Daily drivers are usually boring, reliable transportation between the times that you get to drive what you really want. You expect them to be the cars that get you through the week so you can have fun on the weekend. Honda managed to do something pretty amazing with the 2022 Honda Civic Hatchback: It’s a daily driver fun enough that you’ll look forward to driving it after a long day at work, especially when it’s equipped with a manual transmission.
(Full Disclosure: Honda invited me out to Ann Arbor, Michigan to play with a pair of Civic Hatchbacks. I paid for my own travel, but Honda put me up in a nice hotel after learning that I woke up super early to drive the cars.)
When I first saw the new Civic, my first thought was that it was a baby Accord. The eleventh-generation Civic sheds the “boy racer” look of the outgoing model. Gone are the sharp angles, busy interior, and giant fake vents. If the tenth generation Civic were a college student that wore character tees and shorts, the eleventh-generation is a professional wearing a suit.
You might think that it’s surprising that the new Civic hasn’t followed the trend and become more like a crossover. I mean, as we noted on our review of the sedan, this new car is unapologetic about not being a crossover. But the tenth-generation Civic was Honda’s best seller ever, moving some 1.7 million units over the last five years.
Honda believes the sedan will eventually make a comeback whenever the crossover craze finally hits its peak. If and when that does happen, it will have its cars and hatchbacks at the ready.
And damn, it’s made a good car with the Civic Hatchback.
Upon initial inspection, it may be hard to see how the hatch is different than the sedan.
Even our own readers have said that hatch looks like the sedan, but with rear glass that pops open. There is more going on than meets the eye. The first change I’ll point out is right up front and I think it’s the most important. The front facia has dialed back the Neanderthal forehead look; a vast improvement that makes the exterior much more appealing.
The hatchback takes on a more of a fastback design, with a gentle curved roof that terminates at rear edge. And that hatch itself is pretty interesting as it’s not made of steel or aluminum, but resin.
This new Civic has a wheelbase 1.4 inches longer than the tenth-generation, with the hatchback gaining 1.1 inches over the outgoing car. The hatchback model is five inches shorter than the sedan, but maintains a similar presence.
Of course, part of the reason you buy a hatchback is for the practicality, and this Civic has it in spades.
The sedan holds 14.8 cubic feet in its trunk while the hatchback swallows 24.5 cu.-ft of whatever you can throw into it.
Honda doesn’t say what that number gets bumped up to with the seats down, but there’s enough space back there for two people of average height to get a good night’s sleep and even change clothes back there.
This is great for those who sometimes sleep in their cars on long trips like I do. Despite the loss of five inches in length, those rear seats are pretty roomy, too.
And that interior is my favorite part of this new Civic.
The Civic’s interior has evolved over the years from a basic economy car to something like the complicated cockpit of a Gundam. The new interior has thrown all of that away.
It isn’t just uncluttered but a fantastic place to buckle yourself up into. The dashboard has this wonderful metal honeycomb mesh that hides away the HVAC vents. It reminds me somewhat of a guitar amplifier.
That attention to detail drills down to how the buttons and knobs feel. The knobs feel like they’ve come out of a more expensive vehicle, being weighty with a great tactile feel as you move through each selection. I like that Honda has kept physical buttons around instead of using touch capacitive buttons or hiding things behind a screen.
One thing I’d like to see is more of that lovely mesh, perhaps on the tweeters or on the doors.
Materials are excellent. Drag your filthy fingers around the car’s interior and you’ll be pleased with surfaces that have a quality feel. I probably felt up this poor tester a little too much.
Honda put some comfortable chairs in the Civic, too. The Sport Touring model that I tested comes standard with leather seats. They’re comfortable while being just firm enough for the car’s sporting pretensions. More on that soon.
My tester had a 9.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with navigation, and it is just as welcoming, with operation that feels like the smartphone in the palm of your hands. No surprise there because Honda’s system is based on a version of Android with modifications.
Music comes firing out of a 12-speaker Bose system that holds good levels of clarity throughout even if you have the volume cranked to the max like I did. This stereo is perfect for those after-work commute jam sessions.
It has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but the base system is actually pretty competent, too.
