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Review: 2014 Honda Civic EX-L coupe

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In today's comparison review of 11 compact sedans, the Civic scored first place, beating its competitors for providing pleasant, safe, and economical transportation. But if the Civic sedan seems just too dull, or too ubiquitous, Honda is one of the few automakers left selling a coupe version of its compact four-door.

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In a recent weeklong test, a fully loaded Civic EX-L coupe displayed many of the same qualities that endeared this reviewer to the sedan. The powertrain delivers decent pep and outstanding gas mileage. Handling is more agile than the average economy car. The interior uses nice materials. The class-exclusive LaneWatch sideview camera is convenient and useful.

But the Civic coupe loses the sedan's versatility – both the convenience of having four doors, plus the rear seat that had been roomy enough for three adults. Even two are a squeeze in the back of a two-door Civic.

The Civic coupe also loses the sedan's balance of a smooth ride and decently agile handling; without an obvious improvement in sportiness, the coupe has a bumpier and slightly noisier ride than the sedan. Crash test results and fuel economy are also slightly better in the sedan than the coupe.

On a subjective level, the Civic coupe also isn't as classy as the sedan, especially following a 2014 restyle. In an attempt to make the car look more aggressive, Honda tacked copious amounts of plastic to the front and rear ends. Tastes will vary; this reviewer was not impressed, though the overall shape of the car remains unquestionably more sleek and sporty than the Civic sedan.

So why buy the Civic coupe, when it's so compromised compared to the sedan?

The target audience would likely ask a different question: “Once I've decided I want a sporty-looking car, which one should I buy?”

Most sporty-looking coupes are also fairly sporty vehicles, with engines and suspensions tuned more for performance than commuting, and price tags reflecting the cost of such engineering. The Civic, meanwhile, remains an easy-to-drive, relatively affordable, and highly fuel-efficient economy car – under $25,000 fully-loaded, under $19,000 base, and rated for 33 miles per gallon in mixed driving. (This reviewer observed 36.5 mpg, more on the highway than in the city.)

The closest two competitors to the Civic coupe are the coupe versions of the Hyundai Elantra and Kia Forte, which have similar pros and cons to the Civic coupe compared to the sedan. Branching out, the two-door Civic also competes with a couple of small hatchbacks: the Scion tC and Hyundai Veloster. The tC offers more standard features and punchier acceleration but much lower fuel economy. The Veloster has greater versatility (with a single small rear door) and livelier handling, but also trails the Civic's gas mileage. And when styling helps decide among the three, note that none is a poor choice, aside from the Scion's fuel efficiency.

But if you're open to a sedan (or five-door hatchback), that's the route to take over the Civic coupe. Its advantages are cosmetic; its disadvantages are real.

See also:
Review: 2014 Honda Civic EX sedan
Review: 2012 Hyundai Veloster
Review: 2011 Honda CR-Z EX

Vehicle tested: 2014 Honda Civic coupe
Vehicle base price (MSRP): $18,190
Version tested: EX-L
Version base price (MSRP): $22,540
Vehicle price as tested (MSRP): $24,830
Estimated transaction price as tested: $23,566
Test vehicle provided by: Honda North America

Key specifications:
Length: 177.9 inches
Width: 69.0 inches
Height: 55.0 inches
Wheelbase: 103.2 inches
Weight: 2,916 pounds
Trunk volume: 11.7 cubic feet
Turning circle: 35.4 feet
Engine (as tested): 1.8-liter I4 with 143 horsepower
Transmission (as tested): CVT automatic
EPA city mileage: 29 miles per gallon
EPA highway mileage: 38 miles per gallon
EPA combined mileage: 33 miles per gallon
Observed mileage during test: 36.5 miles per gallon
Assembly location: Canada
For more information: Honda website

*Estimated transaction prices are based on data from Truecar.com and dealer quotes.

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