Lacy Elliott: In a previous life, I had a great little Honda Civic hatch. I drove the crap out of it! Having the extra cargo space gave me the option to take more road trips with my friends. I can’t believe it, but we have not seen a Civic Hatchback since 2000. Suddenly that has made me feel old.
Dan Heyman: Lacey had a Civic? Well isn’t that handy – turns out that in a previous life, so did I! Mine wasn’t a hatch, however, but like my esteemed colleague, I, too, “drove the crap out of it”. It had a stick shift, steel wheel covers and no clock, but by God if I didn’t treat it as if it were the best thing in cars since Mr. Ford’s assembly line.
So needless to say, I was stoked when I sampled the all-new Civic sedan, and stoked when it was time to put the latest body style through its paces, too.
LE: Hatchbacks are the way to go if you need more space than a traditional sedan offers. With the seats folded down, the Civic Hatch gives you about 1,300 litres of cargo space. This is similar to some SUV’s out there, but you don’t have to sacrifice the actual size of the vehicle for all the room. A great idea if you are a single or couple living in a city and still want to be able to go on some adventures.
Honda has absolutely nailed the interior fit and finish. The materials throughout the cabin are top notch. Sitting in the drivers seat with my hands on the wheel, every touch point feels like it is of the highest quality.
Speaking of touch points, Honda has most of the controls being managed through the available seven-inch capacitive touchscreen. Air conditioning, navigation and music can all be operated through this system. It works well and the overall operation is responsive to my touch, but I really miss having a volume knob. Instead of quickly turning down the volume at the drive—through window, you have to slide your finger down or repeatedly tap the touch screen. Yes, you can use the controls on the wheel instead, but same issue, you will need to hold the button down for several seconds to adjust the sound. I know I am not the only journalist to complain about this so I am hoping this will be changed in the next generation Civic.
I am one of those people who always have a bottle of water or cup of coffee in my hands. Having a place to keep both of them and easy to reach can make or break an interior for me. The Civic has a holder in the door and two in the centre arm rest. This means I can have both my drinks and so can my passenger.
The centre console also features a two-tier storage compartment that allows the ability to plug in your phone or other electronic devices and run all your wires through a hole. It makes things look cleaner and won’t clutter up this gorgeous interior. It is some of the small details like these that make an entry-level vehicle like the Civic so popular.
DH: I was really curious to see how the hatchback looked “in the metal”, mainly because the sedan model has such a steep rear window and short trunk, it almost looks like a hatchback itself. Same goes for the Coupe. It would be interesting, I thought, to see if that fact had made Honda adopt the more aggressive hatchback styling of the North American Civic’s European counterparts from years past.
While this latest version of the Civic hatch isn’t quite as crazy as the 8th– and 9th-gen versions seen overseas, you won’t be confusing it for a sedan any time soon. And it’s very hard to ignore the dual rear spoilers – one sprouting off the roof’s trailing edge, one spanning the taillights in a subtle nod to the older European versions. Not only is there a lot of cargo space as Lacey mentions, but the rear hatch itself is quite large, making for a nice, wide opening that will make it easier to fill all that space. It is huge in there, too, and you can understand why at the launch of the latest CR-V crossover, Honda spent a lot of time explaining how it has the most cargo space in its crowded segment; they wanted to make sure that big as the Civic’s hatch is, it shouldn’t replace what’s offered by the CR-V, which still eclipses the Civic hatch’s cargo space by 846 L if you drop the rear seats. Still, though; 1,300 L with a lower liftover height? That’s pretty good for a compact hatch.
Is it a little busy in the styling department, like some critics are saying? Perhaps – those rear intakes are HUGE — but if you want a smoother look there’s always the more slender coupe option.
From the front, there’s nothing to differentiate this from other members of the Civic family other than the hatch getting a blacked-out grille as opposed to the chrome finish on coupe and sedan models. That means you still get that “Honda Wing” front end and its super-slender headlights. I’m a fan of it; I think it looks distinctive without being over the top and once again, is a nice take on the Euro-spec Civics that used to use a silver grille finish that looked like it was crafted from recycled tin cans. This is classier – much classier – and it speaks well to Honda’s current design language.
Would I classify the interior as “gorgeous”, as Lacey put it? Not sure about that, but I’m notoriously tough to please when it comes to a car’s interior environs so that’s an adjective I tend to rarely use.
Having said that, the big selling point for me is the functionality of the Civic’s interior. The buttons – well, the few buttons that exist, anyway – are nicely laid out, the shifters easy to reach as are the storage bins in the centre console and at the base of the centre stack, and the visibility and seating position is just right. Like the sedan, the hatch feels much bigger inside than its compact digs suggest, and that makes a tall glass o’ water like myself very happy.
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ON THE ROAD
LE: So popular, in fact, the Honda Civic has been the best selling car in Canada for the last 20 years. Beating out Mazda, Ford, Hyundai and Kia year after year, for reasons other than Honda’s attention to detail on their interiors.
The Civic has impressive road manners both in the city and on the highway and a comfortable and quiet interior at any speed. It has a MacPherson strut front suspension and multi-link rear suspension. The Civic platform offers a ride that is pretty much guaranteed to put a smile on anyone’s face in all driving conditions.
