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Despite being ubiquitous, the Honda Civic is not a car that easily fades into the background. Its sensible compact car utility is wrapped up in a shell that is stylish and exciting, with plenty of options for power, technology and utility mixed in among its variety of trim levels.
Covering everything from the relatively basic LX model to the decisively upscale Touring, there is a Honda Civic for all kinds of budgets and all kinds of drivers. That is one of the reasons why it remains one of the most popular and highly rated compact sedans on the market today.
Selecting the right Honda Civic trim level is a relatively straightforward affair, with each model offering one or two major features or upgrades over the model below it. Nonetheless, because some options are mutually exclusive or occasionally unavailable in more upscale models, it can occasionally be difficult to navigate the Civic selection.
Compare the 2018 Civic LX vs EX Trims. What is the difference?
Good standard equipment has been a calling card of the Honda Civic for many years now as it has attempted to subvert the economy compact car stereotypes. The 2018 Honda Civic continues following that trend with its good loadout of nice comfort and connectivity features. A rearview camera is standard, as is an infotainment system with a 5-inch display, Bluetooth connectivity and a USB port.
Automatic climate control is also a standard feature, which is surprising given the car’s sub-$19,000 starting price. The Civic LX comes with a standard six-speed manual transmission and the 2.0-liter naturally-aspirated engine, though a continuously variable transmission is available as a $800 option. The only other major option on the LX is the Honda Sensing suite for $1000, which requires the CVT. It includes all but one of the Civic’s available active safety features, encompassing both forward collision and lane departure warnings, collision mitigation braking, road departure mitigation, lane keep assist and dynamic cruise control.
Notably absent from the LX is advanced smartphone integration courtesy of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Combined with the fact that its 5-inch display is not a touchscreen, the infotainment system is really the weak point of the Civic LX’s otherwise pretty solid standard equipment.
The Honda Civic EX is designed as a mass-market model, and as such it combines many of the most popularly chosen options into one easy package. It is a $1,600 upgrade over the CVT-equipped LX model, since the LX does not come in a manual option, but it brings plenty of bling to justify the price tag. The Civic EX fills in most of the missing pieces from the LX by bringing in an upgraded infotainment system and a new safety feature.
Honda LaneWatch is standard on the EX, alerting drivers to cars in their blind spot, taking a lot of stress out of highway lane changes. When combined with the optional Honda Sensing package, which is the same as on the LX, the EX can be equipped with pretty much the entire assortment of safety features that can be had on the 2018 Civic.
The upgraded infotainment comes with a 7-inch modern touchscreen, an extra USB port, support for satellite and HD radio, and both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for all of your smartphone integration needs. Rounding out the set of upgrades on the EX is a moonroof, an 8-speaker sound system, and alloy wheels.
When choosing between the two, the EX model definitely stands out thanks to its collection of must-have features. Touchscreens and advanced smartphone app support are rapidly becoming a standard on modern cars, so that could be a dealbreaker for many drivers. Similarly, the LaneWatch functionality on the EX is one of those features that you simply can’t live without after you’ve gotten used to it.
Compare the 2018 Honda Civic EX vs EX-T Trim Levels. What is the difference?
The EX-T is a variation of the EX model that distinguishes itself primarily thanks to its more powerful turbocharged engine. The LX and EX models of the 2018 Honda Civic use a 2.0-liter naturally aspirated engine with 158 horsepower. The EX-T replaces it with a 1.5-liter turbo with an output of 174 horsepower. It is a noticeable boost and, more impressively, it comes with almost no decrease in fuel economy compared to the regular EX.
A spoiler is standard equipment, as befit the trim’s sporty nature, as well as fog lights, heated seats and dual zone automatic climate control. It is available with both the six-speed manual and a CVT, with the latter available at an $800 premium. The CVT-equipped models can add the Honda Sensing suite as well.
At $1,200 to move from an EX with a CVT to a similar EX-T, the value of the upgrade really depends on how you feel about the standard engine. While the 158-horsepower engine is fairly functional and is likely sufficient for most drivers, it can seem a little underwhelming when compared to some of the more performance-focused of the Civic’s competitors, such as the Mazda 3.
