Tested: 2022 Honda Civic Hatchback Brings Stick-Shift Fun

·5 min read
Photo credit: Michael Simari - Car and Driver
Photo credit: Michael Simari - Car and Driver

Understanding the new-for-2022 Honda Civic hatchback is a simple three-step process. Step one: Remember that the Accord—particularly the turbocharged 2.0-liter Sport version that we've lauded for years—is a level-headed combination of practicality and over-the-road finesse. Step two: Consider that the new Civic sedan introduced earlier this year is so mature, refined, and adept that we kept calling it the Accord by mistake during our recent small-sedan comparison test—which it won handily. Step three: Now imagine a Civic hatchback that resembles the Civic sedan so closely it's hard to tell the two apart, even when they're parked side by side. That's all there is to your homework assignment.

Indeed, the previous Civic hatchback was chunky, flamboyantly edgy, and festooned with enough goofy fake air intakes and outlets that its looks bordered on jet-age caricature. The new hatchback, however, echoes the latest Civic sedan's understated, fluid lines right down to the elegant sweep of its roof. The hatchback model has grown a mere 1.1 inches in length over the previous version but looks much larger outside, virtually as long as its handsome sedan sibling even though it's 5.0 inches shorter. Legroom in the rear seat subjectively feels every bit as generous as in the sedan now; the old hatchback's rear legroom seemed considerably tighter. Some of that rear-seat room advantage is down to the new car's 1.4-inch longer wheelbase—the Civic sedan and hatchback again roll on identical wheelbases—which stretches the cabin that much more.

Photo credit: Michael Simari - Car and Driver
Photo credit: Michael Simari - Car and Driver

While passenger room is virtually identical between the new Civic sedan and hatchback, there's no question which one enables the bigger Costco run. The sedan's trunk holds 14 cubic feet of freshly purchased goods, but the hatchback can carry 25 cubic feet behind its fold-down rear seat. Cargo-hauling capability isn't the only thing that makes the hatchback stand out in the Civic lineup, though. It also offers a manual transmission, just as it did in the previous generation. The sedan doesn't.

Two of the four hatchback models, the mid-level Sport and our top-spec Sport Touring test car, can be equipped with the manual as a no-cost option. The base LX and the EX-L are available only with Honda's continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). The $25,115 Sport would be our pick for the best balance of price and stick-shift fun, but it comes only with the base 158-hp, 2.0-liter inline-four. The loaded Sport Touring is powered by the brawnier, 180-hp turbocharged 1.5-liter four, by far the livelier combination, but at a base price of $30 415, its sticker is closing in on that of the superb 252-hp, turbocharged 2.0-liter Accord Sport, which went for $33,125 in 2021 (prices aren't yet out for the 2022 Accord line). Then again, the Accord is no longer available with a manual gearbox.

Photo credit: Michael Simari - Car and Driver
Photo credit: Michael Simari - Car and Driver

Our Sonic Gray Civic Sport Touring test car gave off a sporty vibe thanks to its standard blacked-out trim and hunky 235/40R-18 Continental ContiProContact all-season tires on great-looking 10-spoke wheels. The six-speed manual certainly makes the Sport Touring more engaging. The clutch is effortless, and the shift action is good—not as well-oiled as in Honda's best manual gearboxes, but precise and easy to use. The engine purrs softly even when worked hard, and it propelled the stick-shift hatchback to 60 mph in 7.3 seconds and through the quarter-mile in 15.5 seconds at 91 mph. That's no real advantage over the CVT, where we recorded a 7.2-second zero-to-60-mph sprint and a 15.6-second quarter in a Civic Sport Touring sedan, but the manual certainly is more fun. Our manually equipped test car showed less than 400 miles on the odometer, and with a few more break-in miles, we expect there to be more separation between the two.

Photo credit: Michael Simari - Car and Driver
Photo credit: Michael Simari - Car and Driver

Stick shift or no, the Sport Touring, like its Civic sedan sister ship, had us thinking "little Accord" more than "sport sedan." The hatchback's ride is supple and its handling secure, although it reveals surprising poise when pushed aggressively on a twisty two-lane. We recorded an impressive 0.90 g of cornering grip on our skidpad, which would easily have been higher had the stability control not intervened. This is a car that doesn't fall to its knees when pressed, which is exactly what we say of the Accord Sport.

The interior of the Civic Sport Touring looks and feels Accord-like as well; it's similarly well appointed and conservative in design. The standard leather seats are comfortable, and the cabin materials are good looking, with many softly padded surfaces and not much in the way of hard plastic trim. We especially like the designer's touch evident in the intricate metal honeycomb panel that stretches across the dash and hides the air vents.

Photo credit: Michael Simari - Car and Driver
Photo credit: Michael Simari - Car and Driver

The Sport Touring trim also offers the kind of upscale equipment that's become common across the small-car segment in recent years. Features include a Bose premium audio system, a 9.0-inch touchscreen with navigation, a 10.2-inch digital instrument cluster, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, dual rear 2.5-amp USB ports, a sunroof, dual-zone climate control, power seats, wireless phone charging, and much more. Honda's lane-keeping and active cruise-control systems are standard on all hatchbacks.

The hatchback lineup starts at $23,915, $1000 more than the sedan. That relatively small price step up from the sedan brings with it a choice for Civic buyers. The hatchback looks virtually the same as the handsome sedan. It's just as roomy, it's equally comfortable, it feels as solid, and it drives every bit as well. Plus, it offers both a manual transmission and near-SUV cargo capacity. You can't go wrong with either model, but as fans of do-it-yourself shifting, we know which one we'd take.

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