I planned to start this review with a clever bit about how this 2023 Honda Civic Touring has been Canada’s best-selling car for the millionth year in a row, but I can’t. That’s because for the first time in 25 years, the Civic was not, in fact, Canada’s best-selling car. Stop the presses! How could this be?!
It’s not like this latest Civic isn’t good. Now in its 11th generation, the Civic heads into 2023 unchanged after a full redesign last year. We really liked it when we first drove it, and we still really like it now; it’s a handsome-looking car that’s comfortable, roomy, and great on gas — among many other things. It definitely still has the goods to be a best-seller.
Under the hood, you can go one of two ways. Most of the Civic lineup comes standard with a 2.0-litre normally aspirated four-cylinder engine, putting out a modest 158 horsepower and 138 pound-feet of torque. Not enough? Totally get it — the top-spec Touring trim gets a 1.5L turbo-four, rated at 180 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque. It’s still not a powerhouse by any means, and it’ll run out of breath fairly quickly on the highway, but the extra torque is great for the occasional stoplight drag race around town.
All Civic sedans come with a continuously variable transmission. Say what you will about CVTs, but Honda’s units definitely sit on the better end of the spectrum, and the latest Civic is no exception. Working with the turbo-four, power delivery is smooth and the CVT is well-behaved; it’s smart enough to simulate gear changes on wide-open throttle so you don’t get too much droning and groaning from the engine, plus it’ll quickly disappear into the background when you ease off and settle into a cruise. If you’re hankering for more power and three pedals, you can step up to the Si — or the Type R, if you’re feeling extra spicy.
But you don’t have to step up to the Si or Type R to take advantage of the Civic’s well-tuned chassis. Even lesser models are fun to toss around, with light but responsive and quick steering, not to mention minimal body roll and understeer when you take a corner a little too hot. Treat it like the regular car that it is, and the Civic soaks up bumps and rough pavement quite well, but there’s a bit more road noise than you’d expect.
Say what you will about the Civic’s beans — or lack thereof — but you certainly can’t fault its fuel-sipping nature. Officially, the base 2.0L engine is rated at 7.7L/100km in the city, 6.0 on the highway, and 6.9 combined. For some reason, the Sport with the 2.0 is a little thirstier despite having the same engine, but the difference is negligible. Stepping up to the 1.5 turbo doesn’t take as big a hit to fuel economy as you’d think; officially, it sips 7.6L/100 km city, 6.1 highway, and 6.9 combined. We managed 7.4L/100 km over a fairly even split of city and highway driving. Best of all, any Civic — aside from the Si and Type R — happily run on 87.
Style-wise, the 11th-gen Civic isn’t an unattractive car, but it certainly plays it safe compared to compacts like the overly angular Hyundai Elantra, or the baller-on-a-budget Mazda3. Still, the Civic comes across as something of a baby Accord, with clean lines and proportions reminiscent of its bigger sibling. Not to mention, the new Civic will probably age better — visually, at least — than some of its previous iterations from the not-too-distant past.
Inside is where the Civic took its biggest leaps forward last year, swapping out the chunky and awkward-looking two-tier layout in favour of something decidedly more conventional yet upscale. Materials are vastly improved, fit-and-finish feels solid, and there are more than a few clever and classy touches, like the one-piece honeycomb trim spanning across the dashboard that also conceal the air vents, and the knurled volume and climate control knobs. Come to think of it, those knobs are quite possibly our favourite aspect of the new Civic’s interior; it’s such a small detail, but their tight and clicky operation is what you’d expect from an Audi.
The rest of the Civic’s cabin is precisely what you’d expect. Visibility all around is great, infotainment is intuitive, and there’s generous headroom and legroom, especially out back. Not to mention, the 419-litre trunk is massive, beating out key players like the Corolla, Sentra, and Jetta, although if you want the biggest trunk for your junk, the Forte remains the segment leader.
All that said, the Civic isn’t quite the value proposition it once was. The base Civic LX starts at $26,285, but considering what you get — the improved interior and heaps of standard tech, such as adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, and lane-keep assist — among many others. Our top-tog Touring tester starts at a not-insignificant $33,350 for all the bells and whistles, plus another $300 for white paint, bringing the bottom line to $33,650 as-tested.
You’d be remiss in thinking that’s what cost the Civic the title of best-selling car, but the truth is far simpler than that. See, car companies are still dealing with shortages and production capacity, and Honda is no exception. Truth is, the only reason why the Civic isn’t Canada’s best-selling car for the millionth year in a row was because Honda simply couldn’t build enough of ‘em to keep up with demand. Between its frugal powertrain, handsome styling, and lovely interior, it’s only a matter of time until the 2023 Honda Civic Touring is back on top.