There’s a lot to talk about with the new Honda Civic.
It has an elegant new exterior design for starters, and an interior that banishes the overwrought look of the current car in favour of clean, simple lines. There’s also more torque from the engine, a smarter CVT, and the promise of more space for passengers.
In Australia though, the biggest talking point is the price. Honda will only offer one Civic variant Down Under, and it’s priced at $47,200 drive-away. That’s up $7600 on the outgoing Civic RS, and a world away from the $18,490 before on-roads starting price of the 2016 Civic.
Why the steep sticker? The market is moving, and there’s not the same volume in cars like the Civic as there once was.
Rather than fight Hyundai, Kia, and Toyota for a small pool of sales on low-profit entry-level cars, Honda has decided it wants to sell fewer cars at a higher price point under its new agency sales model. The brand expects to sell just 900 examples per year, well down on the 11,149 sales it has averaged across the Civic hatch and sedan lines since 2017.
The new Civic needs to do something different to its predecessors. It can’t just be spacious or practical, it needs to be polished enough to justify a sticker price nudging $50,000.
The new Civic hatchback will be offered in one trim level at launch, the fully-loaded 2022 Honda Civic VTi LX. Pricing is fixed at $47,200 drive-away around Australia, and there are no options except for colour.
That drive-away price puts it head-to-head with the Volkswagen Golf R-Line ($37,450 before on-road costs, around $45,000 drive-away) on paper.
While we’re within the Volkswagen Group, the Skoda Octavia offers more space than the Civic and, in 140TSI Limited Edition guise, more luxury for an extra $2000.
Standard equipment in the Honda Civic VTi LX includes:
- 18-inch alloy wheels
- Dual-zone climate control
- Automatic LED headlights
- LED fog lights
- LED tail lights
- Adaptive cruise control with stop/go
- 7.0-inch digital instrument cluster screen
- 9.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system
- Wireless Apple CarPlay and wired Android Auto
- Factory satellite navigation
- DAB+ digital radio, AM/FM radio
- Four USB-A ports (two front, two rear)
- Wireless phone charging
- Eight-way power adjustable driver’s seat
- Four-way power adjustable passenger seat
- Heated front seats
- Synthetic leather seat trim with suede inserts, red contrast trim
- 12-speaker Bose sound system
- Surround-view camera
- Keyless entry and start
- Auto-dimming rear-view mirror
- Interior ambient lighting
There’s not much missing, but at $47,200 drive-away it’s a bit disappointing there’s no sunroof. We’d also like to see the fully digital instrument cluster from the Japanese top-spec Civic instead of the two-thirds digital setup we get in Australia.
The 2022 Honda Civic has yet to be crash tested by Euro NCAP or ANCAP.
It comes loaded with standard safety equipment, bundled under the Honda Sensing banner. The suite of assists rely on a single wide-angle camera mounted behind the windscreen, rather than a camera and radar combination.
Honda says there’s a heater to stop the windscreen fogging in front of the camera, and the suite of safety assists will work when the wipers are running at full speed.
There are eight airbags, including knee airbags for the driver and passenger, front and front-side airbags, and full-length curtain airbags. There’s no central airbag.
Standard active safety features include:
- AEB with pedestrian detection
- Forward collision warning
- Lane departure warning
- Lane-keep assist
- Road-departure mitigation
- Blind-spot monitor (lights, not LaneWatch)
- Rear cross-traffic alert
- Driver attention monitoring
Honda has added a pop-up bonnet to protect pedestrians across the 2022 Civic range, rather than reserving it for the Type R this time around.
Wow, that’s better.
The last Civic was spacious, but its cabin has dated badly since its launch in 2017. Thankfully, angles are out and clean, almost retro looks are in for 2022.
The dashboard is simple, but manages to still look interesting thanks in large part to the silver hexagonal latticework running its width, and covering the air vents. Gloss black trim does feature, but most things you touch are finished in grey trim with a pattern on it. That means fewer messy fingerprints, which is a good thing.
It’s clear Honda has listened to the criticism levelled at the last Civic.
For starters, there’s proper climate controls instead of the hybrid dial and touchscreen system that featured before. Not only is it easier to use, the knurled dials make a lovely little click as you adjust the temperature, playing into the feeling this is a more premium car than before.
The transmission selector is also the perfect height to use as a wrist-rest when you’re operating them, which is no accident.
Then there’s the infotainment tech, a sticking point across the Honda range. The Civic has a new 9.0-inch display (the biggest fitted to a Honda in Australia) running new in-house software, and it’s a massive leap forward.
It’s modern to look at, with crisp graphics and simple, slick menus. The maps finally look like an OEM product rather than an aftermarket system, although the wireless smartphone mirroring means you can easily sidestep the inbuilt software anyway.
Even the reversing camera is sharp and bright, unlike the foggy unit from the last car. Over-the-air updates mean the system can be updated throughout its life, too.
It’s a shame Honda has gone with USB-A ports rather than the faster, more modern USB-C ports rolling out elsewhere on its new Civic – or one of each, as is becoming common.
The driver’s display is fine, but nothing more. Honda hasn’t fitted the fully digital setup offered in Japan, instead pairing an analogue speedo with a 7.0-inch screen that essentially mimics an analogue rev counter with trip computer functions inside it.
It’s very Mazda, with elegant fonts and an easy-to-read design, but it doesn’t come close to matching the Volkswagen Group’s digital dials for cool factor. That’s disappointing, given $47,200 buys you an awful lot of Golf or Skoda Octavia.
