Latest generation of Honda Civic builds on an already-firm foundation
By Jim Bray
It looks pretty new inside and out and it sports a lot of things to love. And it'll probably become a top selling sedan in a marketplace increasing eschewing such sedans as folks seek out SUV's instead.
It's the 2022 Honda Civic, a really nice new entry in the long line of Civics. And I liked it a lot, Honda-isms that I've whined about in recent years notwithstanding. Even with my Honda-ism angst, I think this new generation Civic is terrific, and I can't wait to see what Honda does with the hot versions that are sure to follow. (Click on the image to open a slideshow)
The new styling on the outside makes the Civic look more aggressive – and dare I say fun? – than the outgoing model I reviewed a while back. It's still inoffensive enough to not frighten away folks who just want a car rather than a racing vehicle, but the new look is terrific, especially after some of the recent Civics with their heavily creased bodywork that made them look as if they were designed by a committee of the blind. This one is, if nothing else, much more subtle.
The rear end looks great, too, with attractive taillights and a clean design.
Honda says the new Civic was designed to reduce noise "for a calmer ride" and this includes such things as a sculpted roof and streamlined door handles. A new headlight design includes standard LED's and the trunk now features one-handed operation. You can also order LED fog lights and LED signal lights integrated into the outside mirrors.
The new Civic can be ordered with one of two "Earth Dreams" four-cylinder engines. The base one is a two-litre version with 158 horsepower; the more interesting one, which came on the Touring version that was Honda's sample, is a 1.5-litre turbocharged, direct-injected engine that cranks out 180 hp. That may not seem like a lot in an era where you can get 700 horses or more, but it's competitive in this market niche and perfectly adequate for this car. More than adequate, in fact.
One thing I didn't like was the continuously variable transmission, which comes with all trim levels (it appears you can no longer get a Civic sedan with a stick, and this is a horrible shame given the quality of Honda's manual transmissions). The CVT in question here is okay but it's loud and didn't seem as good as the outgoing version's. At least you get paddles to help you pretend it's a normal automatic, and they do help.
There's a Sport mode you can access as well, and it's much better than the outgoing Civic's, which didn't really do much. This one does make the car feel appreciably tighter. There's also an ECON button you can press if you want to remove any pretentions of peppy performance and thereby waste the money you spent on that optional turbo four.
Civic sedans, in case you didn't know, come with front wheel drive.
All sedans feature variable ratio electric power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering and it's very nice, with good feel through the steering wheel.
The suspension - independent struts up front and an independent multi-link rear – is terrific, smooth but not wallowy and it feels as if the Civic lives to carve some corners, because I really enjoyed zipping around in the new version. It feels sportier than one might think going in.
Inside is a very fresh and welcoming cabin, driver-oriented, with a functional layout that even includes a real shift lever as opposed to that set of button-like things Honda and its Acura division inflict on some of their vehicles. Both systems work fine, but the shift lever is more straightforward.
The oversized centre console has cupholders the company says will hold any sized cup (I didn't try slipping a growler into it, alas). You can also opt for heated front – and/or rear – seats and a heated steering wheel.
There's a new centre stack LCD screen Honda says offers a user-friendly experience, but in my experience, it may be slightly less annoying than the outgoing model's, but not much. It's also slow to operate and you still don't get a tuning knob for the audio system, though Honda includes a volume knob.
A big improvement in useability is the new voice recognition system. I don't know what they've changed, but the system in the 2021 Civic I reviewed recently (same trim level) drove me nuts because it wouldn't accept anything I said. It was like talking to my wife!
Now, however, the system worked very well with no prompting or training. Well done, Honda!
One design feature I loved is how Honda hid the HVAC vents on the dashboard. They're behind a kind of lattice that stretches right across the width of the car and if it weren't for the little control levers sticking out you'd probably never know they were there.
Alas, as great as this new Civic may be, Honda still has a way to go when it comes to useability and annoyances. You can turn off the most egregious assaults on your driving joy – lane departure, yadda yadda – and they'll stay off. But, as my wife is prone to find out, if you dare unlock your seat belt while the car is moving, a woman's voice comes on and admonishes you to put it back on. Even if you're doing three kilometres an hour. Yet you can drive away with the passenger's belt unlatched and it won't complain for several seconds.
Still, this new Civic sedan is a car I would buy, if I could get a stick shift and delete some of the more annoying nannies.
The LX is the base model (starting at $24,465), but Honda Canada's sample wore the Touring trim (starting at $30,265), which also brings such goodies as a nice, 12-speaker Bose audio system. The optional new instrument panel is great, too; it's a big LCD screen but it represents analogue gauges and is easy on the eyes and easy to read.
A lovely, and quite a large, step in the right direction for this honoured marque and model.
Copyright 2021 Jim Bray