When I had my first clear view of the 2017 Honda Civic hatchback, my first thought was, “It needs more hatch.”
If you were hoping the new five-door Civic would harken back to the classic hatchbacks from Honda in the late 80s and early 90s, well, I hate to disappoint, but it ain’t gonna happen.
Sure, the new hatch has a good amount of cargo space and and a sloped rear door, but that’s the thing; it’s a bit too sloped. If you put the hatch next to the sedan, you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference. Not that I was looking for something with a perfect right angle in the back, but I was hoping the hatch would be closer to an actual angle instead of a gentle slope.
The Civic hatch offers 46.2 cubic feet of space with the rear seats folded down. That’s a bit less than the Mazda3 at 47.1 and way less than the 52.7 cubic feet offered in the Volkswagen Golf, but more than the Ford Focus at 43.9.
I spent my time on this Honda-sponsored press trip driving the Sport and Sport Touring trim lines. The Sport is based off the base LX model and adds six horsepower and 15 pound-feet of torque with the standard six-speed manual transmission, although the CVT is optional. Also added are 18-inch alloy wheels, an aero kit, center exhaust, fog lights, leather steering wheel and shift knob, sport pedals, red illumination and paddle shifters on CVT equipped cars.
The Sport Touring builds on the top EX-L Navi trim line and adds the same as the Sport trim plus LED headlamps, a premium sound system, power passenger seat, heated rear seats, auto wipers and mirror turn signals. A CVT is the only available transmission in the Sport Touring.
The Sport Touring car that I drove featured a leather steering wheel, but it was a different material than that in the Sport trim line. Instead of a supple leather, the Sport Touring steering wheel was covered in something resembling tacky PVC, like the kind found on cheap shoes. Let’s hope it was a choice for these pre-production models and not what will show up in the real thing.
Still, on the back roads from San Francisco to Monterey, California, the 2017 Civic hatchback Sport is pretty fun to drive. The 1.5-liter turbocharged engine puts out 180 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque when paired with the six-speed manual transmission, more than enough for tossing the front-wheel drive car around a mountain road.
The turbo offers 16.5 pounds of boost and there is a bit of turbo lag, but it’s not exceedingly noticeable. The electric power steering is very direct, but doesn’t have enough heft for my taste, especially at speed. The twisty mountain roads offered plenty of quick direction change, and the lightness of the steering made it difficult to be precise in my wheel placement.
2017 Honda Civic Hatchback keeps it…
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The shifter on the manual offers a nice “thwack” when downshifting before a turn and the pedals are close enough to heel-toe shift easily, although the throttle tip-in point is a little low, so be ready to really push the side of your foot onto the gas pedal to blip the throttle. The clutch is very light, almost to a fault, and it’s tough to tell exactly where the engagement point is, but it does make for an easier time in traffic.
If you’re not willing to row your own gears, you can get the Civic hatchback with a continuously variable transmission (CVT), good for 180 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque. This kind of a “one gear fits all” setup keeps the fuel efficiency close to that of a manual, but you do lose a bit of driving edge. Having said that, Honda has vastly improved its CVT and it now offers less of that “rubber band” feeling of previous years. Instead, the revs go up quickly on demand and then return back to cruising speed at a rate that almost, but not quite, mimics a conventional automatic. It’s still a bit noisy and definitely not my transmission of choice, but you could certainly do worse.
EPA fuel ratings for the Sport and Sport Touring tuned engines are 30 mpg in the city, 39 mpg on the highway and 33 mpg combined for the six-speed manual and 30/36/32 with the CVT.
Those not wanting to spring for the Sport models will get slightly different power numbers. Horsepower in both the manual and CVT in the LX, EX and EX-L trims is 174 and torque in the manual transmission is 167 pound-feet while the CVT is good for 162 pound-feet across the board. EPA fuel ratings for the CVT in the LX, EX and EX-L are a bit better than the Sport models, at 31/40/34.
Honda Sensing, the suite of driver-assist technologies which includes low-speed adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, road departure mitigation and a collision mitigation braking system, is standard on Sport Touring and optional on all other trim lines.
The low-speed adaptive cruise control is very helpful in stop-and-go traffic. The radar remains locked on the lead car even at very low speeds. The system will disengage after a three-count when fully stopped, but a gentle tap on the accelerator is all it takes to restart the program.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as satellite radio are standard on EX trims and above. They are not offered at all on LX or Sport.
Although the base LX starts at $19,700, the Sport trim that I drove starts at $21,300 and the Sport Touring comes in at $28,300. Honda expects them to be on sale in December of 2016.
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