The Honda Civic is back -- recapturing its position as a mature, substantial compact car with enough elegant touches that it makes you feel like you spent more money than you had to.
The base 2.0-liter engine is smooth, with reasonable oomph, provided you're not in a real hurry. The Civic is fitted with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that optimizes acceleration and fuel economy but tends to amplify the engine noise. If you prefer to shift yourself, a six-speed manual is available on select trim lines and is the only choice for the sporty Si version.
If you just loaf around, the CVT is unobtrusive enough and does a decent job of minimizing the transmission technology's inherent rubber-band feel. Still, if you climb a hill or merge quickly, the engine responds with annoying, whiny revs.