Does newer mean better? The all-new 2022 Honda Civic has upped the game, but not everyone is convinced it is truly superior to the outgoing model. We explain why it might be an easy win.
The 10th-gen Honda Civic (FC) has carved out its rightful seat on the C-segment throne to the point that its biggest rival is itself in the form of the 11th-gen Civic (FE). Having experienced the all-new car on various roads over a multi-day media drive event, we can make some assertions about where it flies high and where it stumbles.
Before getting into that, we just want to start this out by expressing how refreshing it is that so many people seem so invested and interested in comparing the 11th-gen Civic to its immediate predecessor.
This is especially relevant and encouraging in a market narrative dominated by SUVs of every shape, size, and price - that there could be so much contention and debate about a C-segment sedan. It’s awesome.
Clearly, every subsequent generation of every car model is intended to improve upon its predecessor, but the 10th-generation Civic presents an abnormally high bar for its successor to exceed.
In our 2021 review of the FC in 1.5 TC-P guise, we raised doubt if Honda could outdo themselves with the next-generation car without significantly hiking up the price. Though we will save our full in-depth assessment of the car for a proper review, our time with the FE did manage to cement some undeniable improvements.
Let’s kick off with the subject most rife with controversy. Despite sharing similar underpinnings and coupe-like roofline and silhouette, Honda has ditched the angularity and bold lines that very much defined the FC, replacing it with the FE’s softer contours.
Gone too is a certain level of distinctiveness that only meme-level iconic ‘ketam tail lights’ can garner in favour of more palatable elements that are counter to the brand’s corporate aesthetic that has been built up for more than half a decade.
It’s an overall more matured look that would appeal to a broader audience at the risk of drawing unflattering comparisons to other automakers, but most notably Mazda.
That said, I have personally encountered individuals that are now more open to considering the Civic FE after previously being turned away from the FC’s more dramatic exterior.
Again, a contentious subject. However, with the RS variant mainly being about cosmetic enhancements, this range-topping Civic delivers bags of curb appeal straight from the showroom floor that was previously only attainable through aftermarket channels.
Alongside the other exterior and interior flourishes, the 18-inch matte black twin 5-spoke wheels are sporty and aggressive but still tastefully subtle. Owners of the FC were known for quickly making an appointment with their favourite rim shop for a new set of extra ganas wheels after taking delivery of their then-new ride, and who could blame them!
The general look of the two-tone part-chrome wheels from the FC has been somewhat recreated for the FE in the 1.5 V variant, but so have its busier design and added bling factor that doesn't necessarily project a sporty vibe.
Some lowering springs and a set of 10/15mm spacers on each wheel hub are all that’s needed to get even BMW drivers a little jealous of the Civic RS’ hunkered down look.
This sense of tightness and material integrity, especially compared to the FC, is something quite noticeable in the FE, not that its predecessor was especially lacking, to begin with.
Matching the exterior, being sat in the 11th-gen Civic really does make you consider how much narrower the gulf between ‘mass market’ and ‘premium’ is. We could probably find some things to continue to be annoyed at but, on the whole, none of those remaining niggles will ever be likely to bother the average owner.
Besides the upgraded tech on offer, there’s an acute sense of solidity that’s reinforced by the more elegant and cohesive dashboard design that (literally and visually) bridges/braces both ends of the cabin. It’s best described on video, which is why I can’t wait to give the all-new Civic the proper review treatment. Alternatively, you’ll know what I mean if you take a seat/drive in someone else’s FE or test one out at a dealership. Then try stepping into an FC with a critical eye....
The infotainment unit in the FE now uses a 9-inch freestanding touch unit (V, RS), but more important is the bump in resolution and daytime visibility. Honda has seemingly opted for an IPS panel for a clearer image overall that's capable of a far higher contrast ratio.
As before, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard with the V and RS able to link up smartphones wirelessly, but even if you just use Bluetooth audio or FM radio, the infotainment’s base interface is slicker, much more intuitive to use, and buttery smooth
Where the interface in the FC’s touchscreen head unit was clearly based on some aged fork of Android, this one seems to be far more bespoke and/or optimised but doesn’t fall into the trap of trying to look or feel overly stylised at the expense of performance/responsiveness. We’re looking at you, Peugeot.
Honda’s investment into injection-delivered foam insulation seems to have benefitted the new City as much as the all-new Civic as the ambient noise and vibrations are markedly better dampened over the 10th-gen FC.
This is particularly evident in the RS with its larger 18-inch wheels and lower-profile Micheline Pilot Sport 4 tyres. The expectation would be for a harsher ride and more pronounced tyre roar but none of those was experienced in our time with the car.
Just like the elevated cabin experience, this element of improved refinement helped the Civic FE plant a strong sense of being an upmarket car in the trappings of a mass-market (or upper mass market) product. We neither admit nor deny that we drove upwards of 200km/h with very little compromise in NVH levels. Impressive.
Yes, the powertrain is technically improved over the last time we saw it in the Civic FC. It’s essentially the same L15B7 turbocharged 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol that sat under the bonnet in the previous car (and the Accord, and the CR-V....), which is why we aren’t too keen to discuss it too much.
It’s still a punchy motor as ever, with a power bump of 9PS to 182PS and 20Nm to 240Nm at their respective peaks. Drive also reaches the front wheels via Honda’s CVT that, while quiet and efficient, is far from engaging even with the shift paddles.
To drive, it feels identical to the FC in low speed, hard acceleration, and at a cruise with the added power and torque being imperceptible, possibly due to the Civic FE growing in size and weight, thereby cancelling out any potential performance improvement.
The more important takeaway is that the entire Civic range from 2022 onward will be exclusively turbocharged and comprised of the same 1.5-litre petrol, jettisoning the legacy 1.8-litre naturally aspirated i-VTEC unit for better or worse. That’s definitely and literally more bang for your buck.
An attempt was made to convey the feeling that Honda has managed to improve upon almost every facet where the FC was found lacking. In our brief time with it, all-new Civic has proved to be extremely well-rounded and competent to the point of the mild annoyance of this writer.
You can almost see the FE showing a resting smug face to its rivals, daring them for a challenge. Now, bring on a full review.
There's just something about cars. It's a conveyance, it's a liability, it's a tool; but it can also be a source of joy, pride, inspiration and passion. It's much like clothes versus fashion. And like the latter, the pursuit of perfection never ends.