A Victory & Reseda review of the 2017 Honda Civic Hatchback
This car almost won #VOTY16.
It placed second behind the Volvo XC90. Considering how dominating the Swedish SUV was throughout the process, some people found that hard to believe that a compact car would have been crowned our highest honor.
But, it is true – all of it.
For those who actually believed that the tenth generation Honda Civic would have become #VOTY16, there is a consolation. It is eligible again for the VOTY.
How would the Civic be considered for VOTY again? The rules stipulate that if a vehicle won and is fully reviewed and written on this site, it would become eligible for our highest honor again. When we announce the long list every year, you may have seen several repeat entrants – even some who have made it to the final vote repeatedly.
With that explanation out of the way, let me present the latest Honda Civic…
Latest? You mean there's more Civics?
Well, yes. Honda was not intending to stop with just a sedan and a coupe. For the previous three generations, Honda offered a hatchback model for markets outside of North America. American Honda probably thought that there was no interest in a hatchback model after the sixth generation EJ6 model. As we have seen in recent years, many tuners and ricers were coveting the EJ6.
However, trends do come and go. Hatchbacks are sparking interest among compact car consumers. There is also an undercurrent of interest in the Type R hatchback as a competitor to the super high performance compacts enthusiasts are craving. Everything seem to point to the return of the hatchback to the American market…and the introduction of the Type R along with it.
In order to do so, Honda had to to create a singular design theme for the tenth generation Civic. The sedan and coupe gave us a look at how the hatchback would be shaped. Then, it came out on the auto show circuit. There were a few things about this returning body style. First, we never had a five-door hatchback model sold in the USA for the six generations they have been offered here. Secondly, each one we're getting is built at the Swindon plant in the UK.
There is a specific reason for the second point. Swindon is where the Type R is being built for global consumption.
What I received was not the Type R. It is the Civic Hatchback's current top trim
The distinction of the hatchback from its sedan/coupe brethren is not just from its rear end shape. All three body styles share the same exact wheelbase and overall width, but they deviate from there. The hatchback is almost as short as the coupe by an inch, though it measures about over four inches shorter than the sedan. Oddly enough, the hatchback is the tallest of the three body styles – almost an inch over the sedan.
It all explains why there is a lot of design continuity between all three body styles. The visual difference occurs from the A-pillar above the belt line to the rear tail lights. Plus, the rear bumper skin is different on the hatchbacks compared to the other two body styles. Did I mention the black grille applique that differentiates the hatchback from the sedan and coupe models? For some, the hatchback might seem to have an awkward, probably forced profile. You have to look to at it a few more times to appreciate it even more.
If you really want to see the biggest difference between the hatchback and the other Civic body styles, look along the bottom of the body. It appears that there is a subtle, but extremely effective ground effects kit that is integrated onto this model. You will see this on the Sport and Sport Touring models, as is the all-black trim work with no contrasting chromework whatsoever. Let's not forget those 18-inch alloy wheels are painted black, too! Final exterior touches include the dual spoiler arrangement on the liftgate and the two big tailpipe finishers jutting from the extreme bottom center of the rear bumper skin. All of these details really make this car rock!
If you want your hatchback with some chrome, this body style also comes in an LX, EX and EX-L Navi versions as well.
The theme with the hatchback remains the continuity between it and its other body styles. That is exactly the aim of ensuring that the cabin inside of the hatchback is the same up front as the sedan and coupe. That is a very good thing! The latest Civic offers a very improved instrument panel with its combination of LED and TFT technology inside of the instrument binnacle, making a straightforward set-up designed for better information dissemination. The only difference in the hatchback is that the screen backgrounds and gauges are in red instead of the ice blue seen on the sedan and coupe.
The front seats are exactly the same on the sedan and coupe Touring models – leather with a tapered seatback and bolstered enough to keep you engaged. Being this is the third such tenth generation Civic I have worked with, the seats are now familiar to my body. I still have to keep a lower seating profile due to the moonroof above me, but plenty types of bodies should be fine behind the wheel of the Civic hatch.
