The Best Compact Car in this year’s edition of the AutoTrader Awards is the 2022 Honda Civic, an all-new design that marks the car’s 11th generation.
The Civic’s looks may be new, but its appearance in these awards is not: The 10th-generation model (introduced in 2016) was the top small car in our inaugural 2017 awards program, a feat it repeated in 2018 and 2019.
As good as it was, the 10th-generation Civic spent last year on the sidelines as our experts voted the Mazda3 as the Best Compact Car for 2021. But the Civic is back on top for 2022 with a design and overhaul that clearly appealed to AutoTrader’s jury of more than 20 automotive industry experts from all over the country. They shortlisted the 2022 Honda Civic after considering all of the current compact car options available to Canadians and then singling it out from an impressive field of finalists.
Among those was last year’s winner, the Mazda3, but its upscale look and driving feel were not enough to keep the 2022 Honda Civic from winning the Best Compact Car crown. Honda also beat out the redesigned Volkswagen Golf, the Toyota Corolla, and the Hyundai Elantra.
Ultimately, our jury was impressed with the 2022 Honda Civic for having a design that calls back to the car’s previous generations while remaining firmly rooted in the present with plenty of modern, easy-to-use technology.
The dashboard, for example, was designed with nods to the original Civic, with a straightforward control layout, clean horizontal lines emphasizing the cabin’s width, and a digital gauge cluster that recalls the first-gen Civic’s dual round gauge faces.
On its own, the touchscreen perched atop the dash is a thoroughly modern touch, but putting it up there while lowering the rest of the dash contributes to “stellar” forward visibility (as described by AutoTrader reviewer Chris Tsui), a hallmark of Civics from the 1980s and 1990s.
Tsui also had good things to say about the new Civic’s ergonomics. In trims with a heated steering wheel (which is most of them) the button is on the wheel itself, where it belongs. He found the infotainment display to be “clear, fast and well laid-out” and thinks the trio of “ridiculously nice” HVAC knobs look and feel like they belong in a luxury car.
The new Civic’s engines carry over from the 10th-generation car. The Touring sedan and both Sport and Sport Touring hatchback trims get a revised version of Honda’s 1.5L turbo four-cylinder that makes 180 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque, up six hp and 15 lb-ft over last year. Tsui couldn’t feel the extra power, but said it sounds better in quick acceleration thanks to a recalibrated continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). Lesser trims use a 158-hp 2.0L engine whose most notable update is an auto stop/start system.
Tsui (who reviewed a Touring sedan with the 1.5L turbo) was even more impressed by the 2022 Civic’s handling.
“The outgoing car was already a decent handler, but this version buttons this compact down even more. The steering … exhibits a delicacy reminiscent of cars way more expensive and athletic … (and) the entire car feels nimbler and lighter than before.”
If you’re a fan of more pragmatic Civic attributes like its excellent fuel economy, Honda says both engines promise marginal improvements over the already-thrifty 2021 model.
Some drivers will be disappointed in the Civic sedan’s lack of a manual transmission, but the hatchback offers one with both engines, pinning the turbocharged Sport and Sport Touring trims as the car’s most enthusiast-friendly choices, at least until the sporty Si and Type R return to the lineup. These days, we’re just happy to see an economy car offer a stickshift in something other than its entry-grade trim levels.
That said, one of our criticisms of the 2022 Honda Civic is the lack of a true entry-level model for budget-oriented shoppers. The cheapest 2022 Civic is the $24,465 LX sedan, while the Mazda3 starts at $20,750 (for a 2021 model), the Toyota Corolla starts below $19,500, and the Hyundai Elantra comes in around $18,000.
That doesn’t mean the Civic is lacking in value, however, because the LX sedan comes with a digital gauge cluster, automatic climate control, and passive keyless entry. You have to pay extra for those items in the Toyota and Hyundai; the Mazda3 includes digital gauges, but not the other two features. Honda is also banking on the Civic’s premium driving feel to make the car’s highest-in-class starting price seem worthwhile.
As before, the Civic comes standard with an array of driver safety helpers like adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assist, and forward collision warning and mitigation, but throws in a few new touches, including a traffic sign recognition function that highlights the current speed limit on the digital gauge cluster.
Finally, if you’re a fan of made-in-Canada products, you’ll be pleased to know Honda still builds the Civic at its Alliston, Ont., factory. Even better, in September 2021, J.D. Power ranked the Alliston Civic plant the third-best Honda factory in the world in terms of build quality, a nod to the brand’s efforts to maintain its longstanding reputation for well-built vehicles.