Test Drive: The new Civic has many upgrades
Until quite recently, Honda Civics were a little noisy, and not particularly refined. Moreover, their styling was on the bland side. They made up for these deficiencies with qualities such as reliability, durability and exceptional fuel economy.
Then came the 2016 model year. Suddenly, Civics had crisp, even chiseled, looks; plus, they were significantly quieter and more refined. And they still had the good qualities that kept the Civic near the top of the sales charts.
We were pleased to take delivery of a 2017 Civic Hatchback Sport with a 6-speed manual transmission, 180-horsepower turbocharged Four, and a nice but not excessive standard-features list. The car comported itself competently in the mid-February snow, and provided loads of fun on dry pavement.
The base Civic LX hatchback – the newest and most versatile of a family that includes a sedan and coupe – starts at $19,700. Our Sport hatchback, with no options, had a sticker price of $22,175. Its standard features included 5-inch color screen with rearview camera, steering-wheel-mounted controls, Bluetooth audio and hands-free link, USB audio interface, automatic climate control, power windows and locks, cruise control, retractable cargo area cover, and aluminum pedals.
A number of competing subcompact sedans and hatchbacks cost less, but tend to be smaller and less engaging than the Civic. Driving behind an older Honda Accord midsize sedan, we noticed our test car was about the same size. And it was roomier, front and back, than Civics we've driven in the past. We took note of the fact the Civic hatchback can swallow an impressive 46.2 cubic feet of cargo with the rear seat lowered, and 25.7 cubic feet with the seat upright.
What we liked best about the Civic, in addition to its quiet, composed ride, was its sharp handling and the quick, forgiving responsiveness of the stick shift. We haven’t driven many cars lately with standard transmissions, but immediately felt right at home with Honda’s shifter. As for the 180-horsepower turbocharged engine, it exhibited no turbo lag and motivated the 2,943-pound car briskly.
We also liked the styling, especially the dual exhaust ports, centered side by side under the rear bumper. And the interior was exceptionally well designed in terms of ergonomics and storage for items large and small.
Hondas are known for reliability and fuel economy. While Civics with the continuously variable automatic transmission can reach 42 mpg on the highway, our test car was rated at 30 mpg city, 39 highway. We didn’t have time for a long highway run, but the test car managed to break the 40-mpg barrier on a 20-mile highway commute.
While some Hondas and components are American-made, our Civic was something of an international car – assembled in England, with an engine from Thailand and a transmission from India.
Tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Civic sedan was rated a Top Safety Pick. Our hatchback received 5-star ratings across the board in U.S. government crash tests.
Steven Macoy (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.
2017 Honda Civic Hatchback Sport
Engine: 1.5-liter turbocharged inline Four, 180 horsepower, 177 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Weight: 2,943 lb.
Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear
Wheels: 18x8-in. alloy
Tires: P235/40R18 all-season
Seating capacity: 5
Luggage capacity: 25.7 cu. ft.
Maximum cargo capacity: 46.2 cu. ft.
Fuel capacity: 12.4 gal.
Fuel economy: 30 mpg city, 39 mpg highway
Fuel type: regular unleaded gasoline