The refresh to the Honda Civic for 2014 is subtle, and Auto Express has driven the new model ahead of the order books opening early next year.

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It’s not quite a full-blown face lift, just a series of minor tweaks aimed at lifting quality, improving handling and boosting high-speed stability.

Styling updates are limited to the gloss black grille and wheelarch surrounds – rather than dark grey – a gloss black strip below the rear windscreen and a contrasting black diffuse, rather than a body-colored one.

• Honda Civic in-depth review

There are changes inside, too, like new piano black detailing on the dashboard and steering wheel. We tried an updated Civic back- to-back with a current model, and the changes do improve the way it drives – albeit subtly.

Tweaks to the suspension have meant that through bumpy corners the Civic now feels a lot more tied down to the road.

There’s a fraction less roll, too. Changes to the steering have ensured it now feels quicker to react to driver inputs, but it’s still not as crisp as the set-up in the Focus. The 1.6-litre i-DTEC is unchanged, so it’s as punchy and efficient as ever, if rough-sounding.

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The starting price will remain at £16,995, but trim levels are likely to change. A new feature offered for the first time in a Honda is a safety package including active city braking and lane departure warning, which will cost around £800.

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