“Ain’t nobody’s soul ever been saved by the Unitarians,” is what my friend, Mark, said while we walked around Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unity Temple in Oak Park, IL. It was a bit unexpected, because (despite our long friendship) we rarely talk religion. All the same, it was an oddly fitting comment, because the car I drove to my latest FLLW adventure was the 2014 Honda Civic – and, to paraphrase someone a lot smarter than me, “Ain’t nobody’s ever become a car enthusiast behind the wheel of a 2014 Honda Civic.”

“That’s not to say they’re bad people,” said Mark, who grew up in a predominantly Baptist part of southern Georgia. “While I still believe no one’s ever been saved in a Unitarian Church, one of my best religious experiences was in a Unitarian Church in Athens. There were 2 elderly identical twin brothers who I had a clear view of, the way the sanctuary was set up, semicircular, and they had handlebar mustaches and tilted their heads back and forth to the rhythm of the pompabombasticated speech flowing from the pulpit. Oh, and I saw my calculus teacher in there. We nodded to each other.”

I nodded back at Mark, again struck by the weird similarities between his feelings about the Temple and mine towards the Civic. As such, I’ll try to keep that theme going and see where it takes us.

Driving the 2014 Honda Civic

The first thing I noticed when I slipped behind the wheel of the 2014 Honda Civic EX-L was the weird, double-decker dashboard. While the split dash is cleverly designed and didn’t actually hinder my forward view, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was missing something. As such, I suspect that the Civic’s unconventional dash is very likely a love-it or hate-it affair – but should point out that, by the end of my week with the little silver car, I barely noticed it.

Something I did notice was the 2014 Honda Civic’s 1.8 liter, 143 HP engine, which feels like it has quite a few more than 143 horses pushing it along thanks to the company’s excellent CVT “automatic”.

Honda’s new CVT weighs less, has less internal friction, and offers a 22% wider ratio spread than the 5 spd. automatic in the 2013 version. That contributes to better acceleration and throttle response, as well as a bump in fuel economy, from 28 city MPG in last year’s car to 30 city MPG in the 2014 Honda Civic (and that’s without pressing the big, green “Eco” button).

All of that’s great, of course. It’s very mature, even, but it’s not going to inspire a the legion of fans that led to Honda’s Riceboy Revolution Civic Nation commercial. There is nothing fast, or furious about this Civic, and I honestly wonder whether or not the sportier, Si version of the 2014 Honda Civic can deliver on the Si legend built by the Civics, Preludes, and CRXs of yore.

And that’s OK.


The Unity Temple

Back to the Unity Temple for a moment. Our tour guide explained that it was a great example of Wright’s “mature” Prairie Style that benefitted from Wright’s experimentation in several earlier Oak Park and Chicago-area buildings.

Looking at the Unity Temple, you can see a successful implementation of elements like the sculptural columns, the corner openings, the big, and the cantilevered overhangs. Similarly, this newest Honda has a greenhouse that’s instantly recognizable as a Civic, even if it’s the first time you’ve seen the 2014 model. The headlights, too, manage to look fresh while being, essentially, several generations removed from the latest and greatest thing.


God is in the Details

In the Unity Temple, there are small details in the lights and the windows that set it apart from even the most avant-garde, brutalist structures. In the Honda, as well, tiny details that help set it apart from the rest of the compact car pack abound. Up front, the new-for 2014 Honda Civic’s lights feature jewel-like reflectors, the split chin spoiler offers a unique look, too, and the mirror-mounted cameras – part of Honda’s clever LaneWatch system – work perfectly, once you get used to checking your stereo to see if anyone’s in the lane next to you. As neat as those things are, though, it was the Honda’s Pandora integration that really got my attention.

Pandora, for those of you who are unfamiliar with it, is an online radio app that allows users to custom-tailor their listening experience by giving the app a song or artist to build a radio station around. Listeners then fine-tune the station by giving songs a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” rating, until (after a while) you’re only listening to songs you like, even if you’ve never heard them before. It’s a great thing, and the HondaLink Pandora app does a great job, with album cover art, ratings, and an easy way to flip between your custom stations.

Other carmakers do Pandora well enough, sure, but – with, maybe, the exception of GM – not as well as Honda.


2014 Honda Civic EX-L, Final Thoughts


Honda did a great job redesigning the Civic for 2014. The 2014 Honda Civic is visibly more exciting than the much-maligned (but mostly the same) 2012/2013 version, but even so, it’s a very adult experience. It lacks the visceral appeal of earlier Civic Sis, even in Si trim, and it’s certainly not going to bring back fond memories of the 90s Hondas that started the FWD performance revolution … and that’s all great news.

The 2014 Honda Civic is an utterly grown up, adult experience that still seems to have enough joy built into it to appeal to a more sophisticated modern youth. The plastic rolly-up-and-down handles that I grew up with in compact cars are long gone, except in the most base of base Chevy Sparks or Mitsubishi Mirages. Which is just as well, because I can’t imagine my youngest sister or, God help me, oldest kid putting up with those for a minute. They’re a lot more advanced, it seems, than I was at their age, when all I was doing was counting valves per cylinder and specific output. They’ll be excited about the car’s ULEV-II and PZEV emissions ratings, the ease with which they can connect their iPhones, and – of course – the ability to down-vote a crap song on Pandora at 70 MPH.

So, outside of the Star Trek TNG-style dashboard, I have nothing but good things to say about the new Civic. For better and for worse, it’s not the old Civic – but that shouldn’t stop you from checking it out, because it’s every bit as solid-feeling as the Chevy Cruze, and a lot more fun to drive than the new Corolla or latest VW Jetta.



Original content from Gas 2, with special thanks to the FLLW Trust.