Beyond the tech, it’s clear a lot of thought has gone into making the Civic a nice place to spend time. The seats are plush, and the driving position is excellent – you can get down nice and low, and the leather-trimmed steering wheel comes straight out from the dashboard rather than on an awkward angle.
All the major controls are easy to reach, and vision out the windscreen is excellent. The sloping roofline means over-the-shoulder visibility isn’t perfect, but it’s better than some coupe-ish designs thanks to the rear quarter windows.
There’s less storage than in the last Civic, but the dual cupholders, wireless phone charger, and deep central bin offer more than enough space to store your stuff. It’s more usable than before, and the cushy central armrest is nicer than the hard, small spot previously offered. It’s a bit wobbly, though, as if it doesn’t quite latch properly.
Rear legroom has never been a Civic problem, and the longer wheelbase on the 2022 model means that’s still the case. It’s not really a small car anymore – at 4549mm long, 1414mm tall and 1800mm wide it’s just shy of 300mm longer than a Volkswagen Golf, although it’s only 11mm wider – and that plays out in the form of a spacious, usable second row.
You’ll fit adults behind adults, and headroom is decent given the sloping roofline. The inclusion of air vents is a win, as is the fold-down central armrest, although you don’t get USB ports back there. Instead, there’s a blanking panel.
Claimed boot space is 449L with the 60/40 folding rear bench in place. That includes 45 litres of underfloor storage where the spare wheel once sat – there’s now a tyre repair kit mounted in the side of the load bay.
It’s a long, wide space with a broad opening, and Honda says the tailgate can now be opened with less space between it and a garage wall. It’s a big unit, so power closing would make life easier for short owners.
Power in the 2022 Honda Civic comes from a 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol four-cylinder engine with 131kW and 240Nm running on 91 RON regular unleaded fuel.
It’s mated with a CVT as standard. The 0-100km/h sprint takes around 7.5 seconds, according to Honda.
The 2022 Honda Civic uses a claimed 6.3 litres per 100km on the combined cycle. It has a 47-litre fuel tank and is now fitted with idle stop/start technology.
Honda has taken what was good about the last Civic and applied a few extra coats of polish.
For starters, the 1.5-litre engine is a smoother, quieter companion than before, and it’s mated to a much smarter CVT. Putting your foot down in the last Civic would see the engine hover around the 4000rpm mark, droning all the way.
Bury the accelerator in the 2022 car and the transmission does an impressive job impersonating a conventional auto, hanging onto a virtual gear through to redline and delivering a passable take on an upshift.
It’s never noisy or coarse, all of which means you can actually enjoy tapping into the turbocharged performance on offer.
When you aren’t in a hurry, the engine and transmission are impressively refined. The automatic start/stop is almost imperceptible, and the linear throttle makes it easy to be smooth off the mark.
It’s up with the Golf as one of the most grown-up hatchbacks to drive, although we need a proper comparison to confirm in more detail how they stack up.
Riding on 18-inch alloy wheels wrapped in slim-ish rubber, the Civic was never going to be a magic carpet. It rides well though, combining firm body control with enough compliance to keep sharp bumps from crashing into the cabin.
There’s a sporty edge to the way it’s tuned, backed by quick, fluid steering. Not only does the 2022 car have a 35mm longer wheelbase than before, it has a 12mm wider rear track. There’s no cost-saving torsion beam rear suspension here; Honda has stuck with a more sophisticated multi-link setup.
Given the last Civic felt like a big car on the highway, it’s no surprise the new one is properly grown-up.
It feels rock solid at 100km/h, and the latest Honda Sensing driver assists are well calibrated.
The adaptive cruise doesn’t jump at shadows and slows naturally when someone pulls in front of you, while the lane-keep assist is confident without feeling like it wants to wrestle the wheel from your hands.
Honda has finally moved on from its LaneWatch system, which means you get proper blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert as well.
Honda says the new Civic is more aerodynamic, stiffer, and features more sound deadening than before, but there’s still a lot of white noise from the tyres on what look like decent road surfaces.
You can drown it out by cranking up the Bose sound system, but it’s not a trait that really fits with the premium price of the Civic.
Enthusiasts are looking forward to the Civic Type R arriving late in 2022, but in the meantime there’s some fun to be had slinging the VTi LX into corners.
It feels reasonably light on its feet, and there’s plenty of grip from the Goodyear tyres. It’s a well sorted hatch, and has more to offer keen drivers than it really needs to in classic Honda fashion.
The Honda Civic is backed by a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, along with five years of roadside assist and map updates.
Maintenance is required every 12 months or 10,000km. Although those intervals are 5000km shorter than you see in some rivals, the first five services are each priced at a very impressive $125.
There’s no doubt the new Honda Civic is an excellent car, and a huge leap forward from its predecessor.
It has a more polished feeling about it inside, and Honda has made meaningful improvements to its powertrain for 2022. It improves on everything frustrating about the last Civic, but doesn’t sacrifice its core strengths to do it.
The new looks are also make it a winner in person, with an elegant simplicity that makes its angular predecessor look ancient.
Honda knows the new Civic won’t sell in huge numbers. We’re glad it stuck by the long-running hatch instead of lumping it in the too-hard basket. There’s no doubt it’s a very different car to those before it, and it needs to play a different role.
Even with all of that factored in, it’s hard to justify the $47,200 sticker price. It’s just too much money, especially when there’s no de-specced price leader to soften the blow.
The 2022 Honda Civic is a much better car than its predecessor. Actually, that sells it short; it’s a very nice hatchback… but it doesn’t move the game forward relative to its rivals on any front, and it really needs to at that price.
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