Music:Teenage Fanclub - "Your Love Is the Place Where I Come From"
The best improvement so far in Civilization IV is that the other countries don't just declare war on you at random. They need to have a reason and in most cases, several reasons. Just having close borders isn't even to do it (so far). They have to hate your religion or type of government or that you have slavery. And even then, they'll weigh those things against the fact that you've always had fair trade relations with them or that you've had centuries of peace.
It's not that diplomacy is easy, but it's still easier than war. And that fits my style fine. I'd rather have their cities defect to me because of my superior culture than because I spent four hundred years sending archers and cavalry to conquer them. I prefer to win by getting to space first or by building lots of Wonders of the World. And of course by just plain outbreeding everybody else.