The fall review of the Civic sedan highlighted the styling improvements inherent in the new styling – mature, modern and elegant. This larger “compact” vehicle also demonstrates excellent handling and driving dynamics – the sporty feel and rewarding feedback that Civic buyers have long cherished, and is evident in a small, long-wheelbase vehicle that handles efficiently the rural roads of Maine.
This hatchback model offers all that, plus the flexibility of a large tailgate that features double the sedan’s stowage capacity – before the split rear seats fold down. The lower lift height, flat top, and even a removable cargo cover aid in this vehicle’s towing position. Include the largest rear seating area in any Civic ever and this vehicle will suit more adventurous lifestyles than previously expected.
Base power is a 2.0-liter 158 horsepower four-cylinder mated to a CVT automatic transmission. Optional power, like our sample, is provided by a 1.5-liter turbocharged 180-horsepower engine, also harnessed in the CVT—but with the help of sport programming to mimic manual gear manipulation. There is a 6-speed manual in the options list for this engine in the hatchback – the same gearbox that will accompany the SI models and the 200-horsepower version of this engine. The turbo’s linear power delivery is accessed as desired, with fuel economy on top of the EPA’s ratings of 31/38/34 mpg, nearly 3 mpg better than a manual gearbox. Drive like there’s an egg under the throttle, and you’ll get 400 miles per tank.
The price of a hatchback chassis is $1,000 more than the price of a sedan. LX models start at $23,915, the EX-L costs $27,615, while the Sport Touring is installed for $30,415 with heated leather seats, sunroof, front and rear parking sensors, and Bose audio. Upgraded, wireless phone charger, rear seat reminder, rear cross traffic sensors, plus Honda Sensing enhanced driving aids like lane clock, advanced cruise control, and forward braking assist. Keyless access and ignition are also included.
The SI sedan model will start at $28,710 with a 6-speed pedal arrangement and many of these same features. The Civic hatchback is built in Greensburg, Indiana.
Honda has chosen to stay with the front-wheel drive design of these newer cars – the Civic and Accord – while some automakers offer all-wheel drive versions of their bread-and-butter four-doors. AWD certainly affects fuel economy on some levels, however, and the added benefits of traction in bad weather often outweigh that penalty for a growing segment of the population who drives as they transition into crossovers.
The button-down driving personality of the latest Civic hatchback is undeniable. Smooth, complex, compliant and responsive (if not super fast), it’s hard to argue with the engineering balance on display during every drive. The cabin is spacious and comfortable, with good sight lines all around. The controls from the 10th generation model have been improved, but two keys on the volume display are still required. As mentioned earlier, this Civic can still benefit from greater sound suppression at highway speeds, where road noise can sometimes be excessive.
It’ll be a softer interface between the right knee and the side of the Wishlist console, as well as more powerful seat heaters—six miles pass before a hint of warming action appears and then it doesn’t get too strong. The audio system suffers from similar delays – nearly a mile passes before the entertainment system comes to life.
Civil sales are up in the past year, despite construction problems across the industry. Honda, Toyota, Kia, Hyundai and Subaru will all compete for car-centric driving as the roster of model cars from Chevy, Ford, Dodge, Buick and more dwindles rapidly.
The new Civic earned a spot on our annual “Top Ten Favorites” because it does so well for its intended mission. In nearly fifty years, the Civic (and Honda) has clearly had a handle on what small car consumers have been craving.
Tim Plouff has been reviewing cars for over 20 years.
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