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Honda saves the Civic

Honda has spruced up the interior of the Honda Civic EX-L sedan for 2013 after the latest generation of the popular compact was widely panned.

LOS ANGELES -- The interior treatment of Honda's current Civic was so panned by critics that the company went on a crash course to fix it. Rather than wait the traditional three model years to give the car a midcycle change, Honda made wholesale changes to the Civic just 19 months into its product cycle.

So, did Honda fix it?

I'd have to say yes.

The current Civic interior is a collision of angles, mismatched colors and low-grade plastics. The 2013 model, by comparison, is almost luxurious looking.

The lines of the instrument panel sweep and feed cleanly into the center console. No more oblique meetings of center console panels jutting at weird angles. The tactile feel of the panels is upgraded with softer-touch materials and better graining. And by reviving the old-school, charcoal-black color palette, the interior looks more refined.

Some will complain that Honda made its interior boring and bland. But trust me, this is a huge improvement.

On top of the design changes, the Civic lineup now features standard Bluetooth, Pandora Internet Radio, SMS text messaging and a rear backup camera, which previously were options. Despite all this added content, Honda raised the starting price for the Civic by just $160.

The 2013 Honda Civic EX-L sedan Photo credit: HONDA

Here's the scary thing: Honda is selling between 20,000 and 25,000 Civics -- the one with the panned interior -- every month. The Civic is leading the U.S. compact segment in sales so far this year.

Through October, the Civic was leading the aging Corolla by 11,000 units, and was killing the newer Ford Focus by nearly 50,000 units. Granted, Honda was throwing big lease deals around to make people shop the car, but it still was a formidable performance.

Now that Honda has cleaned up its interior, the competition should be afraid – very, very afraid.

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