Expert Reviews

Test Drive: 2017 Honda Civic Hatchback

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Aided by a new design and the long-awaited return of a hatchback to the its lineup, the Honda Civic was once again – for the 19th consecutive year – the bestselling vehicle in Canada. New for model year 2017 is the Civic Hatchback, which launched last autumn and I suspect will seal the deal for Honda for the 20th straight year.

The styling of the Civic Hatchback can be a bit polarizing...

With a starting price of $21,390, the five-door Civic begins life as an LX model within a slightly different set of trim level designations from the sedan. This variant of the Civic is also available in LX–Honda Sensing, Sport, Sport–Honda Sensing and fully loaded Sport Touring. I was tossed the keys to the base LX trim with a six-speed manual transmission and I was immediately surprised at how this base vehicle was equipped and how it felt.

For your $21,390 you get features like automatic climate control, three-setting heated front seats, cruise control and an infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Also included in the LX are 16-inch aluminum wheels, rear spoiler and an ingenious cargo cover that retracts into the shock tower area instead of using a horizontal bar that takes up precious cargo space with the seats folded down.

The 2017 Honda Civic Hatchback is powered by a 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produces 174 hp and 167 lb-ft of torque which is flat from 1,800 rpm to 5,500 rpm, in the LX trim. Only regular fuel is required in LX trim while the Sport and Sport Touring models require premium-grade fuel in exchange for six more horsepower and 10 extra lb-ft of torque. To further confuse things, if you opt for the optional automatic transmission, which in this case is of the CVT variety, then you will only be offered 162 lb-ft of torque – making another case for saving the manuals!

The styling of the Civic Hatchback can be a bit polarizing, a little “boy racer” from the rear with some odd bumper details that I don’t understand or like at all. Those same grille-type details are also in the front bumper but work okay there and don’t distract or look odd like the rear. For me, the front and side profiles are good – and the back isn’t so bad that it would stop me from buying an otherwise great vehicle.

On the inside, Honda has done a great job of providing a basic and functional interior that is pleasing in look and feel. Starting from the rear hatch, the aforementioned cargo cover is pure genius and the 60/40 split seats combined with the hatchback styling offers a ton of cargo-carrying capacity – 1,308 L to be exact.

The rear seats actually provide a good amount of legroom; I sat in the back behind my driver’s seat with no issues. I got a 30-minute ride in the rear as well, something pretty rare for me and I was comfortable the entire time, although I did find it a bit noisy back there on that rainy day, with water coming off the rear tires drowning out the conversation in the front row.

Up front you are greeted with a tilt and telescoping steering wheel, electronic parking brake (boo) and six-speed manual transmission (woo-hoo!). The front seats are comfortable and easily adjustable with driver’s seat height adjustment included as well. The steering wheel extends quite a bit – on most cars I find I always extend the wheel to its maximum but the Civic went further than expected. The centre armrest and console area is quite spacious with a ton of room for storage, as well as two sliding cupholders and a massive big-gulp cupholder down below. In front of the shifter is more storage with cable management for your phone, and even more storage under the console – I can’t think of a compact car that offers even half the amount of storage the Civic provides.

The infotainment system, however, is absolutely infuriating, non-intuitive and slow; the lack of volume knob is the most frustrating but at least Honda has provided steering-wheel-mounted controls as well. The dash cluster is super easy to read and works much better, although the controls for that are a little confusing as well. Thankfully you can just plug your iPhone or Android phone in and use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto and forget about the clumsiness.

What is most important but seemingly forgotten these days is how the vehicle actually drives! The six-speed manual is fun to row and the clutch is light and easy to modulate. The 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine pulls strong everywhere due to the flat torque curve and this makes the Civic feel faster than it is. You can easily roast the tires off the line and chirp them shifting to second gear and in the snow you do have to modulate the throttle carefully to get moving or the torque steer will pull the vehicle to one side.

On the highway, the Civic is not the quietest car you can buy, but it does an okay job to dampen the road noise. The engine rumbles away at about 2,500 rpm on the highway in sixth gear and does emit a little noise at that speed. My tester was equipped with winter tires, which seemed to be the source of most of the noise inside the car.

Visibility is good as long as you are looking forward or out the side; if you need to do a hard shoulder check, all you will see is the C-pillar, which is massive. Around my place there are a few crazy corners with stop signs and I was completely blind at these corners – if your daily routine consists of these over-the-shoulder checks, make sure you can comfortably do so during a test drive.

Over the week of driving I did I managed to travel nearly 400 km and was pleasantly surprised with the fuel pump stopped at just over $24. According to the onboard computer I averaged 6.4 L/100 km over the week, slightly besting the Natural Resources Canada ratings of 8.0 city, 6.2 hwy or a combined of 7.2 L/100 km.

Overall I was impressed with the LX trim of the Civic Hatchback, it had all the features I feel that are needed in a new car and none of the over-the-top warnings and alarms that drive me batty.

In the end it was fun to drive, super efficient and comfortable, what more could you ask for, for just $23,185?

Engine Displacement 1.5
Engine Cylinders 4
Peak Horsepower 174 hp @ 5,500 rpm
Peak Torque 167 lb-ft @ 1,800–5,500
Fuel Economy 8.0/6.2/7.2 L/100 km city/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space 727.7 L/1,308.2 L seats down
Model Tested 2017 Honda Civic Hatchback LX
Base Price $21,490
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,595
Price as Tested $23,185
Optional Equipment