The purist's hatch retains a manual gearbox but matures elsewhere.
Following on from the launch of the 11th-generation Honda Civic Sedan, the Japanese marque has just revealed its more youthful sibling, the Civic Hatchback. While the sedan has improved in all areas but hasn't done much to excite with its rather conservative styling and lack of a manual gearbox, the hatch will aim to attract a younger crowd with its available six-speed manual transmission and sportier rear-end design. For the first time, the Civic Hatchback will be built in the United States but does that mean it is better aligned with the needs and wants of local buyers?
While the Civic Sedan can perhaps be forgiven for its classy but conservative lines, one feels that the Civic Hatchback deserves a more daring approach to aesthetics. Honda seems to feel differently and the new hatch retains many of the clean design cues of the sedan. A unique grille mesh, a truncated rear overhang, and that tapering roofline do give it a sportier air, although the previous hatch did do more to turn heads. Honda has boosted the color palette with new shades like Boost Blue Pearl and Smokey Mauve Pearl. The base trim has 16-inch alloys but wheel sizes are as large as 18 inches.
While far from offensive or ugly, the latest Civic Hatchback's demure appearance does leave plenty of room for Honda to go all-out with the upcoming Si and Type-R variants.
Honda has done a fine job inside the new Civic hatch. This is a smartly designed interior that remains as practical as you'd expect of a Honda. Rear legroom has increased by almost 1.4 inches and rear headroom is as generous as before. The cargo area is more versatile as there is a 1.6-inch wider, lower hatch opening combined with a usefully low lift-over height.
The Civic has taken a welcome step up in the technology stakes. Lower trims have a seven-inch color LCD instrument display and there is a 10.2-inch all-digital display for the Sport Touring. The latter also has a nine-inch color touchscreen, with other models getting a seven-inch touchscreen. The Honda Sensing system has a new single-camera system that better identifies other vehicles and pedestrians than before.
The previous Civic Hatchback exclusively used a 1.5-liter turbocharged engine exclusively but the new model also offers the option of a 2.0-liter naturally-aspirated four-cylinder unit with 158 horsepower and 138 lb-ft of torque, equipped to the LX and Sport trims. Customers craving more power can opt for the 1.5-liter turbo (EX-L and Sport Touring) with 180 hp and 177 lb-ft. While a continuously variable transmission is standard, both engines can be optionally paired with a short-throw six-speed manual. We have high hopes for this gearbox as Honda has a knack for engineering sweet-shifting manuals.
Honda claims this is the "most fun-to-drive Civic Hatchback ever" with suspension and steering tuning specific for the North American market. A 1.4-inch longer wheelbase helps to create a smoother ride and a wider rear track is claimed to improve stability.
Honda hasn't yet revealed pricing for the 2022 Civic Hatchback but we do know that the sedan begins at $21,700 - expect the hatch to start at a slightly higher price as the 2021 version begins at $22,200.
The usual competitors for the Civic include the Toyota Corolla Hatchback and the Mazda 3 Hatchback. In what seems like a reversal of roles, both the Toyota and Mazda now appear to be the more exuberantly styled alternatives and the Mazda packs up to 250 hp. The Toyota makes do with a rather disappointing naturally-aspirated four-pot but carries a wallet-friendly price tag of under $21,000. We expect that all three will be closely matched in a direct comparison but the Civic is clearly a well-rounded hatchback that should do well.