The first time I drove the 2022 Honda Civic, it reminded me a Volkswagen Jetta. I mean that as a compliment. I've always thought the Jetta had a higher level of refinement than the Civic. To me, the compact Volkswagen seemed to be an entry-level European sport sedan, while the Honda was content to knock off competing economy cars with better better engineering, mileage and reliability.
But the completely redesigned Civic changes all that. Although lower and wider, Honda has toned down the aggressive exterior design (especially the rear end), upgraded the chassis for a much more sophisticated ride, and transformed the interior into an oasis of restraint, peace and quiet. In my mind, the result is much more sophisticated European than youth-oriented Japanese or South Korean. American manufacturers don't count because none of them are making new low-cost compact cars anymore.
The first new Civic I drove was a Sport model, which is one step above the base LX. It came with a normally-aspirated 2.0-liter inline four that produced a meager 158 horsepower and cloth seats. But it still reminded me of a European car. The engine was surprisingly peppy, the ride was well sprung, and it came with a wealth of technology.
Now I've had a chance to test the top-of-the-line Touring edition. It is an even more of an entry-level premium sport sedan. The turbocharged 1.5-liter four generates a healthy 180 horsepower and is surprisingly fast in the Sport mode. The full leather interior is tastefully upscale, making the new dash — with a full-length metal mesh that houses the climate control vents — even more sublime. All of which makes the ride seem even more refined.
But the new Civic is still an economy car. My fully-loaded tester was priced at under $30,000, making it an incredible bargain.
But make no mistake. As good as it is, Honda is taking a tremendous risk with the new version of the Civic. The restrained styling may not appeal to the boy racers — both serious and wannabes — that have long been an important part of its fan base. Other economy car manufacturers are offering more radically styled compacts. And some have introduced performance versions ahead of the upcoming Civic models.
But — aside from the short-lived 2015 version — Honda has not made another mistake with the Civic. It was first introduced in 1972 and the new version is the 11th generation, which is an eternity in the automotive world. The Civic has long been the #1 vehicle for Millennials, Gen Z, first-time and multicultural buyers. If the company thinks buyers are ready for a recalibration, who am I to question that?
Like most of the previous models, the new Civic is available as a sedan and a hatchback, although it is hard to tell them apart at first glance because both of the rear ends slope toward a slightly raised spoiler. Although I consider hatchbacks more practical, I understand some buyers might think an old fashioned trunk is more secure.
Either way, the 2022 Honda Civic is the most refined version of the best-selling compact car ever offered. If you want an economy car that does more than simply getting you from point A to point B — a lot more — it should be at the top of your shopping list.
2022 Honda Civic Touring
Base price: $21,900
Price as tested: $29,690
Style: Compact sedan
Engine: 2.0-liter 4 (158 hp, 138 lbs-ft); turbocharged 1.5-liter 4 (180 hp, 177 lbs-fit)
Transmission: Continuously Variable Transmission
Drive modes: Eco, Normal, Sport
EPA fuel economy: 30/37 to 31/38 - as tested
Length: 184 inches
Weight: 2,877 to 3,077 pounds
Final assembly point: Alliston, Ontario, Canada
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