Compact, practical, and unpretentious five-doors like the 2022 Honda Civic Hatchback are exactly what you might envision when you think of the ideal first car.
After I graduated and landed my first big-boy job, however, I promptly bought a Scion FR-S: two doors, manual transmission, low-slung, and rear-wheel drive (RWD). Driving it year-round through Toronto traffic and snow had its challenges, sure, but because I was (and, in some ways, still am) a blowhard car nerd who believed that everybody’s first car should have three pedals and be RWD as a form of trial-by-fire driver training, I muscled through it.
Driving Honda’s newest hatchback, however, I can’t help but think how much easier life would’ve been if I had gotten something like the Civic – y’know, like a normal person. The ride is nicer, there’s more room, and the clutch is friendlier. (You thought this was a review of the automatic Civic? Please.) Sure, this five-door Honda isn’t quite in the same league as the FR-S when it comes to Sunday morning corner-carving but, it’s far from a snooze-fest every other day of the week.
Granted, the Honda Civic punching above its class in terms of fun (among other areas) shouldn’t really come as a surprise. When I sampled the sedan, I found it to be an extremely solid vehicle all-around: full of tech, well-built, tastefully designed, and enjoyable to drive. As it turns out, giving it a manual transmission and a hatchback rear-end has only elevated the 11th-gen Civic. Just like what feels like absolutely everything these days, though, prepare to pay way more than you really should if you’d like one that’s fully loaded.
By now, you’ve probably seen the new 11th-generation Honda Civic either on the road or online – a car that’s a whole lot less in-your-face than the Gundam-esque 10th-gen. This hatchback version gets the same honeycomb front grille found on the hotter Si and, of course, that big, hunched rear opening.
Compared to other hatchbacks on the market (and, indeed, the outgoing Civic hatch), this new Honda five-door’s rear end is way less... hatchback-y than I expected it to be. In fact, its roofline isn’t all that different than the previous-gen sedan’s, which famously aped the whole “four-door coupe” deal that remains so popular among luxury buyers.
Purely in terms of style, I’m a fan of this more practical rear end. It’s more interesting to look at than the Civic sedan’s Volkswagen Jetta-like trunk and somehow reminds me of a French hatchback we don’t get here in Canada, as if the Honda badges could easily be replaced by Renault ones.
Inside, we’ve got the same great minimalist interior as the sedan. Understated, clean, upscale, and designed to blend into the background, the Civic’s cabin is an unassumingly and uncannily nice place to spend time. The dash-spanning honeycomb air vents look like they’ll age well (while matching the exterior front grille), and those knurled chrome HVAC knobs look and feel firmly nicer than those found in many so-called luxury cars.
That smartly designed interior isn’t just pleasant to look at and sit in, but it’s also mighty easy to see out of. Honda went out of its way to give the Civic some of the thinnest A-pillars in the game and a very low cowl, resulting in the best outward visibility of any modern car in recent memory. New front airbags designed to cradle occupants’ heads more securely, knee airbags, and washer nozzles integrated into the wipers for a better clean are appreciated touches.
As for semi-autonomous tech, the Civic hatch comes standard with adaptive cruise control with lane-keeping that works alright if not industry-leadingly so. Low-speed follow and traffic-jam assist, however, are reserved for those equipped with the automatic continuously variable transmission (CVT), which means that, yes, you’ll have to feather your own clutch during rush-hour. Forward collision warning, however, is standard across the board, along with a lane-departure warning, traffic sign recognition, and blind-spot monitoring. Not a bad list. Rear cross-traffic alert, however, is reserved for this top Sport Touring trim, as it is with the priciest sedan.
The Civic Hatchback scored near-perfect marks with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) when it comes to crashworthiness, crash avoidance, and mitigation, snagging a Top Safety Pick+ award in the process.
