December 1, 2021

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Unique Car

2022 Honda Civic Sport First Test Review: Goodness Beneath the Noise

honda civic Full Overview

The obvious choice isn’t always the best one, except when it comes to compact sedans. The general consensus at MotorTrend has been that you can’t go wrong with a Honda Civic. But competition isn’t making it easy. Those brave enough to venture beyond a Honda dealership will find solid options in the likes of the Nissan Sentra and Hyundai Elantra, to name just two. Honda has responded to the increasingly strong competition by introducing the new-for-2022 Civic. What we found in testing the 2022 Honda Civic Sport reaffirms our belief that no one does compacts like Honda, but the automaker has left the door open to the competition in a couple of ways.

Is the 2022 Civic Sport … Sporty?

Beyond the 18-inch alloy wheels and the addition of a Sport mode, the 2022 Civic Sport is no sportier than any other Civic. And thanks to the 2022 redesign, it has a more mature look, so much so that one valet in L.A. confused it with an Accord.

Generally speaking, the Civic Sport is an appearance-and-features package, but it’s layered onto a compact sedan that—regardless of trim—includes the type of baked-in engineering goodness you can’t get anywhere else. Like the base Civic LX, the next-level-up Sport is powered by a 158-hp 2.0-liter naturally aspirated I-4 producing 138 lb-ft of torque. Spend more on a Civic EX-L or Touring, and you get a turbocharged 1.5-liter I-4 with 180-hp and 177 lb-ft.

“Damn, the ride motions, the jounce control, the turn-in, the brake feel, the initial impact compliance—this is a spectacular chassis,” said digital director Erik Johnson.

Road test editor Chris Walton called the Civic Sport “fun and reasonably capable” despite limited grip from its Goodyear Eagle Sport all-season tires (235/40R18s). He also appreciated the sedan’s great brake feel. Too bad that feel didn’t translate into true stopping power, though the tires may have had something to do with the less than stellar results. Its actual 60—0 braking distance of 122 feet is acceptable, but it lags behind the Hyundai Elantra’s 116 feet, the Toyota Corolla sedan’s 115 feet, and the Nissan Sentra SR’s 114 feet.

How Quick Is the Civic Sport? How About Fuel Economy?

Acceleration to 60 mph takes the 2022 Civic Sport 9.2 seconds. For the average driver, that’s sufficient oomph. The problem is that so many competitors, and even the last-gen Civic with the almost identical 2.0-liter engine, are quicker. The 2022 Civic Sport’s predecessor hit 60 in 8.6 seconds. We’ve tested a Sentra SR reaching 60 in 8.8 seconds, matching the time of a 2021 Toyota Corolla XSE Apex Edition. Meanwhile, the Hyundai Elantra manages the same sprint in only 8.4 seconds while beating the Honda in fuel economy, as well.

That’s one of the Civic Sport’s biggest issues. What you gain in curb appeal—and by the way, the model displayed here wears an extra-cost HPD body kit and spoiler—you lose in efficiency. The Civic Sport’s 30/37 mpg city/highway is merely decent. Those numbers compare well to the Nissan Sentra’s 28-29/37-39 mpg, but not to the Toyota Corolla’s 30/38-40 mpg or to the Hyundai Elantra’s 31-33/41-43 mpg.

Efficiency minders might be better off with the other three 2022 Civic trims, from the base LX 2.0 (31/40 mpg) to the higher-priced EX fitted with Honda’s more powerful 1.5-liter turbo engine (33/42 mpg). Go for the Civic Touring 1.5T and those numbers drop to 31/38 mpg. The quickest 2022 Civic Touring 1.5T sedan we tested reaches 60 mph almost two seconds quicker, at 7.4 seconds. Both the 2.0 and 1.5T engines are paired with a continuously variable automatic transmission that’s responsive and well-tuned—in short, what we’ve come to expect from Honda’s class-leading CVTs. Where we really wanted more was when it came to how the Civic Sport’s 2.0-liter engine sounded.

“I really wish this engine made more typical Honda music,” said technical director Frank Markus. “As it is, it’s not terribly pleasant.”

In addition to the off-key engine note, we were treated to a healthy serving of road and wind noise, another area where it’s merely on par with our expectations of the segment. In fact, other than its superbly tuned chassis, the Civic Sport doesn’t quite rise to the type of class above status we’ve experienced from past Civics in certain areas.

