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There are no sure things in life, but the Honda Civic comes pretty close. No matter the body style or year, it's always one of the best small cars you can buy. This decades-long track record of excellence continues with the freshly minted 11th-generation model, which is more mature and refined than ever before, especially in five-door form. Thanks to its fastback styling and roomy trunk, the 2022 Honda Civic Hatchback is definitely the one to get.
Like its sedan sibling, this Civic is wrapped in styling that's far more grown-up than before. The hatchback's tidy front end (complete with a unique mesh grille texture), unembellished flanks, gracefully sloping roofline and elegant rear look so much better than before. There are no tacked-on wings, fake scoops or superfluous ornamentation. This is a tastefully styled car, a design that will age like vintage port.
Fundamentally, engineers didn't have to change much with the 2022 Civic Hatch, as the 10th-generation model was already a segment-leading product; still, they pushed ahead. The wheelbase is extended by 1.4 inches to 107.7, the longest in its class. The track width is also increased by 0.5 inches. The Civic's underlying architecture is stronger than before and features 10 times more structural adhesive, alterations that increase torsional rigidity by 19%, something you feel out on the road.
Thanks to that long wheelbase, the 2022 Honda Civic Hatchback serves up 1.4 additional inches of backseat legroom. Comfort in this car's rear is abundant, thanks to nicely angled cushions and plentiful room. Up front, the newly designed front seats are more comfortable than before, feeling less flat and spongy than other Honda chairs, though the lack of adjustable lumbar support is unfortunate and noticeable on longer drives.
The rear hatch is made of a resin material instead of steel or aluminum, which helps enable this car's flowing roofline, but it's also lighter and provides a larger opening so it's easier to load or extract cargo. A 60/40-split rear backrest is standard, too, for greater versatility. The Civic hatch now provides 24.5 cubic feet of luggage capacity, only a whisker less than the much more squared-off Volkswagen Golf GTI.
Comfort and versatility may be strong suits, but interior quality is one of this Honda's greatest achievements. The low, horizontal dashboard looks timeless and is made of premium soft plastic that puts what you get in some Audis to shame. The climate-control knobs click like the crown of a fancy watch and feel just as expensive, while the joystick-inspired air-vent controls move with scientific precision.
The tech on offer is nearly as laudable as the cabin trimmings. A 7-inch touchscreen is standard, as is a digital instrument panel of the same size. Higher-end models sport a 9-inch infotainment screen and a reconfigurable 10.2-inch gauge cluster. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard across the range, though they only connect wirelessly in zenith Sport Touring models, which also have wireless charging.
My top-shelf review unit's infotainment system is typical Honda, meaning OK but not great. The system is snappy enough and relatively easy to navigate, though it's not going to win any beauty contests with its chunky icons and busy interface. A volume knob is present and accounted for, though a tuning dial is still missing in action.
As with the sedan model, two updated engines are available in the redesigned hatch. LX and Sport models come with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that makes its power the old-fashioned way, without the aid of forced induction. It's rated at a respectable 158 horsepower and 138 pound-feet of torque. Higher-end EX-L and Sport Touring models boast of a 1.5-liter turbo that cranks out a more invigorating 180 hp and 177 lb-ft of twist.
That 1.5-liter is a good, if not outstanding little engine. Mostly smooth, it can sound a little grumbly at times, though it's never intrusive. Uncharacteristically for a Honda, this powerplant is torquey, with plenty of midrange verve. The tradeoff for this is that it lacks the ferocious high-rpm pull the automaker's engines are traditionally known for. In normal commuting, however, this added flexibility is much preferred to wringing the neck of some peaky screamer. That extra grunt gives this car impressive scoot, from just past idle right up through the rev range.
Matching its two engines, a duet of gearboxes is offered in the Civic Hatch. The mainstream option is a continuously variable transmission, and it's perfectly fine for mass consumption. Like other CVTs, it maximizes performance and fuel economy while being about as exciting as a slice of plain white bread. Giving drivers more choice, both engines can be matched with a spicy six-speed manual. Honda estimates the three-pedal offering will account for between 8% and 10% of hatch sales, a not-insignificant amount.
The manual transmission works well and is hands-down my choice, making this car orders of magnitude more fun to drive. The shifter is pleasant enough, with short throws and well-defined gates, though it feels a bit stiff and plasticky, nowhere near as nice as the Civic Type R's sublime gear selector. The hatchback's clutch is likewise agreeable, with a generous stroke length and easy engagement range, though the pedal is too light for my taste. A skosh more heft would make it just about perfect.
Top-shelf Sport Touring models with the manual transmission sticker at 28 mpg city and 37 highway. Combined, they're supposed to return 31 mpg, though in mostly interstate use I'm getting around 38 mpg, an excellent figure. Examples fitted with the CVT are slightly more economical than this. In the same Sport Touring trim, they're projected to return 30 mpg city and 37 highway, figures that result in a combined score of 33 mpg.
Retuned and refined, the 2022 Civic Hatchback drives exceptionally well. With a lower-friction front suspension, an updated steering rack, slightly stiffer springs, different dampers and massaged stabilizer bars all working in conjunction with that more-rigid structure, the car carries itself with confidence and swagger. The ride is definitely firm yet still manages to flirt with luxury as it's nearly free of grittiness or harshness. The steering is about as nice as you can expect from an electrically boosted setup, with crisp turn-in and excellent weighting. Initially, the brake pedal feels way too grabby, but you quickly adapt to its enthusiasm. About the only complaint I have with the way this new Civic drives has to do with noise. Even if it's not intrusive, wind and tire ruckus are more pronounced than I'd like.
Honda is always generous with advanced driver aids and that's no exception here. Autonomous emergency braking, road-departure mitigation, automatic high beams and traffic-sign recognition are standard across the Civic Hatchback range, as is adaptive cruise control, though traffic jam assist is not included on cars fitted with the manual transmission, ditto for low-speed follow functionality. A multi-angle backup camera with dynamic guidelines is included, too, though the image it provides is embarrassingly grainy, as bad as what you get in some Toyotas. Lane-keeping assist is bundled as well and it works phenomenally, keeping the Civic locked between the lines and never sawing at the wheel or acting weird when lane markers come or go.
With buttoned-down dynamics, a super-premium cabin and plenty of tech, the 2022 Civic hatchback is an exceptional small car. Honda expects this five-door model to account for around 25% of the nameplate's sales, which is a shame because it's an even smarter choice than the already-excellent Civic sedan.
This car starts at just shy of $24,000 including $1,015 in destination charges, which gets you an entry-level LX model with the 2.0-liter engine. The pinnacle-trim Sport Touring grade evaluated here checks out for more, around $30,415, though that's still an exceedingly fair price for what could be the best small car available today. The Honda Civic has always been a safe bet and the 2022 Hatchback is no exception.