by Frank A. Aukofer

The 2022 Honda Civic marks the modern maturity of a tiny economy car that made its U.S. debut nearly half a century ago. Since then, the Civic has garnered worldwide sales of over 18 million, more than half of them in the United States.

In July 1972, it started out as a sedan and hatchback, each with two doors, front-wheel drive and a 1.2-liter two-cylinder engine. Later it morphed into the Civic’s famed 1200 four-cylinder CVCC engine, which delivered 50 hp and 68 lb-ft of torque through a four-speed manual gearbox.

The CVCC was a marvel, meeting U.S. emissions requirements without add-ons and tuned to run on leaded or unleaded gasoline while delivering fuel economy of over 40 mpg. It became sought after in the shortages of gasoline during the Arab oil embargo of 1973-‘74.

The Civic was 11 feet 8 inches long and weighed 1,450 pounds. Its base price was a dollar a pound, or $1,450, though you could spend up to $3,300 in 1974 dollars. In 2021, the equivalent dollar amounts would be $8,182 and $18,622.         

For 2022, the Touring model tested here delivers 180 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque from a state-of-the-art turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine. Power makes its way to the front wheels via a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) with a step-shift feature making it feel something like a conventional automatic, though the faux shifts are very subtle. It also has a manual shift mode controlled by paddles on the steering wheel to mimic a seven-speed transmission.

The CVT is the only transmission available on the new sedans. Enthusiasts who prefer to shift for themselves will await the introductions of the 2022 hatchback, Si and Type R, which will offer Honda’s six-speed manual gearbox, one of the best sticks for front drivers.

The Civic Touring’s EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption is  31/38/34 mpg. Fully equipped, the tester came with a sticker price of $29,295, well below the current average price of about $40,000 for an automobile in the U.S. 

Honda Sensing, the manufacturer’s suite of safety equipment, came standard on the test car. It included automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, and lane-keeping assist with road departure mitigation. Other safety features included blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic monitor, low-speed braking control, rain-sensing windshield wipers, knee air bags for the driver and front-seat passenger, electronic brake force distribution, and tire-pressure monitoring.

With its all-new styling, the Civic has it both ways: Though more generic, the fastback treatment makes it resemble other streamlined compact/midsize sedans, including its bigger sibling Accord and even some luxury machines like the Audi A5. 

Inside, the tested Touring featured perforated leather-trimmed upholstery, enhanced by wide front seats with prominent bolstering to keep the torso secure in fast corners. Comprehensive instruments, including a digital speedometer, are displayed white-on-black on an LCD screen, while a nine-inch center color touch screen handles navigation, SXM satellite radio, and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

In back, the outboard seating positions deliver more than adequate head and knee room, and the doors open wide for ease of entry and exit. The center seating position, as usual, is inferior but in this application has a comfortable cushion, though feet must still be splayed on both sides of a large floor hump.

The trunk, which contains a temporary spare and the tools needed for a roadside tire change, is roomy and nicely finished, though the unprotected C-hinges could damage some contents.

On the road, the Civic Touring delivered adequate though not stirring performance, along with competent handling manners and a comfortable long-distance ride. Punch the throttle and it will accelerate to 60 miles an hour in the seven-second range, more than adequate for freeway ramps and passing on two-lane roads. 

There are three drive modes — Eco, Normal, and Sport — easily selectable without taking eyes off the road. Sport mainly affects shift mapping but you can drive in Eco and still grab better performance by simply flooring the throttle.

The only somewhat jarring note was that a good deal of road noise on rougher surfaces made its way into the cabin. On newer asphalt highways, the experience was more serene.

Given its affordable price, this new Civic stands out. From a bitty economy car five decades ago, it has grown into a fully realized sedan that can hold its own on performance, comfort, reliability and desirability in almost any company.

Specifications     

  • Model: 2022 Honda Civic 1.5T Touring four-door sedan.
  • Engine: 1.5-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged; 180 hp, 177 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Continuously variable automatic with manual shift mode and front-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 4 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/trunk volume: 96/14 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,038 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 31/38/34 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $29,295.
  • Price as tested: $29,295.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

Photos (c) Honda