When creating the 11th generation of their longest-running nameplate the Civic, Honda engineers and designers apparently took a Zen moment and focused on making the model more Sokai - which means, among other things, 'to yearn for' or 'be more attached to'.
Now although this may sound a bit touchy-feely, what transpired is a new Civic that's very easy on the eye and more importantly, thanks to Honda NZ, quite the blast to drive.
Globally, customers have purchased more than 24 million Civics since 1972 - making it one of the top six best-selling passenger cars in the world. Personally, I have a bit of a soft spot for Honda as for many years, they have maintained a base in my hometown of Swindon - creating jobs and a lifestyle for many. But New Zealand too has an affinity with the brand, as the Civic was actually assembled here up until the sixth generation.
Regardless, there's a new generation Civic in town - and it's better than ever.
Design-wise, the 2022 Civic Hatch has taken inspiration from the Euros and isn't really a hatch at all, more of a Sportsback or Coupe. In terms of silhouette, the nose and wings start low, with a sweeping flow to the A-pillar and a roofline that meets the tailgate (hatch), progressively sloping away to the tail.
The front grille has a hexagonal 'mesh effect' to it (something that can be seen in the cabin too), and ventures out to meet the redesigned head and running lights, while the black lower valance and blade style rim really narrows the look of the bumper.
More improvements can be found at the rear with a new lightweight composite hatch and a luggage space that boasts 693L, a 4cm wider and lower hatch opening and low lift-over height for additional freedom.
My review model came in crystal red, which catches the sun from all angles and contrasts well against the black exterior trim.
The improvements continue on the inside, beginning with new anti-fatigue sports seats that are both comfy and supportive, an uncluttered dashboard and a mesh trim that incorporates toggle style air vents that are so easy to use. It's the little things right?
Another little thing that lit my fire was the AC dials - they make a satisfying click as you rotate them, akin to cracking a safe in a western movie. When it comes to driving data and entertainment, the boffins at Honda have upgraded this too. The instrument cluster is clean and clear with a 7-inch LCD colour drive information interface, while the 9-inch Next Generation Display Audio with Apple Carplay (wireless) and Android Auto (wired) sits up on the top of the dash.
Drill down into the tech and you'll find the Honda Sensing and Safety Suite has been further enhanced, with a new front wide-view camera and Traffic Jam Assistance to ensure you stay safe in commuter gridlock. For those that like a good singalong, they've added a Bose premium sound system and 12 speakers.
Yes, there's a huge amount of technology and practicality about the new Honda Civic, but there's also a lot of fun to be had behind the wheel.
Under the bonnet is a more powerful and fuel efficient 1.5-litre turbocharged engine, giving 131kW of power and 240 Nm of torque - what's more, it runs on regular 91 octane petrol. And although it's married to a CVT (not my favourite style of transmission), it has the ability to push you back into those very sporty seats.
To add to this increased driving pleasure, behind the scenes the core structure has been enhanced with a 19 percent increase in torsional rigidity, meaning you can happily take those corners without being thrown from side-to-side across the cabin.
According to the Honda literature, not only did they approach this new model with a Sokai attitude, but have also interwoven this with a 'man maximum, machine minimum' ethos, which uses technology and design to serve the needs of the driver and passengers. The result is a vehicle that not only has buttons and dials in natural and intuitive positions, but also adapts and responds to the mood of the driver.
In car years, an 11th generation is a monster - and yet I have to say, the Honda Civic seems to be getting better and better with age and experience. Just quietly, I could learn a lot from it. Now I'm off to practice some yoga and meditate.
Why you should: Plenty more of everything. Sharper design, increased safety and a more confident (which means more fun) drive.
Why you shouldn't: The CVT takes away some of the 'sporty appeal' and it's not exactly a 'hatchback'.
What else to consider: Hatch or Sportback, there's quite a range - Kia Cerato, Hyundai i30, Skoda Superb, Mazda 3 or Toyota Corolla.