Honda Civic Hatchback — Civic fun with more space

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

The current-generation Honda Civic is stylish inside and out, offers a refined driving experience, and it's loaded with passenger and cargo space for a family of four. For 2017 Honda offers even one better — the Civic Hatchback that provides the same experience, but with the utility of a small crossover.

In addition to actually being more stylish than the sedan and with enhanced turbocharged performance as standard equipment, the hatchback provides 26.7 cubic feet of storage with all seats in place and a total of 46.2 cubic feet with the seatbacks folded. That's in comparison to 15.1 cubic feet of cargo room in the sedan's trunk. What's not to like — the total Civic experience with triple the storage space.

Styling has, indeed, taken a big leap forward. The cabin is shifted backwards, making for a more dramatic, long-hooded silhouette. Bulging wheel arches and sculpted sides give the Civic a more muscular appearance than one would normally expect from an economy car. The hatchback comes with aerodynamic bodywork including duct inserts in the bumpers, center-mounted twin exhaust pipes and 18-inch wheels in the top trim level replacing the standard 17-inch rims.

All hatchback trim levels — LX, EX, EX-L, Sport and Sport Touring — get the top Civic engine, a turbocharged 1.5-liter 4-cylinder making 174 horsepower. Order the Sport or Sport Touring and horsepower rises to 180 because of exhaust tuning. While a six-speed manual transmission is available, the transmission of choice for most will be the continuously variable (CVT), and while we are not fans of the CVT, it seems to work well with the bigger engine recording 0-to-60 times just under 7 seconds. The CVT is designed to provide artificial shift points, which helps it mimic a traditional automatic transmission. In addition to its go-fast credentials, the Civic hatchback stops quickly, measured at just 117 feet from 60 to 0.

The Civic hauler feels well planted on the curving back roads making it a practical car during the week and a fun machine for weekend relaxation. Body roll is well controlled and steering feedback is good with excellent on-center feel. And the Civic hatch has some bragging rights with gas mileage rated at 30 mpg in city driving, 36-highway and 32-overall with the CVT and 30/39/33 with the manual. Unfortunately, higher-price premium gas is recommended.

The cabin is spacious with premium materials giving the Civic the feeling of a much more expensive compact. It comes with such standard features as remote engine start, dual-zone automatic climate control and rain sensing wipers. Honda Sensing is corporate speak for its suite of safety technologies such as forward collision warning, lane departure warning and lane keeping assist, and road departure mitigation. It's available as standard equipment on the Sport and Sport Touring models.

While the base car continues with areas of hard plastic here and there (not a problem with us because they are well executed), the materials in the up-level Sport Touring trim could easily live as an entry-level Acura. There is some neat interior storage touches including USB and 12-volt power outlets tucked under center s
tack with an ingenious cord management system. A new electronic parking brake allows room for a large center bin with a sliding armrest and removable cupholder tray.

A seven-inch touchscreen placed mid-dash features new Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration that allows for smartphone control of the infotainment system. The navigation screen now uses pinch-to-zoom and swipe gestures we have all become accustomed to with our iPads and smartphones. We were dismayed, however, that the finicky touchscreen audio volume control remains even as the new CR-V crossover returns to the easier-to-use and reliable volume control knob. We can be thankful that at least in the u
pper trims there is a redundant audio control on the steering wheel.

Base price for the hatch is $20,575 including destination charges. Bear in mind you also get the larger engine, a lot of hauling space, and generous standard equipment such as  full power accessories, automatic climate control, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, rearview camera, Bluetooth phone and audio and a four-speaker sound system with USB port. For $800 more you can get the CVT.

The thing here is that you can add the Sport edition for as little as $1,600 and get the enhanced look as well as the Honda Sensing technologies.

We drove the most expensive — and the best equipped —Sport Touring model with every feature currently available on a Civic for $29,135.

Base price: $20,575; as driven, $29,135
Engine: 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 180 @ 5,500 rpm
Torque: 162 pound-feet @ 1,700 rpm
Transmission: continuously variable
Drive: front wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 106.3 inches
Length: 177.9 inches
Curb weight: 3,010 pounds
Turning circle: 37.8 feet
Luggage capacity: 22.6 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 46.2 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 12.39 gallons (premium)
EPA rating: 30 city, 36 highway, 32 overall
0-60: 7.0 seconds (manufacturer)
Also consider: Mazda 3 Touring, VW Golf GTI, Ford Focus ST

The Good
* Strong turbocharged engine
• Athletic with good ride quality
• Attractive, roomy cabin

The Bad
• No blind spot monitor in driver's side mirror

The Ugly
• Hard-to-use audio volume control