The Car Connection Honda Civic Overview
The Honda Civic compact sedan, hatchback, and coupe is one of the best-selling, most widely recognized car lines in the world. Across nearly a dozen generations, the Civic has come in many shapes, sizes, and models.
A size larger than the Fit hatchback, the Honda Civic slots in beneath the Honda Accord in the company's lineup. The Civic is a rival for cars such as the Mazda 3, Toyota Corolla, Nissan Sentra, and Hyundai Elantra, among others.
With the Civic, Honda has built an enviable reputation for durability and longevity. The Civic has another ace up its sleeve, too: efficiency. Over time, the Civic family has included natural-gas-powered and hybrid gas-electric models. Even the standard gas-powered models earn high fuel economy without much effort on the part of the driver, making them excellent choices for commuters. (Today's lightly disguised Civic Hybrid is sold as the Insight.)
MORE: Read our 2022 Honda Civic review
The new Honda Civic
With the latest Civic, Honda refines the previous generation car and calms down its styling, while carrying over its powertrains. The coupe body style has been dropped, and the Civic Si and Type R have yet to return, but the Civic's essential goodness is intact.
The redesigned body smooths down some of the Civic's ruffles, with fewer wild details and pared-down cutlines, but the same silhouette. The hatchback is 4.9 inches shorter than the sedan, with all of that length being chopped off at the rear. The cabin reboots with a theme that's shared with Honda's non-U.S. market electric car, sporting a strip of metal trim that imparts elegance to it. Either a 7.0-inch touchscreen or a 9.0-inch touchscreen take up residence on the dash and handle infotainment.
Engines carry over. The base 158-hp 2.0-liter inline-4 comes with the LX and Sport Civics, while the 180-hp 1.5-liter turbo-4 shows up in the Civic EX and Touring, or EX-L and Sport Touring hatchback models. On all, a CVT ships power to the front wheels. The turbo-4's the better, stronger option, and all Civics have a sophisticated ride and handling setup that's well-damped and still entertaining. Fuel economy climbs to as much as 36 mpg combined.
Interior space suits four large passengers, with a small place for a fifth. The trunk's nearly big enough to qualify as mid-size, and the hatchback has 24.5 cubic feet of cargo space.
Honda equips all 2022 Civics with automatic emergency braking, automatic high beams, active lane control, and adaptive cruise control. Parking sensors and blind-spot monitors are available.
The $22,695 Civic LX gets 16-inch wheels, power features, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and a 7.0-inch touchscreen. The hatchback LX starts at $23,915. Prices rise to nearly $30,000 for a Civic Touring with leather, a 9.0-inch touchscreen, and Bose 12-speaker audio.
Honda Civic history
The Civic first came to the U.S. in the early 1970s. While in non-Rust Belt states there are no doubt many running examples of Honda Civic models dating back to the 1970s and 1980s, the 1990s-era Civics are currently the most common older Civic models still widely in circulation. These Civics mostly have 1.5- and 1.6-liter engines of various outputs; Honda's VTEC system was phased into the Civic's engine line in 1992 and allowed the model to be both faster and more fuel-efficient than many other small cars of that era. The Civic was also one of the few inexpensive small cars to have an independent rear suspension, giving it ride and handling traits that easily beat the norm.
The Civic that was sold from 2001 through 2005 was only sold as a rather drab sedan in the U.S.—except for the sporty Si model—but what it lacked for style it made up in all-around performance, with good fuel economy as well, and a roomy interior. Some enthusiasts weren't thrilled with the change to a strut front suspension. This generation marked the debut of a Civic Hybrid model, borrowing the Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) system that had made its debut in the earlier Insight coupe.
With radically different, aerodynamically optimized exterior styling and a completely reimagined twin-level instrument-panel design, the Civic that was offered from 2006 to 2011 came in sleek coupe or sedan variants, with a 140-horsepower, 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine on most (DX, LX, EX, and EX-L models). The Civic Hybrid model returned, with a CVT transmission and 110-hp mild-hybrid system good for an EPA 40 mpg city, 45 highway, and a natural-gas-fueled GX model was also on offer. This time around, the Civic Si model had an excellent 197-horsepower, 2.0-liter inline-4 and 6-speed manual—other versions had a 5-speed manual or 5-speed automatic. Again, the Civic was praised for its fuel economy and peppy driving feel with nearly any of its variants, but backseat head room was limited because of the sloping roofline.
