In an era when SUVs and CUVs dominate the sales charts and highways, who cares about sedans? While some companies are abandoning the 4-door segment, Honda is around for the duration, and it’s betting the all-new, 11th-generation version of its Civic model will run counter to ongoing market momentum. It may have reason to defy conventional logic, the outgoing Civic line actually increasing its market share last year.
The goal for designers was to reach back into the history of the Civic, which made its American debut in 1973. They were given a mandate to pick up on the brand’s original, “Man-Maximum, Machine-Minimum” design philosophy. That said, no one will call this a retro-mobile.
With Civic, Honda follows tradition, rolling out a sedan first and then following it with a procession of additional variants. We’ve already gotten a first look at the Civic coupe and the Si and Type-R performance versions will follow.
Even today, the launch of a new Honda Civic grabs plenty of attention. The sedan has routinely dominated passenger car sales charts and actually increased market share last year. That, of course, partially reflects the fact there are fewer offerings in the sedan segment. Ford has walked away from passenger cars entirely, and Chevrolet and Chrysler have pulled out of the compact segment.
That said, initial impressions were favorable as we headed out to drive the new 2022 Honda Civic for the first time. Unlike past generations, Honda didn’t try to overwhelm us with an edgy new design. But that doesn’t mean you’ll have trouble distinguishing the new model from the one it’s replacing.
Underneath the skin, the 2022 model shares the same, basic platform as before yet manages to make some welcome improvements in both cabin and cargo space and in the overall drive experience.
The 2022 Honda Civic sedan goes with what the automaker calls a “thin and light” body design. That translates into a low hood and front fenders, with a small grille above the front bumper, a larger one below giving the new model a more planted feel. The 2022 Civic migrates to LED lighting, both front and back.
Subtle flaring around the wheels yields a more aggressive and premium feel, or so Honda designers contend. The windshield pillars, meanwhile, have been moved rearward two inches, the glass flowing into a coupe-like roofline that tapers into a short rear deck.
Moving the pillars back might seem a curious move that could impinge on cabin space but Honda engineers managed to add another 1.3 inches in overall length, and 1.4 inches in wheelbase, the latter a particular plus for passengers and cargo.
These days, digital technology has come to dominate the interior of most new vehicles. Touchscreens gobble up center stacks and floating gauge clusters dominate the driver’s view. Automakers, in turn, boast about the futuristic look of their latest offerings.
Honda, despite adding more — and bigger — technology, aimed to keep things, in its words, “strikingly simple, clean, (with a) modern take on classic Civic values.” The automaker using the aforementioned “Man-Maximum, Machine-Minimum” approach.
Even with the windshield pushed back, the new cabin offers reasonable space for both front and back passengers, especially considering competitors in the compact segment. The sedan’s low beltline and ample glass provide for good visibility and enhance the sense of spaciousness.
The low instrument panel is accented by a honeycomb mesh that, Honda claims, “serves both form and function, creating a dramatic visual dividing line between the audio, information displays and the climate controls.” The approach also helps keep things feeling less cluttered by largely concealing the sedan’s air vents.
Honda adopted more premium materials for the 2022 model’s cabin. And it says it has also upgraded the front seats on all trims, using a “body stabilizing” design that keeps driver and passenger firmly in place, whether on long trips or during aggressive maneuvering.
The 2022 Civic will offer two 4-cylinder options, like the outgoing sedan. That includes a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter package making 158 horsepower and 138 pound-feet of torque. The powertrain now comes standard with stop/start capability, as well as a new catalytic converter. Paired with an updated CVT, it gets a bump up in fuel economy, according to the EPA. The LX trim is rated at 31 mpg city, 40 highway and 35 combined, as much as 2 mpg better than the outgoing 2021 model.
The Civic EX and Touring get an updated 1.5-liter turbo-4 now making 180 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque, up 6 and 15, respectively. The package is paired with a CVT offering Step-Shift programming. The Touring package yields 31 mpg city, 38 highway and 34 combined.
The least efficient package, the Civic Sport, with its 2.0-liter engine, delivers a solid 30 mpg city, 37 highway and 33 combined.
As is the norm for Honda, we’ll see more Civic variants roll out during the next year or two, including the sportier — read “more powerful” — Si and Type-R models. That’s good news for those who still love rowing their own transmission. Honda won’t offer a manual transmission for most models, but confirmed one will be available in the Type-R.
Safety and Technology
From a technology standpoint, base trims now get a 7-inch color touchscreen for an infotainment system that comes with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There’s an upgrade to a high-definition, 9-inch touchscreen that is paired with wireless versions of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The 2022 Civic becomes the first to offer a 12-speaker Bose premium sound system, and Touring models come with Qi wireless smartphone charging. And the Civic also
The push for more technology can be seen with the latest version of the Honda Sensing suite of advanced driver assistance systems. Along with existing features, such as forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, the 2022 Civic adds a new front wide-view camera, new Traffic Jam Assist and, on the Civic Touring, Low-Speed-Braking Control.
One surprise was the automaker’s decision to drop a radar sensor for its Honda Sensing suite — a move similar to what Tesla recently announced. Both companies claim they can yield equally good results using onboard cameras. That is questionable, according to many experts, and it’s significant to note that Tesla was punished for the decision by getting a downgrade from both Consumer Reports and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. No word yet from either on how they respond to Honda’s decision.
The new model also adds what Honda describes as “groundbreaking” new front airbags which are designed to reduce traumatic brain and neck injuries. The 2022 model also becomes the first Civic equipped with side airbags for rear seat passengers.
Those who want a truly sporty take on the 11th-generation Civic might decide to wait for the Si or Type-R variants. But most buyers will be impressed, nonetheless, with the 2022 sedan.
The prior-generation Civic was already one of the most impressive products in its class, especially when it comes to ride and handling. The new model largely shares the same underpinnings, with just enough tweaks to make it even more likable. It remains comfortable on the typically torn up roads of the Mitten State yet proved nimble and well planted when zooming around our favorite roads in the appropriately named Hell, Michigan. Credit, at least in part, goes to the use of significantly more structural adhesives that yield a stiffer body and chassis. The rear track has also been widened slightly.
Steering, meanwhile, is a bit lighter than what some drivers may like — but will likely satisfy most. It is responsive and provides good road feel.
The two engines are adequate, the 1.5-liter turbo more so. They respond immediately to driver inputs and the turbo upgrade shows little to no lag, nor any torque steer under flat-out launches. If there’s any complaint it’s the continued use of a continuously variable transmission. True, it does help when it comes to fuel economy, but it just doesn’t the crisp, linear acceleration of a conventional automatic — or the fun of a manual.
The good news is that the Sport offers paddle shifters that do a good job of simulating a step-gear transmission.
While there is little reason to believe the shift from sedans and coupes to SUVs and CUVs will reverse course, at least anytime soon, there are still millions of American motorists who remain loyal to passenger cars. And the Honda Civic has long been one of the reasons why.
The 2022 Honda Civic offers even more of what buyers are likely to look for. It’s attractive, sporty, fun to drive, and loaded with creature comforts and high-tech features. And, as always, we expect it to deliver rock-solid reliability.
Starting at $21,700 for the base LX trim — plus $995 in delivery fees — the 2022 Civic sedan also gives you a lot for your money and lets buyers on a budget get into something reasonably well-equipped for a lot less than a comparable SUV. A well-equipped Civic Touring model comes in at $28,300 before delivery fees and taxes.
So, all said, we can give the 2022 Honda Civic sedan a big thumbs up.