All grown up now. It’s easy to forget how big modern cars have become, compared to their ancestors. When the first-generation Honda Civic debuted half a century ago, it was a diminutive city car. By comparison, today’s Civic sedan is over four feet longer, making it almost as big as some sedans in the class above. It’s unrecognizable from its forefather, offering levels of interior space Seventies Honda customers couldn’t have dreamed of.

Beyond wide-opening rear doors, there’s over 37 inches of legroom ahead of a sculpted bench that further optimizes headroom. It’s disappointing that base models miss out on a split/folding seatback, but cargo space of around 15 cubic feet (sedan) and 25 cubes (hatchback) is impressive nonetheless. Nor is this achieved at the expense of those in the front, who enjoy comfortable seats with clear views out, courtesy of reasonably slender A-pillars.

Generous equipment – mostly. Another area that would leave historic Honda customers speechless is the level of standard specifications fitted in every 2023 Civic. Well, almost every Civic. Although it’s been dropped in sedan form, base LX trim lives on as a hatchback, and it’s the only model whose equipment doesn’t feel generous. You still get LED headlights, a seven-inch smartphone-enabled touchscreen and alloy wheels, but it pales in comparison with mid-range EX trim. Here you’ll find a sunroof, an uprated audio system and heated front seats (with leather in the hatchback but not the sedan, oddly).

Audiophiles should look no further than Sport Touring models, which gain a punchy 12-speaker Bose system alongside a larger nine-inch touchscreen and wireless phone mirroring, all for around $31,000. If performance is your bag, Si sedan models cut back on some of the interior goodies in favor of exterior design tweaks and a 200 hp turbocharged engine mated to one of the finest six-speed manuals on today’s market. However, speed freaks should hold out until the Type R unleashes its usual devastation – it’ll be arriving later in the (model) year.

2023 Honda Civic Type R Interior

A strong performer. The Type R has always been able to embarrass sports cars at the lights, but in its absence, the lesser Civics are still impressive to drive. The base engine in LX and Sport models is a 156 hp model that doesn’t tax the car’s excellent chassis, but does work well with a CVT transmission despite sometimes getting a bit whiny. Better still is the 1.5-liter turbocharged gas engine, whose 180 horses always seem to be accessible. Then there’s the Si’s tweaked version of this engine, adding an extra 20 hp. Even if you’re not a fan of manual transmissions, the box paired to the Si’s engine by default is a delight, and it’s available on other models as an option.

Honda has spent half a century optimizing the Civic’s road manners, and both body styles do a superb job of balancing ride and handling. Even two caveats – the 18-inch wheels fitted to larger models and the loss of adaptive dampers on Si models – fail to damage its impressive ride quality. The steering is perfectly weighted and responsive, while a well-sorted front-drive chassis sticks like glue to the road. We can’t wait to see what the Type R is capable of.

Safety first. One of the arguments for buying SUVs and trucks is their supposed safety benefits, yet the Civic outperforms many larger vehicles. It’s received top scores from both safety agencies, and every model is fitted with automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control. Other standard fitments include active lane control and automatic high beams, though you’ll have to move up the range for parking sensors and blind-spot monitoring. Adding these to lower trims is one of the few things we’d like Honda to improve on in future.

Final thoughts. Let’s be honest – the Civic has never been a car to raise the pulse. Type R models notwithstanding, Honda’s sedan and hatchback range has spent the last 50 years carving out a reputation for faultlessly reliable family motoring. This latest model is the best yet, and we’re pleased Honda has dropped the excessive exterior styling of the previous version. While this model lacks the pizzazz of the Mazda 3, subtle details like the honeycomb dash strip with its hidden heating vents add some welcome character.

The Civic might not be the car you picture as you buy a lottery ticket, but as a family car, it has few faults. It rides and handles extremely well, the turbocharged engines are paired effectively with well-engineered manual and CVT gearboxes, there’s loads of interior space, and the hatchback can rival many SUVs as a load-lugger. Add in impressive fuel economy (upwards of 30 MPG combined in all configurations) and a warranty you’re unlikely to have to call upon, and the Civic continues to offer what it’s always done – painless and pleasant family motoring.

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