There’s barely an automaker in the world that wouldn’t trade its compact car for the Honda Civic. But only Honda makes the Civic, which built on a 50-year record of excellence with the 2022 model, now on sale.
The Civic seems destined to be one of America’s best-selling cars in perpetuity. Priced within reach of first-time buyers, the 2022 model is loaded with advanced safety features and comes in a range that stretches from the rite-of-passage affordable first new car to sporty models that have inspired generations of young car lovers.
Honda heaps on the safety on driver assistance features, including adaptive cruise control with low-speed automatic braking; automatic high beams; collision alert; lane departure alert and assist; traffic sign recognition; blind spot alert and cross traffic alerts.
The Civic looks good inside and out, with ritzy touches like metal honeycomb on the dash that’s both decorative and practical. The most efficient rated 42 mpg in EPA highway fuel economy tests, but sharp handling ensures every Civic is also fun to drive. Specialty models like the sporty Si — available now — and the upcoming Type R ensure the next generation of avid drivers will admire Civics as much as their grandparents did.
2022 Honda Civic trim levels and prices
- Civic LX: $21,900
- Civic Sport: $23,300
- Civic EX: $24,900
- Civic Si: $27,300 ($27,500 w/summer tires)
- Civic Touring: $28,500
- LX: $22,900
- Sport: $24,100
- EX-L: $26,600
- Sport Touring: $29,400
Second place: Lucid Air Dream
Luxury electric sedan
Electric vehicle startup Lucid’s first vehicle sets a standard century-old luxury brands’ upcoming EVs will struggle to match. The Dream’s maximum EPA-rated range of 516 miles on a single charge eliminates most buyers’ biggest concern about buying an EV. Lucid’s relentless concentration of efficiency led to the creation of new designs for batteries, motors, even headlights and taillights.
The Dream also takes full advantage of its skateboard-style architecture to offer limo-like space in the a vehicle not much bigger than a midsize sedan.
Traditional metrics like acceleration, steering and handling also shine. Available with up to 1,111 horsepower and a 0-60 mph time as fast as 2.41 seconds, Lucid’s Air is everything most owners will ever want from a luxury sedan.
All that comes at a cost: The limited edition Air Dream starts at $169,000. By this time next year, a $77,400 model that goes 400 miles on a charge should be available. Company founder Peter Rawlinson says it’ll be followed in short order by a luxury SUV and mainstream-priced vehicles.
2022 Lucid Air luxury sedan trim levels and prices
- Air Dream Edition: $169,000. Available now.
- Air Grand Touring: $139,000. Available early 2022.
- Air Touring: $95,000. Available 2022.
- Air Pure: $77,400. Available late 2022.
Third place: VW GTI and Golf R
Compact performance hatchbacks
Volkswagen has trimmed the U.S. lineup of its signature Golf compact hatchback to these two exhilarating performance models.
The 241-hp front-wheel-drive GTI and 315-hp all-wheel-drive Golf R distill the German automotive character that’s always been the Golf’s calling card: practical interiors, efficient design, exciting handling and performance.
The R cranks up the turbo to generate 315 hp and 295 pound-feet of torque — power levels that demand VW’s slick 4Motion AWD system, performance-tuned electronic control, and adaptive damping.
Both cars deliver richly on a heritage of compact performance that stretches back to the 93-hp 1983 Golf (Rabbit in the U.S., if you’re a purist) GTI.
As it has for generations, the Golf’s virtually unchanging profile delivers maximum passenger room, comfort and cargo flexibility in a compact package.
The GTI and Golf R controls virtually abandon buttons and dials in favor of touch screen and haptic-feedback. They share that feature with the eight-generation Golf that’s sold around the world.
Both models are available with either a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Manuals are a dying breed, but VW enthusiasts are a stubborn bunch, accounting for a majority of U.S. sales, despite the fact that the dual-clutch automatic outperforms them in virtually all metrics.
2022 VW GTI and Golf R trim levels and prices
- GTI S: $29,545 manual transmission/$30,345 dual-clutch automatic
- GTI SE: $34,295/$35,095
- GTI Autobahn: $37,995/$38,795
- Golf R: $43,645/$44,445