- Excellent fuel economy.
- Many available driver assistance features.
- Versatile hatchback variant.
- Sedan's sloping roof hinders rear access.
- In-car tech is dated and confusing.
- High-performance Type R trim is expensive.
Would we buy one? Maybe, though the 2022 model looks much-improved.
Vehicle Type: A four-door, five-seat compact sedan or hatchback.
Price Range: From $22,005 MSRP to $44,950 MSRP, including a $955 destination charge.
Powertrain: A 158-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with a six-speed manual or continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) and front-wheel-drive.
A 174- or 180-horsepower, turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine, with a continuously variable automatic transmission, and front-wheel-drive.
A 306-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, with a six-speed manual transmission, and front-wheel-drive.
Competitors: Hyundai Elantra, Kia Forte, Mazda Mazda3, Nissan Sentra, Subaru Impreza, Subaru WRX STI, Toyota Corolla, Volkswagen Golf, Volkswagen Jetta.
Overall Score: 7.3/10
Safety Features: 8/10
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave the 2021 Honda Civic sedan and hatchback models a five-star rating in overall crash tests, its highest score. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) hasn't tested the 2021 model yet. Still, the structurally-identical 2020 Civic earned a 'Top Safety Pick' award, only slipping up on the lower trim levels' halogen headlamp performance (Touring and Type-R models have better-performing LED lights).
The Honda Sensing suite of driver assistance technology comes on every model, now including the Type-R. Every Civic has collision-mitigation braking, forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning with lane-keep assist, automatic high beams, and adaptive cruise control. EX, EX-L, Sport Touring, and Touring add Honda LaneWatch -- a camera mounted on the passenger-side mirror that displays what's in the vehicle's blind spot. It's a novel feature, though not a substitute for actual blind-spot monitoring offered on many cars.
There are numerous Civic trim levels. With pricing starting from $22,000, the Civic isn't precisely a low-priced contender in this segment. But it does come well-equipped as the lineup goes on. The LX sedan and hatchback come with a rearview camera with guidelines, automatic climate control, Bluetooth streaming audio, and standard driver-assist technology. For an additional $1,800, the Sport is a better value, adding Android Auto/Apple CarPlay connectivity, 18-inch alloy wheels, a split-folding rear seat, keyless entry/start, paddle shifters (on CVT-equipped cars), and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. The mid-level EX is likely the best value, at just over $25,000, including the more powerful and more efficient turbocharged engine, an 8-way power driver's seat, and a power moonroof.
Top-level Touring and Sport Touring models touch $30,000, but then so do loaded versions of most compact cars. And they get full LED headlights, power front seats, 18-inch wheels, built-in navigation, and a 10-speaker, 540-watt audio system. The Type-R performance car gets a little expensive with the new Limited Edition model that reaches $45,000, but it's comfortably below what Subaru will charge for its fancy WRX STI. The standard model comes nicely equipped for $39,000, a few thousand more than a more refined, but significantly less powerful, VW Golf GTI.
Tech Features: 6/10
The 2021 Civic is at the end of its run, ahead of a new model coming for 2022. That's most apparent in the quality of its in-car technology. While all models get extensive driver assistance features, the LX models use a dated audio interface and a small rearview camera, but at least it uses large physical knobs and buttons. All other models use a 7-inch touchscreen that uses Honda's previous generation infotainment system. It's a slow, complicated arrangement that makes navigating the screen more difficult than in rivals. Honda put a physical volume knob and some shortcut buttons on it a couple of years ago, but they're all small and hard to see at a glance. Honda's old system has nothing on what Hyundai, Kia, and Nissan include, and the 2022 Civic will have an improved system already seen on the Honda Accord.
Audiophiles will appreciate the 540-watt, 10-speaker system that comes on Touring and Sport Touring models. Honda offers two USB ports on most models, along with keyless entry and push-button start, while satellite radio is available on EX and higher. There's nothing groundbreaking here, but then again, compact cars rarely feature cutting-edge technology.
Apart from a roofline that aggressively slopes down to inhibit rear-seat access, the space inside is relatively good. Seats are mounted low, but there's a respectable amount of glass area and legroom for four adults, five in a very tight pinch. The trunk is spacious, too, though the floor on Civic hatchback models isn't flat, and the Type R's exhaust impacts space. Last year's coupe models have been discontinued.
All models get usable cabin storage, with door pockets and two cupholders that can slide and be removed to make more center console space. There's also some space under the audio and climate controls, maybe for a phone or the key. Among its peers, the Civic is a little better than average in this class. The hatchback body style also sets it apart from Hyundai, Kia, and Nissan rivals. Fans of all-wheel-drive, however, will have to look at the Mazda3 or Subaru Impreza.
Styling & Design: 6/10
Apart from subtle updates for 2019 and 2020, the Civic's five-year-old shape hasn't changed much. It remains slightly divisive with its radical lines and aggressive (fake) front and rear vents. It works better on Sport and Sport Touring models, however, with the gray 18-inch wheels and center-mounted exhaust pipes, and even better on the aggressive Type R with its comically large rear spoiler. Only LX sedan models get plastic wheel covers, but the 16-, 17-, and 18-inch alloy wheels on all other models look smart, while the 20s on the Type-R are appropriately outlandish. Again, it won't suit everyone's tastes, and the 2022 Civic has been significantly toned down, but the current Civic still looks different on the road.
The interior shows its age a little, too. Apart from the infotainment system, the climate controls are easy to use, and the large digital speedometer is easy to read. Still, the plastics don't have the feel of Mazda or VW products, and the dash design falls short of new standards set by the 2021 Hyundai Elantra and new Nissan Sentra. Again, the new Civic coming for 2022 addresses these concerns.
Driving Experience: 7/10
All Civics, from the base LX to the Type-R, exceed the class standard for driving fun. The steering and handling are relatively tight on the sedans, although they're more geared for comfort apart from the Sport trim. Hatchbacks are generally firmer and sportier, but not much so that impacts come in sharply. While the Civic doesn't have quite the precision of a VW Golf or premium-ness of a Mazda3, it comes close.
Even the base, 2.0-liter four-cylinder has sufficient power, although the way it strains under full acceleration is made worse by how the transmission works. The turbocharged, 1.5-liter engine is the better choice, and the paddle shifters available on Sport and Sport Touring trims operate pre-programmed 'shift' points that keep the turbo alive a little more. It's more enticing to drive than a Toyota Corolla, though, especially with the slick-shifting six-speed manual transmission.
The Type-R is far more exciting. It's a manual-only vehicle and has an incredible amount of power that doesn't seem to end. It's all driven through the front wheels, so Subaru WRX and WRX STI fans may need not apply. But for slightly more money than a VW Golf GTI, it eschews that model's refined persona for significantly more thrust. With the sporty Civic Si models gone for 2021, the Type-R is the sole high-performance Civic.
Fuel Efficiency: 9/10
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rates the 2021 Civic LX models at 31 mpg city, 40 highway, and 34 combined. The Sport and Sport Touring hatchbacks with a manual rate at 29 city, 37 highway, and 32 combined, while Sport and Sport Touring models hatchbacks with the CVT fall two mpg on the highway. The Civic Type R is rated at 22 mpg city, 28 highway, and 25 combined.
As far as gasoline-fueled compact cars go, the Civic is pretty efficient, especially with the 1.5-liter turbo. Even the high-performance Type R holds its own against the less powerful Subaru WRX and VW Golf GTI models. Those looking for a hybrid version of the Civic should check out the Honda Insight, which has stellar fuel economy and uses much of the Civic sedan's styling and features.