What an Interior

The interior is not one of those areas. You’ve never seen anything like this in an affordable, compact-sedan. Though it’s not quite as otherworldly as what we experienced with the Car-of-the-Year-winning 2006 Civic, the 2022 Civic Sport’s cabin is impressive and well-executed. A dash-spanning silver honeycomb mesh accent hides the air vents and looks fantastic. On top of that winning form, the stick-like tabs poking out of the air vents make it easier to control air flow than most conventional designs.

The smart touches continue elsewhere in the interior. Side-view mirror controls are intuitive enough that you can use them without looking, just like the volume knob. On the center console, the textured black trim gives the cabin a slightly more refined feel, as do the HVAC knobs. Blindfolded, you’d swear the snick-snick action of those knobs belong in a more expensive car.

The door panel trim is unimaginative and cheap looking, but the Civic over-delivers in one area it where it counts: The rear seat is truly spacious. The trunk is also sizable at 14.8 cubic feet of space, about half a cube more than you’ll find in the Nissan Sentra and Hyundai Elantra and far more than the 13.1 cubic feet in the Toyota Corolla sedan.

The only real miss inside the 2022 Civic Sport is with its infotainment setup. The system itself is fine, but every trim settles for a 7.0-inch touchscreen save the pricier Touring and its 9.0-inch unit. Most of the competition is moving on to larger screens, and in the case of the Elantra and Volkswagen Jetta, the displays are conveniently tilted toward the driver. We get it—this sounds petty. Smaller-than-average screen real estate isn’t make-or-break for most buyers, but some 2022 Civic owners will absolutely notice this detail over their time with the car.

Features-Per-Dollar Value vs. Hidden Value

Simply put: If you want the most features for your money, try a Sentra or Elantra. The driving experience won’t be as polished, but those automakers fill in the gaps with features that are higher in cost or not available on the Honda at all. There’s more to this picture, though. Let’s start with the value of class-leading safety ratings. At least for now, the 2022 Civic is unmatched in its Insurance Institute for Highway Safety ratings. Lots of cars do well in crash tests, but the Civic follows that up with a top headlight rating for the entire line—meaning, not only are you getting good headlights, you aren’t creating excessive glare for oncoming motorists, either. Put it all together and it’s a 2021 IIHS Top Safety Pick+, with that “plus” setting it apart from almost every other sedan in its class.

As Frank Markus pointed out during recent back-to-back testing of the Civic and the Elantra, the Honda’s fair but not class-leading pricing helps the automaker deliver the long-term value customers expect. As it happens, IntelliChoice (a MotorTrend subsidiary) gave the most recently evaluated Elantra and Civic Good ratings overall; we look forward to seeing how this-generation Civic fares over the next few years.

Is the Civic Sport Good?

The 2022 Honda Civic Sport is good because it’s a Civic, not because it’s a Sport-trimmed model. We like the way the Sport’s gloss-black 18-inch wheels complement the Civic’s subtle but sharp styling as well as this trim’s hands-free keyless access over the base LX.

On the flip side, we prefer the higher-trim EX’s 1.5T engine, superior efficiency, and longer driving range. The Sport’s smaller-than-average infotainment screen and highway noise mean it wouldn’t be our first choice for a road trip, but its all-around goodness would put it at the top of our shopping list. (You can dial down the noise somewhat by avoiding the 18-inch tires—meaning buying either the base LX or the 17-inch-tired EX-L.) You still can’t go wrong with a Civic, but a couple other Hondas might just edge out the 2.0-liter-equipped Sport if we were fortunate enough to have around $26,000 to spend on a compact car. There’s the still-good Insight hybrid sedan and either of the new Civic 1.5T trims (EX and Touring).

Deputy editor Alex Stoklosa summed up our thoughts on the 2022 Civic Sport well: “The most compelling argument against this car are the more powerful, quieter 1.5T models.”

Looks good! More details?

2022 Honda Civic Sport HPD Specifications
BASE PRICE $24,115
PRICE AS TESTED $26,072
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan
ENGINE 2.0L port-injected DOHC 16-valve I-4
POWER (SAE NET) 158 hp @ 6,500 rpm
TORQUE (SAE NET) 138 lb-ft @ 4,200 rpm
TRANSMISSION Cont variable auto
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 2,888 lb (61/39%)
WHEELBASE 107.7 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 184.0 x 70.9 x 55.7 in
0-60 MPH 9.2 sec
QUARTER MILE 17.0 sec @ 86.5 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 122 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.83 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 27.9 sec @ 0.60 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON 30/37/33 mpg
ON SALE Now

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