While many think of the Civic as solely a basic, no-frills vehicle, in that 2006-2011 generation the top-of-the-line Civic EX models grew even more luxurious, with leather upholstery, heated seats, and even a navigation system.
The Civic was redesigned for the 2012 model year, but in a rare error of judgment, Honda's designers erred too far on the side of austerity, using grim, cheap, hard plastics for the interior and stinting on things such as sound insulation. While the 2012 Civic sold fine, reviewers savaged the car as not up to Honda's usual standards. Just 16 months later, the 2013 models arrived with new front and rear styling, and a redesigned and more upscale interior. We drove the improved 2013 Civic and indeed found it to be better in many respects.
More than a typical mid-cycle refresh, the 2013 Honda Civic received a somewhat different look modeled after the new Accord, plus an expanded feature set, including standard Bluetooth, text-message functionality, Pandora integration, and a rearview camera—all standard—while optional navigation systems were upgraded with subscription-free, FM-based traffic info. Most importantly, the cabin was given new materials, as well as extra noise insulation. Civic Hybrids also received new standard active safety, with forward-collision and lane-departure warning systems.
There were some significant updates for 2014. The Civic coupe's front end was completely redesigned to be more aggressive and in line with the latest Accord two-door. The automatic transmission was replaced with a CVT, which improved fuel economy, while redesigned exhaust systems on most models bumped up horsepower and torque figures. There were also feature and technology updates, chief among them a new 7.0-inch touchscreen radio.
This Civic lineup was as wide-ranging as it had ever been, offering a variant for almost any compact-car shopper. Base models used a simple 4-cylinder gas engine, while the hot Si coupe and sedan offered sportier handling and more power with equally tuned looks. Enviro-conscious shoppers could opt for the Civic Hybrid sedan, which hit 45 mpg combined using its single-motor IMA hybrid system. There also was a Natural Gas model, which was fueled by compressed fuel stored in an in-trunk tank.
Honda Civic, 2016-2021
The 2016 model year ushered in a new Civic, with a slew of new body styles and features, including the first turbocharged engine sold by Honda in America.
The Civic sedan was the first of the new generation to arrive, eventually joined by a hatchback and a coupe. It was seen as the best-looking car Honda had drawn in a decade, with a beautifully edgy fastback shape that hid the gains in size very well. The cabin was a bit more tame, but well organized, with a broad horizontal theme that wouldn't look out of place in a BMW.
Honda offered two new engines in the new Civic. The base engine was a 2.0-liter inline-4 with 158 horsepower coupled to either a 6-speed manual or an automatic continuously variable transmission (CVT). With either transmission, this Civic delivered even-handed, if unremarkable, power, but excellent fuel economy of up to 35 mpg on the combined cycle, according to the EPA. For more lively performance, a 1.5-liter turbo-4 offered the obvious upgrade to take: it got the same fuel economy ratings as the CVT-equipped base inline-4, but acceleration was quick enough to merit a sportier, Si badge. What really set this new Civic apart from its past was excellent ride and handling, thanks to a trick steering setup and hydraulic suspension mounts; it was so composed and compliant, it felt like a much more capable and expensive car.
The Civic was much bigger than before, up to 3 inches longer and nearly 2 inches wider. Interior space and comfort improved by a big margin, with a low driving position, excellent bucket seats, and very good rear-seat space that served as its hallmarks. Prices ranged from about $20,000 to just above $27,000.
The 2016 Honda Civic sedan was named the North American Car of the Year.
A new Civic Coupe arrived as a 2016 model and a new hatchback was introduced that fall. The hatchback model was available only with the turbo-4 and predated the ultra-hot Type R hatchback. The Type R arrived in 2017. It was Motor Authority's Best Car to Buy 2018.
For 2019, the Civic gained a new Sport trim for sedans and coupes, plus revised exterior styling and an updated infotainment system with a volume knob. For the 2021 model year, Honda dropped the Coupe and Civic Si from the lineup.