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

2010 Honda Civic EX-L

Wayne Cunningham

Wayne Cunningham

Managing Editor / Roadshow

Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.

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5 min read

2010 Honda Civic EX-L

The Good

The 2010 Honda Civic EX-L with navigation includes a good voice command system and iPod integration. Fuel economy is good.

The Bad

Poor quality maps make route guidance frustrating, and most cabin tech functions react sluggishly. Two sets of buttons for voice command overlap on the steering wheel.

The Bottom Line

Although it includes the basic features we look for in a tech car, the 2010 Honda Civic EX-L needs an update badly to keep up with the competition.

An absolute stalwart in the Honda line-up, the Civic maintains its popularity as a practical and quality economy car even after almost 40 years on the market. But, as the latest 2010 Honda Civic shows, popularity comes at a price. Offensive to none, the Civic is a perfectly average little car to which only the most particular person would turn up their nose.

The Civic received its last major update for the 2006 model year, acquiring smooth sides and hovercraft like overhangs. Honda did get a little radical with the instrument cluster, using a bilevel arrangement with the tachometer in the usual place, and a digital speedometer just below the windshield.

Nav needs update
Minor updates for the Civic EX-L model with navigation that we reviewed include the addition of a Bluetooth cell phone system and iPod integration. But the navigation system in particular highlights the aching need for Honda's next generation Civic, due to arrive as a 2012 model. Not only are the maps low resolution, with jaggy graphics, but the route guidance is poor and response time is slow.

The navigation system maps show jagged street names and graphics.

This navigation system was introduced with the 2006 model, so don't expect external data sources with traffic and weather information, even though the car comes with satellite radio. The maps show in 2D only, on a touch-screen that also displays audio information.

We had no difficulty entering addresses into this navigation system, although there was a slight delay after each button push. Trying to follow its route guidance through dense urban streets proved frustrating, with insufficient graphics and voice prompts that seem to come only at every fifth turn.

Honda includes its excellent voice command system in the car, but its response time was also slow. Further, with the addition of the voice-operated Bluetooth phone system, the car gets two sets of voice command buttons, something we have previously complained about in models from Acura before the cabin tech was streamlined.

Using the Bluetooth phone system with a paired iPhone, the only feedback on the car's LCD is an informational graphic showing the location of the voice command buttons. You have to use voice command to enter digits, and the system does not import a phone's contact list.

Bluetooth was one add-on to this generation of Civic, as was iPod integration, which relies on a pigtail USB port in the console. Again, the system showed quite a bit of sluggishness as we selected albums or artists from the iPod library menu. The USB port will also work with USB mass storage devices.

To access the CD slot, you need to open up the LCD.

As with the 2006 model, the only way to access the CD slot is to open up the LCD screen, which motors down. That single CD player also handles MP3 CDs. A more esoteric option sits near the CD slot in the form of a PC Card slot. With either a flash memory PC Card or an adaptor for an SD card you can play MP3s through the stereo.

Bolstering the Civic's average nature, the EX-L trim version gets a six-speaker audio system. Not particularly loud, this system reproduced music well enough that we didn't mind listening to it, but neither did we look forward to cruising around in the car listening to music.

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

Model2010 Honda Civic
TrimEX-L with navigation
Powertrain1.8-liter four cylinder engine
EPA fuel economy25 mpg city/36 mpg highway
Observed fuel economyNot recorded
Bluetooth phone supportStandard
Disc playerMP3 compatible single CD
MP3 player supportiPod integration
Other digital audioUSB drive, PC Card, satellite radio
Audio system160 watt six speaker system
Driver aidsNone
Base price$23,805
Price as tested$24,555

2010 Honda Civic EX-L

Score Breakdown

Cabin tech 5Performance tech 5Design 5


See full specs Available Engine GasBody style Coupe