As standard, this car comes equipped with automatic climate control, one-touch up-and-down windows for the front row, keyless entry with push-button start, a seven-inch touchscreen, and 16-inch wheels. Step up to the Sport and you’ll get aluminum pedals, dual-zone climate, 18-inch wheels, dual exhaust tips, and a sunroof.
Opt for the top Sport Touring model you see here and the Civic features LED fog lights, rain-sensing wipers, a fully digital instrument cluster, parking sensors, a bigger nine-inch touchscreen, wireless charging, a powered driver’s seat, leather upholstery, and a 12-speaker-plus-subwoofer premium audio system which sounds quite good. Nice-to-have features such as a head-up display and cooled front seats are not available.
User Friendliness: 9.5/10
The Civic Hatchback Sport Touring uses a new nine-inch infotainment system with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto-compatible software lifted out of the larger Accord. The system is quite smooth, fast, and a big improvement over the last-gen Civic infotainment – but still not quite as good as the best systems in the industry. In the lower Sport and LX trims, the same software is projected via a smaller seven-inch screen, and CarPlay is wired.
In terms of the physical layout surrounding those screens, the Civic is similarly competent. Everything is where you expect it to be, and I’m particularly fond of this car’s dead-simple steering wheel audio controls. As mentioned, the three extremely clicky knobs that control the climate are also immensely easy to use while being luxury-car-level nice to look at and operate.
Backseat legroom in the Civic is very substantial – almost as generous as that of many compact crossovers – while headroom is also quite good for what’s still, at the end of the day, a compact car. Honda’s own Acura RDX crossover, for example, boasts barely more rear leg- and headroom than this Civic. Both metrics, meanwhile, go unchanged versus the Civic sedan. Seated up front, there’s a decent number of storage nooks and pockets, while that minimalist interior does a lot to make the space feel bigger than it is.
The big story with a hatch, however, is the increased cargo capacity. Opening up that hatch gives access to 693 L of storage space. In comparison, the sedan’s closed-off trunk only accommodates 419 L of cargo (408 L in Touring trim). Meanwhile, the Toyota Corolla Hatchback only offers 660 L around back – even with its spare tire replaced with a patch kit.
Honda Civics have always struck a nice balance between everyday comfort and athleticism, and this holds true for the new 11th-generation model. The suspension is relatively communicative but comfortable. The seats are ergonomically well-done, and – thanks in part to a standard acoustic windshield – this car is reasonably quiet for the segment. Some creaking I experienced from the driver’s window of the early-production sedan I drove was completely absent here.
Heated front seats are standard, whereas the heated steering wheel is in all but the base LX hatch. Heated rear seats are reserved for this top Sport Touring trim.
In either Sport or Sport Touring trims, the Civic Hatchback is powered by a 1.5L turbocharged four-cylinder making 180 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque – enough get-up-and-go for most everyday driving, and the presence of a turbo means highway passes are relatively easy. This engine is slightly more powerful than the previous version (by six hp and 15 lb-ft, to be exact), but the more noticeable under-the-hood enhancement here is the way this engine sounds. While the outgoing Civic sort of sounded like a cow mooing, this one sounds more like an actual car.
Since the hatch is consistently a few grand more expensive than the equivalent Civic sedan, Honda has equipped all but the base LX trim with this 1.5L. That version gets a naturally aspirated, 158-hp 2.0L. In contrast, Honda puts the 2.0L in all sedans bar the top Touring and Si trims. Another mark in the hatchback’s favour is the fact that the sedan is CVT-only unless you opt for Si, whereas the hatch is available with a manual regardless of trim.
Driving Feel: 9/10
Yes, a manual, which this particular press unit happened to be equipped with. It’s a six-speed that, in classic Honda fashion, feels pretty great to operate and has a shifter positioned exactly one hand’s length away from the steering wheel. No, it isn’t in the same weapons-grade league as the one in the Civic Type R; but it’s not bad at all for a “regular” economy car like this and isn’t that far off from the shifters in some non-Honda performance cars. Like, for example, the new Volkswagen Golf GTI and R. Its throws are reasonably short and notchy, while the clutch is forgiving, too, making it a great gearbox for beginners.
