Review of: 2017 Honda Civic Hatchback 5dr Manual LX
2017 Honda Civic LX hatchback: Honda's hatch is back
By Chris Chase
May. 1, 2017
In the 1970s, the Civic hatchback established Honda as a legitimate car manufacturer. It was a tiny car to rival Volkswagen’s dominance of the subcompact segment at the time, and served as a springboard for the Japanese company’s rapid growth.
Sensing a change in the North American marketplace around the turn of the century, Honda dropped the hatch body style from the Civic range when it introduced its seventh generation in 2001. Between then and now, the only Civic hatch was a sporty Si-R variant.
But for 2017, the basic Civic hatch is back, and boy, are we jazzed.
Pros & Cons
- + Trunk space
- + Acceleration
- + Ride comfort
- - Styling
- - Turbo lag
- - Rearward visibility
It took us some time to get used to the look of the new Civic sedan, and likewise we’re not sure yet about the look of this latest hatchback.
It’s mostly the tall tail we take issue with here. We’ve seen renderings of how the forthcoming performance-minded Civic Type R will look, and we feel like Honda is using this car to warm us up for that, with elements like the spoiler that joins the taillights and spans the rear window.
We have stronger feelings about the big black panels at either end of the rear bumper, which we think look overly aggressive on a car positioned just above entry level, and would have been better reserved for the 300-hp Type R. At least they more or less disappeared into our tester’s black paint.
Cargo space is a major consideration for hatchback buyers, and the Civic doesn’t disappoint. That bulky tail houses 727 litres of capacity, which swells to 1,308 with the rear seats folded.
Another highlight is the roll-up cargo cover, which lives off to one side of the trunk. It’s a genius design that eliminates the need to remove and stow it out of the way when you fold the rear seats down.
Generally, this is the same roomy, comfortable interior you get in the Civic sedan. The main drawback is rearward visibility that’s hampered by large C-pillars and the spoiler that bisects the rear glass.
The Civic’s infotainment system generated the usual complaints about its lack of a user-friendly volume control; that’s the only real wart on a system that’s otherwise easy to figure out.
We also wished for a dedicated climate-control display. As it is here, adjusting the HVAC settings causes a temporary display to pop down from the top edge of the main display, but gaining access to the full slate of controls requires a push of the “climate” button below the screen, and even that eventually reverts to whatever the screen was showing previously.
Our test car came in the Civic hatchback’s most basic form, an LX model with the six-speed manual transmission, which misses out on the active safety kit available in pricier variants. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration make an appearance here as standard equipment, however.
This is old-school Honda charm at its best. The lack of advanced safety features might be a turn-off here, but if you’re after a simple, practical car that’s truly fun to drive, this is how you get it for less than $22,000.
We suspect Honda couldn’t build a bad manual transmission drivetrain if it tried: the Civic’s clutch is progressive in its engagement, and the shifter moves effortlessly through its gates while still feeling like it’s connected to machinery.
This was our first crack at a Civic combining that stickshift with the 1.5-litre turbo four-cylinder. It certainly feels quicker than with the continuously variable automatic (though whether it actually is, we can’t say), but the manual brings out the engine’s tendency toward turbo lag: step on it and even in the lower gear ratios, there’s a brief delay before the turbo cranks up the boost and whooshes you away.
There’s a touch more torque here than with the automatic, and it’s enough to invoke the traction control in third gear at full throttle on wet roads.
Fuel consumption estimates are 8.0/6.2 L/100 km (city/highway); in a week of enthusiastic driving around town, our test car matched that city estimate.
Moderately quick hatchbacks aren’t common. Kia will plug its 1.6-litre turbo four-cylinder (more powerful than Honda’s, at 201 hp) into a five-door Forte, but only in a fully-loaded model with automatic transmission, and at a price that nudges $30,000.
Hyundai will soon offer its Elantra GT hatch in a Sport variant with the same 1.6-litre turbo, but count on it coming in at a price similar to the $25,000 tag attached to the Elantra Sport sedan.
Honda faces plenty of hatchback competition, but this turbocharged Civic is a quicker machine than anything else in the low-$20,000 price bracket. Naturally, Honda will build you a Civic hatch to compete with those Koreans on price and content: the Sport Touring model comes in just under $30,000 with a stickshift, or nearer to $31,000 with the automatic.
This car’s most pleasant surprise is its combination of a strong powertrain and uncomplicated trim. We’ve been hoping for some time that Honda would return to the hatchback fold, and they’ve done it with a car that was worth waiting for.