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The 143-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that powers most trims is typically Honda — smooth, efficient and responsive. For 2014, Honda replaces last year’s five-speed automatic transmission with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that boosts both fuel efficiency and acceleration. Like a conventional automatic, the Civic’s CVT “kicks down” under heavy throttle to a lower ratio, producing real acceleration and none of the noisy drama of most CVTs.

Honda