy wheels, and you’ve got one sexy little coupe! (Which I apologetically returned to the Honda headquarters covered in the dusty, muddy remnants of my journey) (thus the not so pretty pictures on my part)

The first thing I noticed was the nice “weight” of the car. My biggest disappointment with my last test drive, the 2012 Honda Fit, was how light it was. (and I have just discovered in attempting to link to my review of that car, that the interweb ate my post! gah! Will have to find my notes and repost that one asap!) Anyhoo… the Civic Coupe was just the right mix of agile and “grippy”. You didn’t feel bogged down by an overly heavy car, but you didn’t feel like you could be blown off the road or take flight at anytime, which was my biggest (actually my ONLY) complaint about the Fit.

Like the 2012 CR-Z I had the pleasure of testing on this trip last year, the 2013 Civic Coupe is equipped with Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA®) with traction control. Let me just say, this is a handy and comforting little feature, which I unfortunately put to the test.

My dad taught me that it wasn’t about how good a driver I was, but rather about being aware of how bad all the other drivers on the road were, and being prepared to react at all times. The VSA allows you to react to things like idiots on cell phones swerving across the nose of your car and deers attempting to commit suicide.

My other new favorite feature was the 4-wheel anti-lock braking system (ABS) with Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist, which I discovered when a jacktard decided to run a red light. I was able to bring myself to a sudden and complete stop without swerving or putting myself through the windshield.

In all instances I was able to swerve, avoid, and come to a sudden safe stop in absolute full control of the car. I can also say with 100% certainty that these handy safety features are the reason I and my car arrived at all of my destinations unscathed, and that I returned this vehicle exactly how I received it (with the inclusion of the aforementioned dust :-( )

Once again I had a car equipped with the Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System with trilingual Voice Recognition ™. Let me tell you. When you are a woman, traveling alone in strange places, you do not want to be without a navigation system. One of the features on this particular model was that you were alerted to upcoming exits/turns in a small window on the dash just to the right of the odometer, so you never had to take your eyes off the road.

Likewise, the steering wheel housed the controls for both the radio and the cruise control, so you could easily navigate through both without taking your hands off the wheel or your concentration off your driving. Again I made use of the cruise control feature, especially on the U.S. side. The combination of the ease and speed of the 1.8L, 16 valve, SOHC i-VTEC® 4-cylinder engine and my lead food, made it a priority ;-)

The other familiar feature was the ECON button, which puts the car into fuel-saving mode, and Eco Assist™, which essentially coaches you to drive better (or rather more efficiently) Like the CR-Z hybrid, your dash lights up in various degrees of Green to Blue, dependent upon your driving style. The more efficiently you drive, the greener your dash. Though I didn’t get to grow any trees like you do on the hybrid, I did manage to keep my dash fairly green (with the odd stretch of turquoise) and eek out some very efficient driving and fuel saving. In other words, this trip did not break the bank with fuel consumption.

Other “Meesh muses” in this car included perfectly executed cup-holders! (no spillage or awkward angles to traverse!) A handy center console with a lid that slid forward to give you a comfortable arm rest, and not one, but two auxiliary plug in areas to charge/hook up your smartphone. (this is particularly handy if you have more than one traveler requiring a plug. The one just below the radio had a handy shelf for said smartphone too. <pic> The multi angle rear camera came in handy, specially for me and my not so stellar parallel parking skills, and the seat warmers once again came in handy after long, unseasonably cold days.

OH, and I was spoiled by the XM satellite radio, which admittedly was tuned into the 70′s station for most of my trip, leading to some rather comical exchanges between me and the folks I made eye contact with while driving past them singing cheesy tunes from my childhood at the top of my lungs.

My only “hmm… I don’t like that” moment came upon discovering the lack of rear window wiper(s), especially on the rather large, sloped rear window of this model. My fears were dispelled immediately when discovering that a quick flip of the rear defrost button cleared the window sufficiently, and that even in the most driving downpour, it wasn’t an issue. (and trust me, I drove through three insane mid-western super storms, which tested not only the clearing capabilities of the wipers, but also clenching abilities of my butt-cheeks… ) This was when I also appreciated the addition of the fogs lights on this model.

Before returning the car, I hopped into the back seat and discovered that I it probably wouldn’t be the most comfortable ride for the 3rd and forth passenger, at least for any distance Being a 2-door coupe, it was also comically awkward to get out of the car once you were back there. (especially when you’re 5’8″ and mostly arms and legs) I made the mistake of testing this theory whilst alone in the Honda parking lot upon returning my test drive, and had so much trouble getting out that I had visions of having to call someone in the building to help extricate me from the vehicle…  (wouldn’t THAT have been a funny story)

The Honda Civic Coupe starts at a reasonable $18,645, and builds from there with the added bells and whistles. I can say unequivocally that were I in the market for a car, this one would be near the top of my list.

A grown up city car, with a youthful, sporty edge, perfect for short trips in town or long escapes from the concrete jungle!

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