If that bothers you, then the EX-T is the perfect antidote. Other than the engine, the upgrades offered on the EX-T are not particularly impressive, with the regular EX offering more value and the EX-L offering more comfort features. A notable omission on the EX-T is that the manual transmission models still don’t get access to the Honda Sensing premium package, though they are also equipped with the LaneWatch technology on the EX-T.With even the highest-end manual Civic - the Si - lacking the advanced safety features of Honda Sensing, spending big on a manual transmission Civic for anything other than performance reasons can be a hard sell.
Compare the Civic EX-T vs EX-L Trims. What is the difference?
The 2018 Civic EX-L keeps all of the features that the CVT EX-T model adds, including the more powerful turbo engine, and refinishes the interior with leather upholstery. The driver’s seat on the EX-L also gets eight-way power adjustment replacing the manual levers on the lower grade models. The EX-L comes only with an automatic transmission and, like the rest of the models, offers Honda Sensing as an an optional feature.
A new optional feature that the EX-L adds is the built-in Honda satellite navigation, which is also priced at $1,000. However, it is an tricky option as it is mutually exclusive to the Honda Sensing - you can only choose one or the other for your 2018 Honda Civic EX-L. For most drivers, the choice is a rather straightforward one, especially since the Apple CarPlay or Android Auto can be used to control your favorite smartphone navigation app from the Civic’s touch screen.
Just like the EX-T upgrade, the EX-L relies on its one major attractive feature to pull in buyers. If you want the leather upholstery, the EX-L is the best choice for you. However, the relative lack of other additional features on this trim level limits its value for customers looking to maximize the amount of car they get for their money.
Compare the Civic EX-L vs Touring Trim Levels. What is the difference?
The top grade of the Honda Civic hierarchy, the Honda Civic Touring offers pretty much everything you might want to equip your Civic with. Unlike the EX-L, the Touring allows you to get both the navigation and the Honda Sensing packages, and in fact includes both as standard features.
When including both of those options, the Touring costs only about $800 more in list price than the EX-L. For that money, you get a powered passenger seat, heated rear seats and rain-sensing windshield wipers. That is quite posh for the overall $26,700 MSRP of the Civic Touring.
In terms of the overall value of the gear you get compared to the price you pay for it, the Civic Touring provides a very reasonable return on your investment if you want all or most of the features that it offers. However, like most high-end models of mass-market cars, many of its options fall closer to the ‘nice to have’ than the ‘must-have’ category for most drivers.
Compare the 2018 Honda Civic EX-T vs Si Trim Levels. What is the difference?
While the Civic EX-L and Touring offer comfort-focused upgrades over the EX-T model, the Civic Si is the most performance-oriented of the Civic sedans. It uses the same engine as the EX-T, but that is accompanied by a very aggressive tune and a stronger boost from the turbo in order to squeeze out 205 horsepower. The adaptive suspension that lets you toggle between normal driving and the road-hugging Sport modes is a pleasant surprise, as is the short-throw version of the regular six-speed manual transmission.
There is no CVT option for the Si, which makes sense given its performance orientation. Also included are all of the EX-T amenities, such as heated seats, a moonroof and the LaneWatch system. Like all manual Civics, there is no option to get the Honda Sensing safety technology for the Si, but there is an optional high-performance suspension package to make the Civic Si even more agile.
Most people who are interested in what the Honda Civic Si has to offer are probably already familiar with it. It is one of those cars that have earned legendary status among performance enthusiasts and street racers alike. This trim makes little sense for most buyers, as the lack of active safety features and an automatic transmission is a big omission.
Which Trim Level to Choose?
The 2018 Honda Civic provides several good trim options to select from. When it comes to value, the EX stands out thanks to the many must-have features that it adds over the base model, such as LaneWatch, advanced infotainment and Honda Sensing. If leather is a must-have for you in your compact car, the EX-L can also be a worthwhile upgrade. And while the manual transmission does not get nearly as much features as the CVT, the manual EX-T variant and the Honda Civic Si both offer a good combination of power and features, including all of the usual must-haves from the EX model.
And while the Honda Civic Touring offers a fairly incremental upgrade for the money, it is still a far better equipped model for the price than many of its competitors, making it a good choice when it comes to the higher end of the compact car price spectrum.
• Why buy a 2018 Honda Civic? w/ pros vs cons