The reason you buy the hatch is not because you desire the forthcoming Type R and cannot wait for one. Open up the liftgate and you'll find utter practicality. If you remove the cargo covers – one attached to the liftgate; the other just slides to the side of the outer fender – you get 25.4 cubic feet of space. One you fold the rear seatbacks to a completely flat floor, there is 46.2 cubic feet of space to work with. The liftover has slight uptick, but it is just fine for luggage loading and leverage on heavy items.
There are plenty of people who have split opinions on Honda's infotainment system. It has gone through plenty of improvements in connectivity to smartphones via Bluetooth and a USB cord. It also does a better job of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration than most vehicles I have worked with. Everything is pumped through a 12-speaker system with a subwoofer to bring the bass through. My question is why would anyone snub their nose at an infotainment system that simply works?
For every hatchback sold in the USA, we get the 1.5 liter turbocharged engine that is available on most sedans and coupes. For the LX, EX and EX-L Navi models, that engine is rated for only 174 horsepower. Choose the Sport and Sport Touring, and that power rating goes up to 180 horsepower. You can get this engine mated to a six-speed manual transmission or a continuously variable transmission, driving the front wheels. The manual is standard on the LX and Sport models, so this Sport Touring model has the CVT standard with paddle shifters on the steering wheel.
The good news is that the extra six horsepower in our tester worked very well. In fact, it's a heck of a driver. Granted the CVT could be more responsive in ratio changes, but as long as I have command of the road, I'm fine. In terms of fuel economy, I averaged 34.2 MPG. Previous tenth-generation Civics that were tested averaged between 32 and 37 MPG.
That brings up the question about driving dynamics. In all, I have seen a marked improvement across the board for the Civic in terms of the ride/handling mix and steering weight, feel and response to the wheels. It continues in this Sport Touring hatchback, but I noticed a few things. While all of this was great on the sedan and coupe, it is actually better in the hatchback. The ride is compliant, but not firm. Cornering is near flat through the curves, but you do get some roll at the limit on cloverleafs. This makes the Civic hatch into a sweet cruiser – something you rarely say about compacts.
I love the weight of the steering system, along with the tight turning radius and road feel from this system. In my last review of the tenth-generation Civic, I stated that the brakes were “confidence inspiring.” Let me echo this sentiment and turn up the volume for the moment. In normal and panic situations, these brakes are superb in terms of response and action. If you find yourself in a situation where the latter is necessary, the Collision Mitigation Braking System will indeed come in play. Overall, this is one of the best braking systems I have tested this calendar year alone.
The Sport Touring model comes with the Honda Sensing active safety system. It not only includes the Collision Mitigation Braking System, but a whole host of other features designed to keep you safe and in check. It is standard on the Sport Touring, but available on every other hatchback model except for the Sport.
The hatchback lineup starts with an LX for a base price of $19,700. This is with the standard six-speed manual gearbox. The next step up is the Sport model, priced from $21,300. My tester is the top of the line Sport Touring, which starts off at $28,300. In total, the tester came with a sticker price of $29,175.
Let me just say this: I like the Civic hatchback more than the sedan and the coupe. It offers more than just your standard tenth generation Civic fare. There is the hatchback and the resulting cargo space. There is the blacked out grille and resulting trim – even more so in the Sport and Sport Touring. Most of all, it is another level of improvement Honda made to the Civic lineup. In turn, this generation of Civic has been a huge sales success. The hatchback simply adds to it.
There is more to this story. While working with this car, I had a few strangers enthusiastically compliment the Civic hatch. Rarely do I get such compliments outside of the usual crowds I run with. To get one while picking up my roommate at the airport was even mind blowing. It is as the Honda Civic hatchback is really turning heads and eliciting positivity and enthusiasm in its wake.
It does not make it a runner-up. It makes it a winner – by several laps.
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by American Honda Motor Co., Inc.
All photos by Randy Stern