More tech comes in the form of a 10.2-inch digital instrument cluster that isn’t anything flashy, but keeps all of your necessary vitals crisp and easy to read.
All of this is good because as a daily driver, you’re going to be spending a lot of time here. It’s a timeless interior that’s so uncluttered and so tranquil that I just wanted to stay in it all day — forget the Oldsmobile that I drove in with. This is easily one of my favorite interiors in this price bracket.
Piloting the Civic Hatchback is pleasantly engaging. The car brings a six-speed manual transmission to the table with a shifter that slides into each gear with a deeply satisfying click.
Honda’s manual gearboxes have maintained a pretty consistent feel over the years, with exceptions for cars like the first-generation Insight. If I closed my eyes, you could probably fool me and tell me that I’m shifting gears in my Beat.
Under the hood of my Sport Touring tester was a 1.5-liter turbo four making 180 HP and 177 lb-ft torque.
The Civic is by no means a rocket, but punch it and you’ll not only burn rubber in first gear but keep the tires singing in second gear. Honda added its VTEC to the exhaust valves and you feel it because once this engine gets in power it just doesn’t fall off. Then you shift gears and do it all over again. The experience is only hampered by loads of rev hang, which locks the RPM where you left it while you’re rowing into the next gear.
The clutch in the hatchback is very light. Some drivers may not like this, but I love it. Heavy clutch pedals can become a pain, literally, when you’re stuck in stop and go traffic. The Civic’s clutch is so light that you won’t even think about the pedal when you’re moving about a city. As we’ve noted before, opting for the manual locks you into a white, gray, or black color scheme. At least the gray is a nice one, having a bit of a blue hue to it.
If manual isn’t your vibe, you could get the hatchback with a CVT. Like the tenth-generation’s transmission, if you didn’t know it was a CVT, you’d probably think it was a regular automatic. Put the pedal down, and the revs don’t race to and stay at redline like some CVT-equipped vehicles would. Instead, the car simulates shifting gears once it hits redline. A manual mode is available through shift paddles that further makes it feel like it’s not a CVT. It’s a responsive unit and gets power down fast enough that the car feels plenty quick.
No matter your choice of transmission, it’s complemented with seriously competent handling.
The Civic’s suspension isn’t unsettled by Michigan’s rough roads, and it feels poised through curves. Body roll is well controlled, and the steering has just enough feel that you know what each wheel is up to. Honda gave the Hatchback slightly thicker springs, a slightly thicker rear stabilizer, and rear wheels kicked out ever so slightly.
I found myself pelting some Sirenia out of the rolling boombox, two hands on the wheel, winding through hills and curves; the Civic blasting through piles of leaves like the hero car out of a movie. If there’s any handling bottleneck, it’s the 235/40/R18 Continental ContiProContact tires, as they give out before the car feels ready settle down.
You get all of this in a car that’s thrifty enough to get up to 39 mpg on the highway and looks like a little Accord. I know some people will think that this design is boring, but I think it’s just right.
This is a car that someone could drive to a professional job without non-car people assuming that you’re driving something for a high-school student.
A Civic Hatchback isn’t going to be the fastest or best handling car that you’ll drive. People aren’t going to corner you at gas stations to ask you about it. And it’s not a car that’s going to blow anyone’s mind.
But what the Civic does really well is be a car that you’ll enjoy having as your daily.
You really can’t go wrong with either the stick or the CVT, but I feel that the manual is the perfect version of the hatchback. The manual drives so nicely and so easily that it’s fun, even when you’re stopping every few feet for construction, traffic and lights.
If there’s anything that disappoints me about the Civic Hatchback, it’s that you have to pay a lot to get the good engine and a manual transmission. It starts at $22,900 for the LX, $1,000 more than the sedan. That gets you a 2.0-liter naturally aspirated four making 158 HP, CVT, cloth seats, a monochrome color, and just a four speaker sound system.
You have to pay at least $24,100 for the Sport to get a manual, and you’re stuck with that 2.0-liter four. $26,600 gets you the EX-L with the 1.5-liter turbo four, but you have to go all the way to the top, $29,400 for the Sport Touring, to get the manual option back.
Still, in a world filled with crossovers that merely get the job done, the Civic Hatchback stands out as a reminder that daily drivers don’t have to bore you.