The base Civic Hatchback is just over $21,000 and has a 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine as standard equipment. This peppy engine is a $4,000 upgrade on the sedan or coupe. It is very quick to accelerate off the line and passes effortlessly on the highway. If you want more power, the Sport and Sport Touring trims give you 180hp but keep in mind that premium gas is recommended.
The standard 6-speed manual transmission is so easy to drive. The gearbox is light and it is easy to shift up or down as needed. The younger generation will most likely prefer the available Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) for an additional $1,300. This technology has gotten much better over the years and most drivers are finding it a good option because it also delivers impressive fuel economy. The posted fuel rating for the CVT is 7.2L/ 100km in combined city and highway driving while the manual is rated at just 6.9L.
DH: It has to be said that one of the Civic hatch’s biggest selling points is that turbo motor, and the fact that you get one no matter which way you slice your Civic’s trim.
It’s a properly peppy motor good for 174 hp at base or 180 hp on the two higher trims, easily besting what’s made by the Mazda3 Sport and just edging out the Hyundai Elantra GT. The figures are all well and good, but my biggest concern was how they’d make the Civic feel, especially considering our car was spec’d with the CVT. Transmissions of this sort tend to err on the side of efficiency over “performance” or “fun-to-drive”, but armed with the knowledge that some performance cars – namely the Subaru WRX – are actually making use of a CVT, I had high(er) hopes for the Civic. After all; this was a sporty little hatch, right?
Well, sort of. Remember: the model’s actual sporty variants – the Si and Type-R – are essentially hot off the presses right now, and you know that for those that want – that really want – a fun Civic, the Si will do just fine…as long as you’re willing to forego the hatch body style because there is no Si hatch at this juncture.
Which is OK because if I’m honest, the hatch – CVT and all – drives rather well.
For starters, you’ve got Honda’s penchant for doing their best to instill a spot of sporty handling in the massest of mass market models, and that has done the Civic hatch wonders. Turn-in is nice and immediate – it’s an electronic power steering set-up, but you hardly notice it – and those quick inputs are accompanied by a body kept nicely in check; roll is very hard to detect unless you’re on the harshest of bends, which makes for better handling and a more comfortable ride.
With all that great handling, it would be a shame if it were dragged down by a sluggish powertrain, right? It would be, and luckily that’s not entirely the case. Yes; you’ll never get the immediate acceleration you would from a manual-shift model, but Honda has programmed some nice “shift points” to at least make it feel like cogs are being swapped. This may seem trivial, but I’ve talked to quite a few people – car enthusiasts and non-car enthusiasts alike – and they like the traditional feeling of shifting gears, even in automatic cars. If I had one main complaint, it would be the lack of a manual mode of any stripe; that’s not a CVT thing, as many CVT-equipped cars to provide the option to engage the synthetic ratios yourself. Bit of a missed beat there from Honda, so it’s good you can spec a manual no matter which trim you choose.
Where they haven’t missed a single beat, however, is in the engine department. The turb-4 mill is a good one that pulls smoothly and with purpose, thanks to peak torque arriving at a lowly 1,700 r.p.m. Peak hp comes a little later at 6,000, accompanied by a nice, subtle thrust as it spirits you forward. Honda has stayed away from turbocharging for a while; glad they’ve taken the time to get it right.
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FEATURES, TECHNOLOGY and SAFETY
LE: Brake assist will prevent the car from rolling back if you opt for the 6-speed. This was always the biggest stress of driving a manual and now that stress is nonexistent.
The Civic’s audio system is compatible with the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and is managed through the touchscreen.
The Civic Hatchback is available in three trims. The base LX starts at just over $21,000 with the manual transmission. Then you have the Sport, and Sport Touring top of the line with CVT that is $30,690.
On the LX and Sport, Honda Sensing is available and it includes a Collision Mitigation Braking System, Forward Collision Warning, Lane Keeping Assist System, Road Departure Mitigation, Lane Departure Warning and Adaptive Cruise Control with Low-Speed Follow.
DH: While Honda isn’t the only manufacturer using an all-touch infotainment interface, there’s something about theirs in particular that just doesn’t jive with me. Maybe it’s the lack of a volume knob or power button. It may seem trivial especially since there are volume controls on the steering wheel but that doesn’t help the passenger and muscle memory being what it is, I can’t quite get past not having a proper knob to reach for. The graphics and responsiveness of the touchscreen are fine – and the sound through our car’s 12-speaker (twelve speakers!) audio is very good; they just need to make it easier to modulate said sound.
LE: This hatch has a higher base price than the sedan or coupe but you get a better engine, more standard features and extra space needed for road trips with friends. As I reminisce about my youth, I think it’s about time Honda brought back the hatch. Just another reason to keep the Civic on top of the pack.
DH: Above all, I was just happy to find that the CVT and turbo engine managed to get along to keep some of that great Honda sportniess alive in the Civic hatch. Even though there are sportier models coming, the fact that they’ve managed to retain some of that for this loaded version shows that driving enthusiasm is still alive and well at Honda, for which we should be truly grateful.
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