The 2022 Honda Civic sedan you see here is primed to disappoint when compared with its impressive siblings. The Civic hatchback has a more spacious cargo area and offers a manual transmission, while higher trim levels such as the comparison-test-winning Civic Touring come with lots more features and a more powerful turbocharged 1.5-liter engine. (And that’s not to mention the sporty Civic Si and Type R.) The Civic Sport sedan has a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter inline-four and a continuously variable automatic transmission—hardly a combination that makes us think of sport in the traditional sense.
And yet we found lots to like in the simplicity of this lesser Civic, which reminds us of older Hondas in the way it lacks frills but offers an inherent, satisfying goodness. Oh, and did we mention that this model starts at just $24,765? For that price, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a vehicle that’s this fun to drive, this fuel-efficient, or this stylish. While our test car’s looks were helped by a $1418 HPD appearance package that adds a body kit and a rear spoiler, all Civic Sports look a bit cooler than their LX and EX brethren thanks to 18-inch wheels, chrome exhaust, and black trim for the window surrounds and mirrors.
While the 11th-generation Civic has a far more streamlined body than its gawky predecessor, Honda kept the underpinnings mostly the same—and that’s a good thing. We love the Civic’s quick steering, firm ride, and responsive brake pedal, and the Sport model outperformed the loaded Touring both around our skidpad and in our 70-mph braking test. It gripped to the tune of 0.87 g and came to a stop in 170 feet, improvements of 0.04 g and 4 feet. Due to its lighter load of optional equipment, the Civic Sport weighed in at just 2906 pounds, 148 fewer pounds than the Touring.
Even so, the 2.0-liter engine’s 158 horsepower and 138 pound-feet of torque are not up to the task of motoring around the Civic with much gusto. It took a long 8.8 seconds to reach 60 mph, a second and a half slower than we measured in a Civic hatchback with the optional 180-hp turbo engine and a six-speed manual transmission. The Sport’s naturally aspirated inline-four is also annoyingly buzzy at high rpm. Interestingly, the more powerful turbo is more fuel efficient by the EPA’s measurements, with the EX and Touring both beating the Civic Sport’s combined rating. We measured 36 mpg in our 75-mph highway fuel-economy test, falling 1 mpg short of the EPA’s highway rating.
The cheaper Civic’s more plebian nature is immediately obvious once you open the door and see its black cloth upholstery and smaller screens. The infotainment display measures 7.0 inches to the Touring’s 9.0-inch screen, while the gauge cluster combines an analog speedometer with a 7.0-inch screen that displays a tachometer among other info (the Touring has a fully digital gauge cluster with a 10.2-inch screen). Fortunately, the screens’ functionality is not compromised, as the smaller infotainment screen incorporates hard buttons and both volume and tuning knobs that make its interface easy to use.
The interior materials are nothing to write home about, but the Civic’s cabin feels well assembled and offers some visual interest thanks to the honeycomb pattern that stretches across the dashboard and incorporates the air vents. The three climate-control knobs click with precision, and the steering wheel is attractive and nice to grasp. Rear-seat passengers are missing amenities such as cupholders, air vents, and USB ports, but there’s plenty of space for two adults back there.
The compact-sedan landscape is less populated than it used to be, but the Civic still faces strong competition from the likes of the Mazda 3, Volkswagen Jetta, and Hyundai Elantra. It already proved its mettle in top-trim form, and while we don’t think we’ll be conducting a base-model econobox comparison test anytime soon, we can say with confidence that the Civic is at or near the top of its class no matter which version you choose.
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