Usually, when I get a press car for the week, I look forward to getting back into my daily driver. I normally slide into the seat of my VW Sportwagen and think “oh yeah, that’s the stuff,” but when I gave back the 2022 Honda Civic, there wasn’t that warm fuzzy feeling — I felt a pang of longing. I legitimately missed the Civic’s hip interior, clean dash and useful passive and active safety systems. It was a sudden, heavy feeling that the current generation Civic just would not inspire.
(Full Disclosure: Honda had me out for a day of driving around Hell, Michigan. They gave me a tasty lunch and a fully fueled-up new Civic in the top-of-the-line Touring trim to take home for me for a week.)
Cause let’s face it: The old Civic screamed last-decade design. Which was fine for the 20-teens! The eighth-generation Civic remade the Civic into something bland and vaguely Prius-shaped. That semi-wedge would continue to define the profile of Civics to come. By the ninth and tenth generations, the Civic looked bloated, clunky and outdated. It almost seemed like Honda was chasing a CUV look without totally committing to a new model like Toyota recently did with the Corolla Cross.
But who am I to judge? Especially when the outgoing Civic was the best-selling Civic ever, with 1.7 million cars sold over the last five years. We even called it a return to Civics you actually want to drive. Still, this all-new Civic is a breath of fresh air, not just because it improves on the last gen in every way, but because while its main competition is giving in to the CUV craze Honda, with the eleventh generation Civic is going in the other direction, returning to roots first set down in 1972 when the first tiny, adorable and fuel-efficent Civic sauntered on to the scene.
This Civic is a sedan and proudly so. The design gives it a much more car-like presence. It’s only slightly physically larger (longer by 1.5 inches and wider by a half inch) but using visual cues, Honda’s design team made the new Civic look much lower, wider and just well, more aggressively car than the wedge-shaped 10th-generation Civic. Then Honda filled it with enough slick tech to continue to dominate the vanishing sedan market. It’s like Honda gave up on trying to make the Civic look chunky and CUV-like and went for full throttle car-ness.
Will good looks and plenty of tech woo the teens away from the giant vehicle craze? Honda certainly hopes so.
What Is It
Honda first teased the 11th-gen Civic back in 2020 with a prototype. The production car looks largely the same as the vehicle we saw way back when, which is no surprise — Honda is going to play it safe with one of its biggest sellers. Because of the lockdown, Honda unveiled the Civic on Twitch, and included nearly two hours of Fortnite play through and discussions of Hondas in popular racing games, just in case you were wondering who this car is going to be marketed to.
The share of young new car buyers is currently pretty low. Cox Automotive found the average new vehicle buyer’s age to be 53, with Millennials and Gen Z making up only 26 percent of the market. And those who are buying a new vehicle are still turning away from sedans. New car sales dropped four percent less over last year while SUVs rose two percent and trucks one percent.
But Honda is looking ahead. New car buyers under 40 love Civics, they will eventually take over the market, and they tend to go more towards sedans and EVs. The same Cox Automotive study found they went for cars 51 percent of the time.
Under the hood, you get a choice of two updated in-line four-cylinder engines: a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter available on the $21,700 LX and $23,100 Sport trims which produces 158 horsepower and 138 lb.-ft. of torque or a turbocharged 1.5-liter on the $24,700 EX and $28,300 Touring which gets 180 HP and 177 lb.-ft. of torque. Both are paired with an updated CVT uniquely tuned for each engine. Pricing, which leaked last month, keeps the four trims at basically the same price as the outgoing car, with only a few hundred dollar difference.
We’ve all seen the new Civic by now, so lets do a side-by-side comparison so we can see just how much better and cleaner the design has become. I definitely find this generation of Civic far more handsome than the last, and I bet you do too. Gone is the oddly intersecting bodywork, and gone are the vents that made the old Civic’s front end look busy and cluttered—its back end wasn’t much better.
Now check out what, I think you’ll agree, is a much less polarizing rear end. Sure it’s not risky, but Honda isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel, just improve on an already incredibly popular car. The wrap-around brake lights are very nice, as is the hint of a vestial wing in the lip of the trunk.
Honda stretched the new Civic 1.4 inches over the last one and only widened it by 0.5 inch, but other design cues help give the Civic a low and sleek stance. The low beltline, longer hood, bigger windows and pulled back A-pillar really help not only lower the vehicle, but improve driver visibility, which was a problem on the last gen. Designers also moved the side mirrors down to the door, increasing that low and wide impression without subtracting too much actual height. The headlights and brake lights are wider apart too, adding to the visual cue of a lower, more stable car.
