Honda’s hot hatch is back… almost

The Civic regains its five-door sibling, even if it doesn’t look like it


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Just when you thought you’d never experience a Honda manual transmission again…

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 18/03/2022 (372 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Just when you thought you’d never experience a Honda manual transmission again…

OK, the stick isn’t entirely vanquished from Honda’s lineup, but it is, or at least had been, reserved for the hotter models of Civic, the Si and the Type R. And then comes along the 2022 Honda Civic hatchback.

To understand the significance requires having driven Honda’s manuals in the past. While its competitors have since, mostly, caught up, Honda was renowned for producing transmissions and clutches so smooth, so effortless that if you couldn’t learn to drive stick in a Honda, you just weren’t trying.

News that non-performance models of Civic would only be supplied with the yawnfest of a continuously variable transmission was disheartening. So it was not without ear-to-ear smiles we heard Honda was sending a six-speed hatchback.

Honda hasn’t missed a step with its manuals, but more impressive is how much it has advanced the art of the Civic with the current generation. A stunning interior, more refined exterior design and a fuel-efficient, yet still powerful, engine keeps the smiles going long after you get in and take off.

As mentioned in my previous non-hatchback Civic review, the dash incorporates a unique treatment for the air vents: a satin-finish metal mesh covers the entire sections of both the left-hand and the two right-hand vents. It leaves as the only evidence of the existence of the vents the single control knob for each that adjusts the flow up and down and side to side.

The effect is to create the appearance no vents actually exist. Gone are the gaping holes of some designs, in their place a tidy, hexagonal mesh.

There’s a pod high in the centre dash that holds the touchscreen and other controls, and a console that separates passenger from driver, and houses, of course, the gearshift, as well as e-brake and other controls.

Anyone hearing the term hatchback and fondly recalling the Civic hatches of old — the shooting-brake design with the nearly vertical tailgate and flat roof — will be disappointed. Today’s Civic hatchback barely looks like a hatchback at all. It’s essentially the same shape as the sedan, but instead of just the trunk lid opening, the rear window comes up with it.

Honda spokesman John Bordignon says the design — initiated on the previous generation — proved popular. He says from a manufacturing standpoint, it also “makes sense.”

Bordignon says the decision to limit the manual to the hatch, Si and Type R models (details on the yet-to-launch next-gen Type R are not yet available) was “because of these models’ fun-to-drive, performance-focused and overall sporty characteristics.”

I’ll leave it to you to decide what that means for sedan Civic drivers…

My personal vehicle is a Mazda3, so perhaps I’m just a bit biased, but driving the Civic hatchback and knowing what I know about the Mazda3’s handling, the Civic very nearly approaches, if not equals, that of mine. The Civic loves turns, and seemingly digs in more the harder you corner.

The hatchback is a $3,500 premium over the sedan — and that $28,000 starting price is unchanged if you select the CVT over the manual. That base model comes nicely equipped, including heated seats, keyless entry with pushbutton start and, among other amenities, a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine delivering 158 horsepower and 138 pound feet of torque.

Step up to the Sport or the Sport Touring model and you get a 1.5-litre turbo delivering 180 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque, as well as a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats (Sport Touring) and Bose premium audio system (again, Sport Touring).

The Civic Hatchback range tops out at the Sport Touring with a base price of $35,000. The Civic sedan Si, by comparison, is $33,150, with many of the same features, and more power (200 hp). The Si also comes with downshift rev matching and a limited-slip differential not available on the hatch.

The hatchback is cool and all, but because its roofline largely mirrors that of the sedan, its utility for cargo isn’t greatly expanded, and for almost $2k less than the top hatchback, you get the Si… I think you can guess which model I’d get.

Kelly Taylor

Kelly Taylor
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.

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