cars

2014 Honda Civic Coupe: The World's Best iPhone Accessory

Your phone is your infotainment system.

May 16, 2014
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From cases to keyboards, we've seen a lot of great iPhone add-ons. But Honda's recently wowed us with one of the best toys you can plug into your smartphone.

It's called the 2014 Civic. It not only offers a seven-inch external navigation screen and a seven speaker sound system, but it can physically move you from one place to another. Try doing that with a pair of Beats.

I spent a pleasant week with the 2014 Civic EX Coupe (starting MSRP $20,290, $21,090 as equipped), which recently underwent a refresh. It joins a redesigned Civic sedan and rounds out one of the best-known lineups in the compact sedan segment.

Even with increased competition, the Civic still holds its own. For 2014, the coupe gets a new continuously variable transmission (CVT). CVTs get a bad rap for droning acceleration and a lack of "feel," but this one was a good match for the 143-hp, 1.8 liter, four-cylinder engine and didn't detract from the driving experience at all. Plus, it helped to deliver 31 mpg in combined driving. Steering and suspension were tighter than the average economy car, and the Civic served up just enough road feel to straddle the line between comfort and performance.

Even with two doors, rear seat legroom is good enough for most adults, and access isn't so bad, either. We're also fans of Honda's LaneWatch, which debuted on the Accord and is now optional on the Civic. A side-view camera offers a live view of the passenger-side blind spot, and is helpful for spotting cyclists and other oncoming traffic.

The 2014 Civic and 2015 Fit also debut Honda's new infotainment system, which eschews a clunky dual-screen setup in favor of a full touchscreen.

I was intrigued by the setup when I tried it out at the Detroit Auto Show, but my enthusiasm soon waned. The audio system lacks a physical volume control, replacing it with a virtual slider. It's supposed to slide as easily as a smartphone screen, but on a bumpy road or at speed, it lacks necessary precision. I rarely got the volume right on the first try.

There's another issue: The screen only displays features that are relevant to the task at hand. That means your volume control disappears when you're not on the audio screen. If Gotye comes on while you're entering a destination, you'll have to use the steering wheel controls to turn him down.

The test car wasn't equipped with factory navigation, but it did include the option to add Honda's Display Audio, which uses an iPhone 5, 5c, or 5s and a data plan to do the heavy lifting of turn-by-turn directions and map display, in addition to online music streaming services like Pandora.

It works well, with intuitive pinch-and-swipe control on the touchscreen, and is available on all Civics above the LX trim. The app itself only costs $60—a heck of a lot cheaper than factory nav. It does, however, require a splitter cable that plugs into the Civic's USB and HDMI inputs.

The Civic is also the first Honda to include Siri Eyes Free integration—press a button on the steering wheel and you've got access to the iPhone virtual assistant. If you've got Android or an older phone, however, you're out of luck, though Honda expects some Android compatibility in the near future.

Of course, the elephant in the corner of the room is wearing an Apple logo, and it's called CarPlay. Honda is one of the companies set to partner with Apple to launch a CarPlay-equipped vehicle. I reached out to Honda to ask if the 2014 models would be backwards compatible when CarPlay comes out, but they couldn't confirm whether that would be the case.

When it does hit dealerships, I predict that CarPlay will move the needle for what customers demand from their infotainment systems. Display Audio is a great first step, but just can't compete with what's around the bend.

Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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