Mountain Wheels: Honda’s updated, 40-mpg Civic gains an elevated presence

The new Honda Civic, now in its 11th generation, gains length and a lower, slimmer look, making it feel like a much more sophisticated vehicle.
Courtesy photo

As drivers across the country feel like they should be bringing an investment advisor (or an attorney) with them each time they fill up the gas tank, let us shift our attention to an automotive choice that makes a bit more sense, perhaps, for an uncertain future of fuel prices.

My very own Rocky Mountain Automotive Press group recently dubbed the 2022 edition of the Honda Civic, an new, 11th-generation version of the venerable Japanese favorite, as their car of the year.

While this might have produced a sneer or two even a year ago, the fact that the all-new automobile also gets a consistent 38 mpg, or more — without hybrid technology, though that is on the horizon — suggests it might be a better choice than the 15 mpg pickup in your driveway.

Civic has sold some 12 million units in the United States over the years, and for 2022, its proportions and presence would make you think it’s jumped up an entire category size. It does have a thinner body and a 1.4-inch-longer wheelbase, but it hasn’t magically turned into an Accord … just a more sophisticated and pleasant rendition of that long-running name.

I drove a four-door Touring edition of the new Civic sedan, equipped with a 1.5-liter, direct-injected, turbocharged four-cylinder that makes 180 horsepower, and is rated for 34 combined mpg. The base engine, a 2.0-liter making 158 horsepower, is rated at an even more impressive 42 mpg; you can also get the updated and sportier Si edition with a 1.5-liter turbo uptuned to 200 hp.

The Civic sedan is also nearly American, with a list of largely American parts assembled in Ontario, Canada, while the hatchback version is built in the company’s factory in Indiana.

Right from the start, you need to erase any mental images you might have of the Civics in your own distant past. This one has the grown-up demeanor of a small family car, and with the same cabin and convenience electronics as the new Accord, similar looks and, in the case of this well-equipped model, a base price of $28,300. The very base-level Civic LX can be yours for $22,350.

In the case of my test model, that all resulted in a shimmering and pearlescent Lunar Silver Metallic paint job, a continuously-variable transmission that is very much unnoticeable in all driving situations and enough stature to easily cruise at modern highway speeds.

Driving is a nice compromise between the austerity of the very old days, the improved feel of more recent vintage Civics and the almost too-bigness of the new Accord. It still maintains its active, versatile and engaged driving feel, and it can occasionally seem a little brisk and brittle when you stay in the saddle too long. That is, again, the world of automobiles, versus the insulated pillow of your gas-draining SUV.

Design is certainly sleek, almost as carved and contemporary as an Audi A4, and the mileage situation is definitely a winner — I got more than 300 miles on a single tank.

What really stood out is its size and presence, considering its small-car heritage. Those strongly tapered body lines, an exceptionally long, low and flat hood and a wide, powerful grille really do a lot to toughen up the Civic’s look. Loads of side glass and large, painted wheels complement its big, wide face.

It’s not exactly a 1970s station wagon inside, but not a disappointment, either. Some very-well-bolstered, ventilated leather seating holds you in place if you decide to carve a corner or two, and the overall cabin design is a mixture of fancy and utilitarian, classic Honda. The broad, flat, hide-textured dash, a small audio-visual screen with an actual volume knob (thank you, Honda) and a slightly peculiar open latticework/honeycomb sub-dash that contains pointable air vents are all pretty cool.

I also appreciated the new digital instrument cluster, with traditional round bezels or optional vertical gauges, if you like the look of those. Rolling rubber thumb controls can scroll through the various screens; a chunky leather steering wheel also feels comfortably sporty.

Elevated rear seating is quite commodious and even the trunk is big — in a Civic. Who knew? Honda continues to push its traditional fuel-savings internal-combustion engines for the mass market, but a Civic Hybrid is coming soon, and the 2024 Prologue, its first all-electric SUV, is slotted for the near future.

Andy Stonehouse, Summit Daily News
Andy Stonehouse

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