2010 Honda Civic EX-L review: 2010 Honda Civic EX-L

Sprightly engine
For power, the Civic EX-L uses a sprightly little 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, mated to either a five-speed manual or automatic, as in our car. We liked the way the Civic felt ready to leap forward as soon as we put it in drive. That eagerness almost made it difficult to control as we maneuvered our way out of a crowded parking lot.

The Civic can be had with a manual or automatic transmission--five gears with each choice.

Honda squeezes 140 horsepower and 128 pound-feet of torque out of this engine using its i-VTEC variable-valve-timing technology. Techwise, the power train is far from cutting edge, another average component of the Civic. Other automakers are trotting out turbocharged and direct injection engines, whereas five speeds on the gearbox seems primitive.

The Civic drives well enough; it is easy to shoot around town and reasonably comfortable at speed on the freeway. When we mashed the gas pedal for passing power, the transmission dropped down a gear and the engine made a tortured grinding sound as the revs climbed. The Civic is one of those cars with good acceleration up to about 30 mph, but it quickly loses wind.

Its handling is responsive, but not particularly sporty. Honda offers the Civic Si for that. The Civic displays the kind of understeer we would expect, and the body is prone to leaning in turns when pushed, despite the firm suspension.

The Civic acquired this bilevel instrument cluster in its last update.

The EPA puts the Civic fuel economy at 25 mpg city and 36 mpg highway. By contrast, we easily got over 40 mpg with the Honda Insight hybrid, which, similarly equipped, can be had for about $2,000 less than the Civic. Going by the numbers, the Insight seems a no-brainer compared with the Civic.

In sum
Reiterating the point, the 2010 Honda Civic EX-L is a fine but purely average car. It has some of the cabin tech features we look for in cars, but the performance is not all that good, and the aesthetics are definitely lacking. The Civic also faces very tough competition in its segment from cars such as the new Kia Forte, which offers a better Bluetooth phone system and iPod integration, although not navigation.

The Civic's 1.8-liter four-cylinder and five-speed automatic is also pretty average in the current car market. Fuel economy is good, but not great, with the company's own Insight hybrid besting it without sacrificing much in the way of power.

Spec box
Model 2010 Honda Civic
Trim EX-L with navigation
Powertrain 1.8-liter four cylinder engine
EPA fuel economy 25 mpg city/36 mpg highway
Observed fuel economy Not recorded
Navigation DVD-based
Bluetooth phone support Standard
Disc player MP3 compatible single CD
MP3 player support iPod integration
Other digital audio USB drive, PC Card, satellite radio
Audio system 160 watt six speaker system
Driver aids None
Base price $23,805
Price as tested $24,555

What you'll pay

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