The Civic continues to impress regardless of how many kilometers we clock in it.
Honda has always had a bestseller with their affordable and honest Civic. Dating back to 1973, the Civic has now established itself as one of the most popular vehicles in the world. The latest generation car debuted in 2016 in sedan and coupé form, with the hatchback joining the lineup for the 2017 model year. Unveiled in Geneva in 2016, the Civic Hatchback is throwing it back to the 1990s with versatility without compromising driving fun. We find this to be one of the best values in the $20,000-30,000 range, so we found it important to do a second take with the 2017 Honda Civic Hatchback LX and discuss its relevance in today’s lineup.
The Civic (reviewed here) is Canada’s fourth highest selling vehicle, and for good reason. Not only is it an excellent car, it can be had in numerous configurations. It starts with the three distinct body styles, and then is broken down into various trims. Starting from the entry level LX (which itself differs in options and powertrains depending on body style), the Civic goes right up to the hot track-oriented Type-R (previewed here). The mid-level performance Si is not available in hatchback form, but there are Sport and Sport Touring models available which boost both convenience options and power numbers.
In our garage is a base model Civic Hatchback in LX trim, which comes with a plethora of standard features. Honda’s touchscreen infotainment system with a 7” display is standard, which also offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. This means that even the base model can use smartphone integration to provide turn-by-turn navigation and full connectivity. It also includes hill-start assist, automatic climate control, acoustic lamination in the windshield, and of course, vehicle stability control (VSA). For just over $21,000, that’s a staggering amount of stuff.
One of the best parts of the new Civic is the 1.5L turbocharged four-cylinder motor, also now seen on the new CR-V (reviewed here) with a slightly different tune. Here it puts out 174 horsepower at 5,500RPM and 168 lb-ft. of torque at just 1,800RPM. This little motor is remarkably quick off the line, and does a great job at keeping the car out of boost on the highway to maximize efficiency. Power delivery with the drive-by-wire system is precise and the throttle response is almost instantaneous, exactly what a peppy Honda should feel like. Though models with more power are available, most will not miss it.
A CVT automatic transmission is available, but this test vehicle was equipped with Honda’s six-speed manual, one of the best gearboxes in the business. The shifter and clutch combination is top-notch, with short and light throws and a definitive grab point on the clutch. The hill-start assist does a good job at ensuring minimal roll back even on the steepest inclines. One thing we could do without is the electronic parking brake – it’s definitely a thing that’s becoming more popular across the industry, but when coupled with a manual transmission it just feels, well, wrong.
The steering in the Civic is very light and lacking in analog feedback, but is pretty responsive overall. On-center feel is okay, though the slightest movement of the wheel will cause the vehicle to pull. This means constant overcorrection is needed on the highway at speed, but the car is very responsive when darting around the urban core. Cornering is a blast, and though not the “Sport” trim, the tires equipped do a decent job at keeping things planted. It’s very apparent that the Honda engineering team spent countless hours developing the bushings on this car, as this suspension is sorted perfectly for a dynamic street setup.
With the manual transmission, the Civic LX returns some impressive fuel efficiency numbers despite the eagerness of the turbocharger to keep you in the boost range. This model is rated at 8.0L/100km in the city and 6.2L/100km on the highway. Our test average came in at 6.9L/100km in combined driving, with no real effort to stay frugal. The small fuel tank only has a 46.9L capacity, but again despite the turbocharged motor, the Civic LX has no requirement for premium fuel and will operate smoothly and beautifully on 87-octane regular.
Assembled in Swindon, England as opposed to Alliston, ON for the coupé and sedan, the fit and finish of the Civic Hatchback shows no real difference when compared to the Canadian-built cars. The cabin has seats made of a premium-feeling cloth, and taller passengers needn’t worry as there is ample head and legroom in the front seats. The trunk has a useful roll-away cargo cover which retracts (left-to-right as opposed to the conventional front-to-rear) and can be placed on either side of the cargo area. The Honda infotainment system has gotten a lot better over the years, but the new CR-V and Odyssey (reviewed here) have seen the return of the volume knob, something that would be greatly appreciated in the Civic.
As mentioned, though the Civic is available in a few configurations, and the base LX can be had for $21,490 with the manual transmission. Most Canadians will opt for the LX with Honda Sensing at $23,790, which puts pricing right in line with the Hyundai Elantra SE (reviewed here) and the Toyota Corolla SE (reviewed here). Those who highly prioritize a sporty driving experience within the compact segment will shop the Civic against the likes of the Mazda3 GS (reviewed here), though newcomers like the Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback and the refreshed Kia Forté5 make for worthy contenders.
The 2017 Honda Civic Hatchback competes in a very saturated compact class, and continues to impress regardless of how many kilometers we clock in it. It offers an impressive powertrain, a perfectly-tuned suspension, and plenty of upscale options at a price that somehow comes in at a better value than the vast majority of its competitors. At this rate, there is no doubt that the Civic will continue to be one of the perennials of its class as its higher-trim counterparts begin to trickle into production, and carry on to hold the torch as one of Canada’s bestselling vehicles.