The interior is sharp and clean. This is what the previous generation’s cockpit looked like. Cockpit is apt, I think, as it has a bit of a fighter jet feel mixed with a pretty lame set up for the rest of the interior.
You’ve got a weirdly segmented dash that seems to give each dial their own little tunnel, outdated center stack and not much in mind for the rest of the dash. It just sort of...swoops to the side. It adds up to to a noisy, divided design that seems to define the last-gen Civic.
Here’s the new cockpit:
The speedometer and other dials are clear as day on a LCD screen in front of the driver. Gone are the weird plastic dividers that made viewing the important information difficult. The infotainment unit has been moved up to the dash, reminiscent of Mazda. You can get a 9-inch screen in the Touring, Honda’s largest on offer. The clunky vents are gone, hidden by the honeycomb design that stretches all the way from the instrument cluster to the passenger side of the car. The air vents sit behind the faceplate and come with satisfying-as-fuck little nob controls. The HVAC controls have tiny digital displays on their faces It’s a much less cluttered. This interior feels like a classic in the making.
Getting rid of visual noise is now the name of the game for Honda’s designers. The piano black stipe in the interior is finger smudge resistant. And believe me, as soon as a PR person tells me something can’t be smudged, I was in there putting my sticky, unclean blogger hands all over it. True to their word, however, it stayed jet black in all but the brightest sunlight (and even then the piano black only showed a ghost of a smudge).
And it’s not just visual noise you no longer have to deal with in the Civic. I’ve always noticed Hondas tend to have a bit of road noise, especially in freeway driving. The Honda CR-V Touring they gave me to drive the week before sounded like I was standing in an apartment while someone was running industrial farm equipment in the apartment above. But the Civic interior was fairly quiet thanks to globs of urethane foam. Add the cleanliness of the design and wider windows, and you’ve got a fairly zen driving experience that again, improves on the so-so experience of the last gen.
Naturally, the new Civic comes with a bevy of technology features. I immediately noticed the improvements in Honda Sensing, which is what Honda calls its active safety and driver assistant technologies. Using a new single-camera system that provides a wider field of view than the previous radar-and-camera based system, the car can now sense other cars, pedestrians and bikers much more quickly. It also senses road signs and lines with much greater ease. Using lane-keeping assist and Traffic Jam assist, the car was better at staying in its lane, using gentler corrections and more natural braking when the car began to stray. The dash now shows a little animation of your car as the cameras and radar sense the lane markings. It even animates traffic around you. These are cool little details you expect on something like a Tesla, but not really a Honda.
Passive safety has also been improved: The front passenger airbags, for instance, have been redesigned to prevent brain injuries in the even of a crash by reducing head movement. The Civic’s body structure has been updated to better handle crashes with larger vehicles, a very real concern for sedan drivers in a world with roads increasingly full of trucks and SUVs. Overall, the new Civic is 8-percent stiffer in torsional rigidity, and 13-percent stiffer in bending rigidity.
Stiffening the body didn’t just make it safer, it also improved the driving dynamics of the Civic quite a bit. It feels sharper and more planted in turns and is much more fun than a normal “boring” Civic has any right to be. The engine sounds much more throaty and is much quicker to respond to driver inputs—the CVT doesn’t hesitate when putting the hammer down. Small details add up quick when it comes to driving dynamics and the new Civic will give even drivers who just see their car as point-A-to-B machines a little fun during the daily commute.
The floating screen in the dash might be the most controversial styling cue at the moment. It’s something we see in a lot of newer cars, mostly because it allows for some flexibility for different markets, and when the time comes to update the display for a refresh, but not everyone likes it. I personally think it’s both safer to operate, keeping the driver’s eyes up and at least semi on the road while giving the center stack a cleaner look, but some think it looks tacked on. To each their own.
If you dig a new sedan, it’s hard not to dig this one. I can’t wait to see how they hatchback and Civic Type-R-ify it. There’s a reason Civics are lauded by buyers from across the spectrum from your average car buyer to enthusiasts: versatility in purpose and appeal. The Civic reminds me of the character Janet from the show The Good Place — every time you start over, the Civic gets a little better.