Halfway through a car's effective life in showrooms is usually the point in time where the manufacturer institutes a neat little update; spiffy them up (so to speak) to compete against the younger models in the market.
Honda has just done that with the Civic, as they have updated the entire line-up with a few additional features and aesthetic enhancements. No variant has made that more obvious than the new top-of-the-line version of Honda's compact car in the new 2014 Civic 2.0 EL, and now we'll take it for a spin.
Right off the bat we can tell it's quite the head turner. The reason for that is the striking look is owed to some design upgrades from Mugen; Honda's factory tuning arm. When compared side-by-side to the standard Civic and even against the Modulo-equipped (by Honda Access, the company's accessories unit) version, it's clear that the Mugen is far more aggressive in style.
The body of the Civic 2.0 EL Mugen comes equipped with a large chin that not only lowers the overall profile of the car, but wraps around the foglamp ports as well, significantly changing the look of the car and complemented by the more stylish Mugen radiator grill piece. Side skirts from Mugen are also installed and so is the rather sporty lower rear skirt. Finishing off the design is a tall spoiler that is a bit of an acquired taste (I would have preferred a Mugen ducktail, if they had it), a variety of Mugen emblems and the larger 17-inch wheels. As it stands, the Mugen ensemble does give the Civic a far more crisp design than the original.
Inside, the Civic Mugen is virtually the same as the previous models we drove. What's different is that this new variant gets some neat black leather upholstery on the steering wheel and the seats. There are some things we wish they updated a bit more like the hard plastic on the dashboard and other bits, particularly because the City actually has a nicer dash, but still, the upgrades do nicely to make the larger Civic feel more premium and upscale.
Standard features include the usual power amenities such as power windows, steering, mirrors, central locks and others. Honda has upped the audio unit with a 2-DIN touchscreen system with USB input, iPod connectivity, Bluetooth and even an HDMI port much like the new City and Jazz. Climate control is also standard along with HID headlamps for better illumination while consuming less electricity from the system.
Under the hood is one of Honda's 2.0 liter SOHC i-VTEC motors that makes 155 PS. The figures aren't exactly stellar, but 155 is plenty for the car, though I do miss the days when Honda's B16 engines were still found in new cars; engines that (at 170 PS from a 1.6L) developed more than 100 PS per liter of displacement. The 2.0L R20A5 i-VTEC engine in this Civic is matched with a 5-speed automatic with paddle shifters.
As expected, the Civic 2.0L performs flawlessly in town; smooth, slick and shifts intuitively, kicking down a gear or two when you prod the throttle while cruising. Efficiency is also good, given that the Civic 2.0L returned 8.1 kilometers per liter in moderate city traffic and 12.6 on the highway.
For handling, as expected, the Civic does perform well, tracking a challenging road with ease. Braking is good. Power is good. Turn in and body roll control are good. What I did find odd is that Honda released the Civic 2.0 EL Mugen without any Mugen suspension upgrades (i.e. stiffer springs, dampers, sway bars, strut tower bars, etc.) or even performance upgrades (i.e. filter, muffler, etc.) so it's best to not push the car on the road like you just stepped out of a video game.
As a proposition on the showroom floor, the 2014 Honda Civic 2.0 EL Mugen is a bit on the pricey side given the cost of the original Mugen kit. Out of the box, the Civic Mugen is already at PhP 1,368,000, bringing the car to the very top of the class in price. To give you an idea, the Mazda3 2.0R and Toyota Corolla Altis 2.0V are both at the PhP 1.2M mark while the previous top priced compact, the all-wheel drive Subaru Impreza 2.0i CVT is under PhP 1.3M.
The 2014 Honda Civic 2.0 EL Mugen does perform with a great sense of balance with the way the brakes, engine, transmission and suspension work together, and the kit does elevate the sharp demeanor of the Civic. I just thought it could have used a few performance upgrades to truly deserve the Mugen badge and make the price much more justifiable to the, uh, missus.