Honda's compact not so compact anymore, but still strikes -- mostly -- the right notes
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 08/10/2021 (420 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
There was a time when the Honda Civic was a small car.
When it first came to these shores, the Civic was smaller than a modern MINI. Today’s version, the 2022 Civic, is larger than some incarnations of its larger sibling, the Accord.
Indeed, the new Civic is only 217 millimetres shorter than the current Accord and only 56 millimetres narrower. Which, ironically, makes a very good case for saving the $8,000 price difference between the two.
This is the 11th generation of the car first launched in 1972. Along the way, it’s had some designs that just didn’t seem to work, frankly. Starting in about 2005, the proportions just seemed a bit off, with a short front deck and a greenhouse that seemed to be falling forward. In the last two generations, however, stretching the wheelbase slightly has helped, and the current design hits all the right marks.
It seems that for the 2022 version, Honda has tossed aside most of what it knew about Civic and started with a clean slate. The aggressive, arguably over-the-top styling of the last generation is gone, replaced by sleeker taillights and a conservative front facade.
Inside is where the biggest differences are obvious: a somewhat plasticky and uninspired interior has been replaced with a spiffy new design that incorporates an elegant treatment for the dash air vents. In most cars, air vents are necessary evils, and, despite creative designs, always look like holes in the dash. In the 2022 Civic, the only indication there are any vents at all is a little lever, to adjust direction, poking out from behind a metal grate with a hexagonal pattern.
What Honda hasn’t forgotten, however, is Civic’s blend of reliability and fuel economy, which, despite the car growing between the 10th and 11th generations, has got even better at an average of 6.9 litres per 100 kilometres, which is almost hybrid-like in its parsimony.
The made-in-Canada Civic comes with two engine options: a 2.0-litre four-cylinder delivering 158 horsepower and 138 pound-feet of torque, and in Touring trim a 1.5-litre turbo delivering 180 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque.
The only black mark on the Civic is the transmission: only a continuously variable automatic is available and even on the Touring model tends to dull the response to throttle input.
Handling is superb, as we’ve come to expect on Civic, with an independent strut suspension up front and a multi-link independent suspension at the rear.
How Civic stacks up
Civic’s main rivals, the Mazda3 and Toyota Corolla, are a bit bigger and a bit smaller, respectively, and both are about $4,000 less to start. The base Mazda3 has similar horsepower but beats the base Civic engine in torque with 150 foot-pounds. The base Corolla engine has both less horsepower and less torque. Both the Mazda3 and Corolla offer six-speed manual transmissions. For automatic transmissions, Mazda offers an actual automatic, while the Corolla’s automatic option is offered only as a CVT.
Copy Editor, Autos Reporter
Kelly Taylor is a Winnipeg Free Press copy editor and award-winning automotive journalist. He's been a member of the Automobile Journalists' Association of Canada since 2001.