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Honda Civic e:HEV (2022-): first drive review

The Civic e:HEV faces stiff competition from the likes of the Toyota Corolla, as well as a raft of plug-in hybrid alternatives. Find out how it stacks up in our first drive review.
2022 Honda Civic e:HEV

Honda’s enduring medium-sized hatchback is all new for 2022. Gone are conventional petrol and diesel versions of old, replaced instead with a range-extender hybrid petrol, now the only engine option.

Note that this review is based on our initial drive of the Honda Civic e:HEV. Our full review and verdict (complete with the car's overall score, plus scores for safety, reliability and more) will be available to Which? members once all our extensive lab and road tests are complete.


Looking for a car that's been through our lab tests? View the best cars for 2022


What is the Honda Civic e:HEV?

Small SUVs might be the flavour of the moment when it comes to family cars, but the traditional mid-size hatchback remains firmly popular with buyers. Over a production run that’s spanned ten separate model iterations, the Civic has enjoyed enduring appeal thanks to its ease of use, dependability and – most obviously in later versions – unique styling that divides opinion as much as it turns heads.

And so it is for this all-new eleventh generation Civic. The design may have been toned down somewhat over its predecessor, but it still cuts a dash amongst its more soberly styled European rivals. Practicality hasn’t been overlooked, either, with a longer overall body liberating additional passenger space in the back, based on Honda’s own measurements.

More radically, though, the Civic has gone hybrid for the first time. Not only that, it’s new 181hp 2.0-litre petrol ‘e:HEV’ drivetrain is the only engine now available, with Honda reckoning it serves up sufficient performance and economy to render other options (particularly diesel) redundant.

It’s an unusual choice for a mid-sized hatchback, most of which have taken the plug-in hybrid route to improved efficiency. As such, the only current direct rival to the Civic is the Toyota Corolla – stiff competition indeed.

There are crucial differences, though. Unlike the Corolla, in which the petrol engine directly drives the front wheels, the Civic’s petrol engine is predominantly used to generate electricity, powering a brace of electric motors, one of which propels the front wheels.

This subtle difference alters the driving experience, as we'll explain later.

Three trim levels are offered in the UK: Elegance, Sport and Advance. Standard equipment on entry-level Elegance models includes 17-inch alloy wheels, all-round parking sensors, rear-view camera, Apple Carplay/Android Auto compatible media system, as well as suite of active safety technology including Traffic Jam Assist – an advanced cruise control function which can deal with stop-start congestion.

Sport models get larger 18-inch wheels (in black) as well as a host of other subtle sporty trim upgrades and synthetic leather upholstery.

Range-topping Advance cars get an upgraded BOSE stereo, adaptive headlights, panoramic sunroof, a larger 10.2-inch digital driver’s display binnacle as well as full leather upholstery and a heated steering wheel.


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What is the Honda Civic e:HEV like to drive?

By using its 135kW motor as its main source of propulsion, the Civic exhibits some of the benefits of a full electric car, specifically smooth, responsive acceleration and robust performance from a standstill, thanks to the electric motor’s healthy levels of torque (pulling power).

Under harder acceleration or when cruising at motorway speeds, the petrol engine can power the wheel directly. It’s an impressively smooth transition between electric and petrol power, too. We also found the car’s eCVT automatic transmission (read more about the different types of automatic transmission) is also far more refined than other similar transmissions in full-hybrid cars. It rarely sends the petrol engine into a cacophony of high-revs when full acceleration is required, which is largely down to the relatively high speeds up to which the electric motor can operate.

The Civic’s handling is impressive. It’s not exceptionally sporty or agile, but with relatively heavy power steering and a supple suspension setup, the Civic strikes an excellent balance between passenger comfort and road-holding.

The interior has a more conventional layout than some of its more touchscreen-centric rivals. There’s the obligatory media screen sat atop the dashboard, but Honda has included large buttons and dials for the heating and ventilation controls – a welcome move in our eyes.

It may look like familiar Honda fare, but there’s no doubting there’s been a definite step-up in terms of material quality. All of the touch points have a substantial feel, and while it might not have the eye-catching styling of the likes of the Mercedes A-Class or Audi A3, it certainly has the outright quality to match them.

The digital driver’s display nestled in the instrument binnacle is crisp and easy to understand, while Honda’s infotainment software has also taken a step in the right direction. It’s not quite up there with the very best systems, but it’s far slicker and less frustrating to operate than in the previous model, and perfectly acceptable by class standards.

Despite a relatively low driving position, all-round visibility is acceptable by new car standards. The view out of the back remains a weak point, with large C-pillars and a relatively high boot line making judging the rear of the car difficult. All-round parking sensors and a rear-view camera are fitted as standard, though.


Not yet ready to go full electric? View the best hybrid cars for 2022


How reliable is the Honda Civic e:HEV?

As the Civic e:HEV hasn’t reached showrooms yet, we can’t assess its reliability as a new car.

However, we did hear from enough Honda owners in our latest car survey to judge the reliability of the brand as a whole.

Which? members can read more about Honda's reliability (and that of other manufacturers) using the tool in our guide to the most reliable car brands.

Not yet a Which? member? Sign up today.

How comfortable and spacious is the Honda Civic e:HEV?

The well-shaped front seats offer decent support and have plenty of adjustment to fine tune your driving position. There’s ample space for very tall drivers, too.

The back seats are also comfortable, with a sensibly raked backrest and decent legroom. Overall headroom was affected by our test car’s panoramic sunroof, though this is more noticeable in the rear seats.

The door apertures front and back are also usefully large, but they’re a bit pinched around the footwell area in the back, with a moderately wide sill.

Claimed boot space is impressive for a medium-sized hatchback, at 410 litres as standard, rising to a maximum of 1,220 litres with the rear seats folded down. While we won't be able to corroborate those claims until the Civic e:HEV has been through our labs, the boot is very large and practically shaped. It’s both deep and wide and has only a small load lip to negotiate. The removable parcel shelf is very flimsy though.

How economical is the Honda Civic e:HEV?

The Civic’s claimed fuel consumption (based on the official WLTP test standard) stands at a reasonable 56.5-60.1mpg, depending on trim level.

It’s best to consider this a best-case scenario, though – we’ll be able to confirm just how economical the Civic is once we’ve completed our full lab tests.

How safe is the Honda Civic e:HEV?

This latest Civic hasn’t yet been crash tested by Euro NCAP.

Given that safety is of critical importance in the family car market, it's no surprise that the Civic comes with a decent array of standard active safety equipment, including autonomous emergency braking, road departure mitigation and lane-keep assist.

Unusually for this class of car, a blind-spot monitor is also fitted as standard across the range.

There’s also a generous airbag tally. Not only do both the driver and front seat passenger get their own knee-protecting airbags, but those in the back get both side and curtain airbags, too.

Honda Civic e:HEV: Which? first drive verdict

Price: from £29,595

Pros:

  • Composed handling
  • Well-judged ride comfort
  • Excellent hybrid engine

Cons: 

  • Poor rear visibility
  • Slightly pinched rear headroom 

While we’ll have to reserve final judgement on the new Civic e:HEV until we publish our full review, this initial introduction has left us with very little to criticise. Yes, the car’s touchscreen media system still isn’t a match for the very best alternatives, but in every other respect, this all-hybrid Civic feels like step forward. It’s certainly got the depth of quality and breadth of talent to match its traditional benchmark rival, the VW Golf.

Don't forget, this is just our first impression of this car. To be among the first to know when our full Honda Civic e:HEV review is live, sign up for our Cars newsletter – it's free monthly.