Even though it doesn’t wear an Si or Type R badge, this regular Civic handles way better than it really has to. Steering is feathery yet accurate, while the brakes are strong but trivial to use, which is probably exactly what you want in a runabout compact like this. Its chassis also feels expertly crafted – low and light but not so light as to feel cheap or flimsy.
Fuel Economy: 9/10
Per Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), the manual Civic hatch is rated for 8.5 L/100 km in the city, 6.3 on the highway, and 7.5 combined. After more than 600 km of mixed driving, the compact Honda beat its own rating, showing 7.4 L/100 km on its trip computer. Feel free to opt for the least expensive grade at the pump, because regular fuel is all that’s required.
For comparison, the manual Toyota Corolla Hatchback is rated for 7.6 L/100 km combined, while the three-pedaled Mazda3 Sport drinks 7.8 L of fuel every 100 km.
Because manual-equipped cars these days tend to be either performance models not concerned about fuel economy or cheap, bargain basement compacts not swanky enough to equip it, this may or may not be the first car I’ve driven to have a stop-start system and a manual. And a little surprisingly, the two technologies actually complement each other well, mostly because setting off in a manual takes an additional second anyway. Regardless of transmission, though, Honda’s stop-start system works quite unobtrusively.
In base LX form, the 2022 Honda Civic Hatchback starts at $28,000. A mid-trim Sport model will go for $31,500 but the top Sport Touring tested here jumps to a pretty pricey $35,000. (Prices go unchanged regardless of transmission.) Throw in $300 for red paint, a non-negotiable $1,700 for destination, and the $100 A/C tax and you’re looking at a $37,100 compact car. The Honda Civic may be playing at the top of its class in terms of quality, but it’s also doing the same when it comes to price as well.
A manual Toyota Corolla Hatchback XSE, for example, can be had for a little under $30,000 (getting the same Toyota with a CVT bumps it up to about $32,000). A manual front-drive Mazda3 Sport GT, meanwhile, still comes in under $33,000. Most eyebrow-raising, perhaps, is that Honda’s own 200-hp Civic Si sedan mid-level performance car starts at $33,150 and comes in under $35,000 after fees – more than $2,000 less than this relatively pedestrian (albeit more practical) hatchback.
For the real keen drivers in the crowd, this top trim’s price becomes even less attractive when you realize the high-performance Hyundai Elantra N starts at $37,199 before fees. And that’s a full-on, 276-hp sport compact built to go toe-to-toe (quite successfully, I might add) with Honda’s Civic Type R.
Of course, this problem is solved simply by opting for the more reasonably priced Sport or LX flavours of Civic hatch but, as it sits, this Sport Touring version is perplexingly expensive.
Whether you’re considering the 2022 Civic Hatchback as a first car or your fifth, it’s an admirably well-rounded automobile. It’s more than reasonably nice to drive, perfectly practical and comfy, economical to run (if not all that economical to buy), designed with restraint, and loaded with useful tech.
If you can stomach the price premium it commands over its competitors (or can live with fewer bells and whistles), Honda’s small car, regardless of door count, is one of the absolute best vehicles in the industry right now, and I’m certainly not alone in thinking this. The Civic sedan was voted by a panel of more than 20 AutoTrader.ca experts as this year’s Best Overall Car, and make no mistake – the transformation to a hatchback has absolutely not made it worse.
One final thought. By my count, this will be the seventh time I’ve praised them in writing but it bears repeating: those HVAC knobs really have to be felt to be believed.
|180 hp @ 6,000 rpm
|177 lb-ft @ 1,700–4,500 rpm
|8.5 / 6.3 / 7.5 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb
|2022 Honda Civic Hatchback Sport Touring
|Price as Tested
$300 – Rallye Red paint, $300