It's not, nor are a lot of cars that are so labeled, but in this one there are a fantastic number of changes for the better. The overhaul is extensive enough to make a mockery of the acronym Honda uses for midcycle updates: MMC (minor model change).
Honda says it began working on the updates even before the 2012 hit the market 19 months ago, because it was evident that rivals were moving faster.
"Our industry has never been as fast-changing," says Art St. Cyr, Honda's vice president of product planning.
It's mere coincidence, Honda says, that the 2013 Civic updates should also quell the griping that the 2012 triggered from the rollout for a cheap-looking interior, clunky road behavior, styling that many have found unexciting and a generally behind-the-curve persona.
Not that buyers have been insufficiently satisfied by the 2012 Civic. Sales are zooming vs. last year, though it's partly because there was a shortage then, and there isn't one now.
When Honda unwrapped the 2013 Civic Thursday at the Los Angeles Auto Show (and simultaneously put it on sale), the company put an upbeat face on the fast refresh. In Honda's view, launching a car with so many changes in "just one model year" should be considered admirable "speed to market."
But the situation feels unpleasantly more like the tech industry, were new products are put onto the market before they are ready, then updated in response to protest, leaving early adopters -- often a brand's most-loyal buyers -- with lesser products.
Honda is in a ticklish spot: What does it say to the 200,000-some people who bought the "old" new 2012 Civic, now that the "new" new 2013 Civic is so much better? "Oops," seems insufficient.
Owners of 2012 Civics will take a big hit on depreciation if they try to unload theirs soon, says Larry Dominique, president of ALG, which calculates depreciation.
Making the 2013 Civic better:
• More sound-deadening, including noise-reducing pads and thicker windshield and front window glass.
• A stiffer chassis for better handling and road feel, and more-responsive steering. Included is a new crash structure to improve safety ratings in the new partial-offset front collision tests.
• Nicer plastic and fabric inside, with more soft-touch materials, more attractive detailing and more metal accents.
• More standard features, including a backup camera on all models and an array of new infotainment features.
• Enough styling changes hood and trunk lid in addition to the normal grille and light updates, adding about 2 inches in length overall to send the factory guys to the bar across the street, muttering about "who's gonna pay for all this?"
The bill for the work is a weight boost of some 50 to 90 pounds, depending on model, and a price boost of $160 on each model. Modest for all the improvements.
And, boy, are they improvements.
Changes are noted immediately. The car looks snappier, is quieter from the moment you turn the key, feels firmer and more agile, and has the mantle of classiness the predecessor lacked.
Interior changes that might sound inconsequential add up to a big deal. Simply deepening the grain in dash and door padding makes it look more like leather and less like hard plastic. Not only do things inside feel nicer to touch, they are nicer to view.
Seats are comfortable (not always true of Hondas) and back seat legroom will handle most adults.
The recalibrated steering is a joy, avoiding the two common sins: so responsive it's twitchy, or so power-assisted that it's numb.
The driver information display tries for the same 3-D effect it always has sought, and does a fair job. Instrument lighting, unchanged, varies colors to suggest how eco-sensitive your driving is.
The main driver display is neither harder nor easier to read at a glance than more conventional gauges.
Unchanged: Drivetrains, trunk and passenger space, gas tank size.
Result: Civic's now a car that's fun to drive, not one that's just OK. It feels as if it's a credible contender for best compact. The 2012 felt more like a ho-hum contender for that title.
• What? Fast update of Honda's front-drive compact sedan after just 19 months to catch up with market.
• When? Gasoline-engine sedan went on sale Thursday, simultaneous with unveiling at Los Angeles Auto Show. Other models due soon.
• Where? Made at Greensburg, Ind., and Alliston, Ontario.
• How much? All models start $160 more than 2012s. Base sedan starts at $18,955 with $790 shipping; coupe starts $18,755.
On-sale dates of other 2013 Civics, and their base prices, including $790 shipping:
Coupe Dec. 5, $18,755.
Natural gas sedan Dec. 10, $27,255.
Si high-performance coupe Dec. 12, $23,305.
Hybrid sedan and Si sedan Jan. 23, $25,150 and $23,505.
HF high-fuel-efficiency sedan Feb. 6, $20,555.
• What makes it go? Most models use 1.8-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine rated 140 horsepower at 6,500 rpm, 128 pounds-feet of torque at 4,300 rpm; five-speed manual or five-speed automatic. Si performance models use 2.4-liter rated 201 hp, 170 lbs. ft.
• How big? Gasoline sedan, the most popular model, is 179.4 inches long, 69 in. wide, 56.5 in. tall, on a 105.1 in. wheelbase. Coupe slightly smaller.
Gasoline sedans weigh 2,740 to 2,877 lbs. Coupes, 2,716 to 2,868 lbs. Trunk: 12. 5 cubic feet, sedan; 11.7 cu. ft., coupe. Hybrid sedan weighs 2,868 to 2,879 lbs. Trunk is 10.7 cu. ft.
• How thirsty? Most models with 1.8-liter engine rated 28 mpg in the city, 39 highway, 32 in mixed driving. Hybrid: 44/44/44.
Test car with 1.8 liter, automatic transmission registered 26.2 mpg (3.82 gallons per 100 miles).
Burns regular, holds 13.2 gallons.
• Overall: Big improvement, but why not at 2012 launch 19 months ago?
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)