2022 Honda Civic Hatchback First Drive Review: Middle-Age Maturity

It happens to all of us. As we age, we start to appreciate the finer things, to relax and enjoy. But we also want to maintain our vitality, relive our youthful exuberance. The 2022 Honda Civic hatchback is an in-the-sheetmetal embodiment of this dichotomy. Through almost 50 years, two doors and four, from lithe and lean to sophisticated and upscale (and yes, more than a bit thicker), the Civic hatch has aged well. But it still has plenty of spunk.

Take, for example, the fact the 11th-generation Civic hatchback remains available with a manual transmission. Manuals are going the way of the dodo, but Honda thankfully continues to hold down the fort. This is no afterthought gearbox, either. Honda’s manual transmissions have traditionally been among the best-engineered in the business, and that remains the same in this car.

Row, Row, Row It Yourself—or Not

It takes a hot second to modulate your left foot to the clutch pedal’s light operation, but when you do, you’ll be dropping the clutch, whipping through the expertly calibrated short throws, and downshifting with abandon. We even got the car to chirp its front tires in second gear as we wound up the power of the top-tier 2022 Civic hatchback Sport Touring, with its 1.5-liter turbocharged inline-four that delivers 180 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque.

Although Honda no longer offers a manual for the Civic sedan, the stick-shift gearbox is available for both the Sport Touring and the Sport version of the Civic hatch, the latter of which comes equipped with Honda’s 2.0-liter I-4 with 158 horses. You’ll also be able to continue to row it yourself on the coming, rowdier Civic Si and Civic Type R.

Then there’s the other transmission, Honda’s CVT unit, which most Civic hatchback buyers will opt for. We only had a chance to use it on the Sport Touring model with the 1.5-liter, and we found it to be perfectly acceptable in day-to-day driving. Press hard on the gas, and it behaves more like a traditional automatic, with an aggressive character at the top of the rev range, especially when you have it in Sport mode. You can paddle-shift it, as well, but it’s not terribly exciting to do so.

Oh, What a Dynamic Feeling

In many ways, the manual is just the icing on the cake of what has become a far more impressive car dynamically. It’s apparent from the first aggressive tug on the wheel; Honda says it made significant improvements to the Civic’s electronic power steering, and it shows. Although the feel is on the lighter side, its turn-in is direct, with impressive response.

Then there’s the 2022 Honda Civic hatch’s overall ride and handling, which is similar in scope to what we found during our drive of the Civic sedan—and what we found there was a car that has been transformed. Like the sedan, the Civic hatch’s underpinnings have seen more nips and tucks than an aging actor, with myriad improvements to the body’s materials and structural rigidity, upgrades to ball joints and front damper mounts, and a slightly wider rear track among the changes.

As a result, the 2022 Honda Civic hatchback feels as buttoned down as other sporty four-door liftbacks at higher price points. It delivers a taut ride over the rough stuff that’s not punishing, but you feel what’s happening underneath you. If anything, it may be wound too tight for some. But when you want to charge hard into your favorite bends, the Civic hatch is set up to impress. We got very aggressive into some tight hairpins, and it simply would not roll over.

As for the engine and its overall response, you’re going to need to keep it deep into the 6,000-rpm rev range, in second and third gear with the manual, to move the Civic hatch with authority. Even then, it’s not exactly a barn burner, as a CVT-equipped Sport Touring sedan we recently tested accelerated from 0 to 60 mph in 7.4 seconds. Despite what Honda says were multiple updates to the 1.5-liter, it’s only 6 hp and 15 lb-ft up on the previous model’s power, and given how much it’s grown (1.4 inches in wheelbase), that’s likely a wash at best. But then again, if you want to play Honda factory race car driver, that’s what the Si and Type R are for. If you’re part of the point A to B crowd, then the 180-horse 1.5-liter with either transmission will more than suffice, as we found with the two Civic hatchback Sport Touring models we drove.

Whenever we needed to slow things down, the 11.1-inch ventilated front and 10.2-inch rear discs felt progressive and were modulated easily under light braking, and they were forceful when we hammered on them. The Touring CVT model also comes with a system Honda calls Low Speed Braking Control, a downshift-control feature that adds engine braking when travelling downhill.

Maturity Inside and Out

We all want to age gracefully, but from what we could make of it, the last-generation Civic was the car’s midlife crisis, with its funky angles and styling elements, edgy light banks, and other offbeat bits inside and out. The new 2022 Honda Civic hatchback is a decidedly more mature-looking and better-functioning machine. Honda flashed photos of high-style European, four-door coupe-inspired hatches during its product presentation, and the resemblance to those vehicles is more than passing. Much like with the sedan, Honda lowered the hatch’s vehicle height, and the car’s lines are cleaner and more horizontal than before, with an open-cabin fastback profile and a new rear-quarter window. It also gets a unique honeycomb grille (a theme that continues inside) and rear light banks, most of which flip up with the tailgate.

When you open that tailgate, you’ll find 1.6 inches more width than before and a 60/40-split rear folding seating arrangement, with 24.5 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats (Honda wasn’t able to confirm total cargo capacity, but expect it to be a bit more than the 46.2 cu-ft of the outgoing car). This room is essentially what the car is all about, and the versatility it offers has been worth every cube to generations of Civic hatchback buyers.

The sense of maturity continues in the cabin. You feel it from the moment you settle into the driver’s seat, which is redesigned to better aid posture and improve support—something The Olds among us can appreciate. Inside the Sport Touring’s cabin is the Civic’s 9.0-inch touchscreen infotainment setup, one that works well but also looks like a bit of a sore thumb sticking up and out from the otherwise clean cabin. As with the Civic sedan, the honeycomb pattern that strips along the dash is an expressive touch, as is the smudge-resistant material around the gearshift and other high-touch areas.

We want to feel safer as we get older, as well, and the new Civic lineup has the Honda Sensing suite of safety nannies available across all trims. Honda Sensing includes lane departure and lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, and forward collision warning that helpfully flashed a couple of times during our test-drive time. The Sport Touring models we evaluated take it up a couple of notches with rear cross-traffic alert and front and rear parking sensors.

Feeling cool and connected is big these days for any age group, and the 2022 Honda Civic hatchback Sport Touring doesn’t disappoint in that department, either, with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, wireless phone charging, and a 12-speaker Bose sound system as its premium standard features.

While the base level Civic hatch LX with the 2.0-liter/CVT combo starts at $23,915, the Sport Touring models we evaluated with the 1.5-liter turbo, the manual, and all the good stuff will set you back $30,415 (the manual model’s Sonic Gray paint added $395). That’s a price that takes a decent amount of adulting to get the cash for, but for your money you’ll get a car that’s all grown up and ready for the future.

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