The 2022 Honda Civic is the second radical and successful redesign of the highest selling compact car in America in seven years. It is no exaggeration to say the many changes make it the best Civic ever.
Honda stunned the automotive world when it completely redesigned the Civic in 2015, just three years after the previous redesign had been derided by many auto writers as a boring step back. The company took the complaints to heart and responded with an aggressively styled new version that looked great and drove even better, thanks to suspension tweaks and more insulation to reduce road noise. The interior was also greatly improved, with the odd bi-level speedometer and tachometer replaced by a more conventional and functional dash.
The 2015 Honda was clearly redesigned to appeal to younger buyers and the effort paid off. It has been the #1 vehicle for Millennials, Gen Z, first-time and multicultural buyers.
Now Honda has taken an even bigger chance and introduced a more mature and sophisticated Civic. Although basically the same shape, the exterior lines have been toned down, especially the rear end which now features vertical tail lights. The interior has been changed even more, with the stacked center console replaced by a vertical dash distinguished by a full length honeycomb metal strip that incorporates the air conditioning vents. The display screen is also moved up higher to be safer to see when driving.
But more than that, the ride has been refined to the point that it challenges entry level luxury German road cars, a remarkably accomplishment for what is still affordable family transportation. Part of this is because new Civic has a stronger body, with an 8% improvement in torsional rigidity and a 13% improvement in bending rigidity. Honda also says the suspension has been retuned for a 20% smoother ride, aided by a 1.4-inch longer wheelbase, making it the longest in its class.
My first impression is that Honda has transformed the Civic into a smaller version of its Accord, the best-selling midsize sedan in America. Unlike the Accord, the 2022 Civic is also available as a sportier looking hatchback, however, just like the previous generation.
Out test Civic was a sedan Sport version, which is one step up from the entry level LX. Despite lacking all the standard features of the top-of-the-line Touring version, it was well equipped and felt far more refined than expected. The interior materials were good quality and the cloth seats seemed durable. The vertical dash made the it feel roomier than before, even though it has roughly the same head and shoulder space.
Perhaps surprisingly, the base 2.0-liter engine pulled strongly off the line, despite being mated to a Continuously Variable Transmission. Although it only generates 158 ponies, the normally aspirated four cylinder never lacked for power. The optional turbocharged 1.5-liter four is rated at 180 horsepower, but I'd have to drive them back to back before saying the additional cost is justified. A six-speed manual transmission is available in the hatchback version that could justify the upgrade, however.
Although the exterior styling is more subdued than the last generation, it is not boring. It is also one of those cars that looks better in person. And our silver tester benefited from black alloy wheels and an HPD trim package that included a black front underbody spoiler side underbody spoilers, a rear underbody spoiler, a rear decklid spoiler and special rear emblem. The result was more sport sedan than boy racer, which hopefully won't alienate Civic's youthful fan base. Performance oriented Si and R versions are in the works to fully satisfy them.
One thing that hasn't changed much is the price. The base LX Civic starts at a surprisingly low $21,700. Our Sport version was just $25,657 with the HPD package. The top-of-the-line Touring version with the more powerful turbocharged 1.5-liter engine starts at $28,300, which is a bargain. All come standard with an expanded Honda Sensing suite of driver-assistive and safety technologies.
The Honda Civic has been around a remarkably long time. It was first introduced in 1972 and the completely redesigned 2022 version is the 11th generation. I guess it shouldn't be a surprise that after all those years and changes, the wildly popular compact now feels fully grown up.
2022 Honda Civic Sport
Base price: $23,100
Price as tested: $25,657 (including HPD package)
Style: Compact sedan
Engine: 2.0-liter 4 (158 hp, 138 lbs-ft)
Transmission: Continuously Variable Transmission
Drive modes: Eco, Normal, Sport
EPA fuel economy: 30/37
Length: 184 inches
Weight: 2,877 to 3,077 pounds
Final assembly point: Alliston, Ontario, Canada