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Simple Civic: Honda's best-seller sports spare design for 2022


Henry Payne   | The Detroit News

SUVs may be all the rage, but the Honda Civic keeps on ticking.

Honda gave a first look at its 11th generation Civic Tuesday night as it hopes to maintain its status as the best-selling compact car in America. Indeed, the Civic was the second best-selling car in 2019 period — behind only the mid-size Toyota Camry.

The Indiana-made Civic will follow the formula of the popular 10th generation model by offering a buffet of models including manuals, automatics, sedans, hatchbacks and athletic performance variants like the Si and Type R.

But where the dramatic last-gen model appeared to have been designed by a Marvel comics artist, the 2022 model is drawn with a simpler, more mature pen.

Body lines are tidier, and the taillights evoke luxury brand Acura rather than the Batmobile. Perhaps most striking is the absence of a monobrow chrome grille. An LED headlight signature now dominates the face. The spare styling continues inside with a bold, horizontal dash layout punctuated by a 9-inch tablet screen on top. Car and Driver reports that an updated infotainment system will include wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The prototype Civic’s unveiling begins a drumbeat toward the 2022 production model’s launch next spring.

Despite a market upheaval that has seen SUVs more than double sedan sales, Civic has been remarkably durable. U.S. sales were 316,638 in 2006, 344,996 in 2012, and 325,260 last year.

Civic has remained a mainstay in Honda’s lineup even as Detroit manufacturers have ditched the segment. The Ford Focus and Chevy Cruze both pulled the plug since the Civic’s last, 2015 remake. Unlike Ford and Chevy, however, Honda cannot rely on profit-rich, high-volume truck sales and so it’s dependent on Civic for volume sales as well as bringing new buyers into the brand.

To that end, the range-topping, $38,000 Type R is widely admired for its performance, and the Si carries the brand’s flag in professional IMSA racing. Civic is a perennial Top Ten pick by the enthusiast magazine Car and Driver.

Civic launched its new car — in eye-scorching Solar Flare Pearl color — via the Twitch gaming service, an Internet platform popular with young people.

“Leveraging its strong presence in e-sports and gaming, Honda's debut on Twitch is a nod to Civic's global appeal with young buyers,” said Honda in a press release. The 10th-generation Civic has been ... the most popular vehicle, car or light truck with millennials, Gen Z, (and) first-time new vehicle buyers.”

Civic has come under renewed assault in the last two years from competitors Nissan Sentra, VW Jetta and Hyundai Elantra which have challenged Honda with striking designs and high-tech gadgetry. The new Elantra is particularly notable for an expansive lineup that mirrors Civic’s performance ambitions while also introducing a sippy hybrid model.

The 2022 Civic parries the attack with its first all-digital instrument display, clean design and usual obsession with vehicle dynamics.

With SUVs dominant in the marketplace, sedans have sought to accentuate their advantages like sleek design and superior handling. The new car’s design focuses on a low center of gravity and wider stance for better handling. In addition, the compact’s design empathizes a lower and longer hood for a more athletic look.

“The team also made substantial changes to the Civic's upper body design to maximize visibility for the driver, including moving the front roof pillars rearward ... and relocating the side mirrors to the doors for a clearer view through the front side windows,” said Honda.

In addition to its spare interior design, a new signature honeycomb mesh accent extends the width of the dash which also serves to visually conceal the air vents.

Details on the Civic’s drivetrain were sparse. Expect more as the vehicle approaches spring launch.

Against SUV headwinds, the 10th-gen Civic has sold more than 1.5 million units in the last five years, setting thstandard for best passenger car retail sales (Honda sells little to rental fleets). The Civic will be manufactured in Greensburg, Indiana where the compact has been produced since 1986. 

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at hpayne@detroitnews.com or Twitter @HenryEPayne.