2017 Honda Civic Hatchback LX Road Test Review

 Copyright: Canadian Auto Press Inc.


Five-door adds another reason to opt for Canada's favourite car 

New for 2017, a five-door Civic Hatchback combines with the Sedan and Coupe, adding edgier styling and considerably more practicality to Canada's favourite car. Its frontal styling pulls plenty of cues from the four-door Civic Sedan and two-door Civic Coupe, whereas its rear design melds some of both models' key elements into one totally unique shape.

Honda chose a base LX model for the press fleet it keeps in my area so I booked it for a weeklong test, but they chose to omit its entry-level six-speed manual gearbox and instead provided the continuously variable transmission (CVT). Unlike the Civic Sedan, all Hatchback trims can be had with both transmissions, although the majority of features in the brand's impressive Honda Sensing active safety suite are only available with the CVT. To Honda's credit they've at least given us the choice of either optimizing performance or accessing the latest in semi-autonomous driving capability.

Also unlike the Civic Sedan, the Hatchback gets one single turbocharged and direct-injected 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine, albeit in various states of tune. It makes 174 horsepower and 167 lb-ft of torque in the LX, although in CVT guise its torque drops to 162 lb-ft, while second-rung Sport and top-line Sport Touring trims get a 180 horsepower version of the engine that puts out 177 lb-ft of torque. Once again, CVT-equipped models utilizing this loftier engine are detuned to achieve just 162 lb-ft of torque, but the engine is lively either way so no one should complain. An easy way to tell the zestier engine from the Hatchback's exterior is a dual centre-mounted exhaust pipe at back, plus its owners filling up with pricier premium fuel to extract all of its potential.


 

Even the base Honda Civic Hatchback LX is impressive 

Even base LX models should impress compact buyers thanks to a 7.0-inch colour TFT multi-information display that doubles as the primary gauge cluster, this flanked by two bright and colourful digital metres for engine temp and fuel, plus over on the centre stack an equally large 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen that's filled with high-grade graphics plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a multi-angle backup camera with dynamic guidelines, Wi-Fi tethering, Siri Eyes Free, Bluetooth wireless phone and audio streaming, SMS text and email functionality, two USB ports, 180-watt eight-speaker audio, and the list goes on.

The list of Civic Hatchback LX features continues with auto on/off halogen projector headlights, LED daytime running lights, LED taillights, an electromechanical parking brake, intermittent wipers, an intermittent rear wiper/washer, tilt and telescopic steering, filtered single-zone automatic climate control, heatable front seats, a rear armrest with cupholders, a retractable cargo cover, the HondaLink Assist auto emergency response system, hill start assist, all the usual active and passive safety features, plus more.


 

Those upgrading to previously noted Honda Sensing get auto high beams and adaptive cruise control with the manual or alternatively both of the above plus low-speed following capability with the CVT, the latter automatic transmission also allowing for forward collision warning with emergency autonomous braking, road departure mitigation, and lane departure warning with lane-keeping assist.

Honda's willingness to lend journalists this most basic Civic Hatchback shows just how confident they are in the car on the whole (believe me, we're rarely provided base models of anything). First off, a quick glance immediately shows a nicer set of alloy wheels than most entry-level economy cars get, these being machine-finished 16-inch rims with black-painted pockets that match up well next to all the glossy black trim contrasting my tester's White Orchid Pearl paint. The only chrome is on the badges front and back, although the headlights give off a jewel-like glitter.


 

Civic Hatchback combines sporty design with a practical layout 

It's quite clear the Hatchback targets a sportier clientele despite being the most practical Civic in the lineup, this underscored by its loftier base price of $21,490 plus freight and fees. By comparison the Civic Sedan starts in DX trim at just $16,490, whereas the similarly equipped Sedan LX can be purchased for $19,390, albeit with a lot more chrome and a set of less alluring alloys.

All Civics boast impressive interiors no matter the trim, but I particularly like the Hatchback LX model's etched metallic instrument panel and door inlays, plus the black and grey striped woven cloth seat upholstery. The centre stripe is actually made up of thinner grey and black diagonal lines, while grey contrast stitching to each side, plus along each bolster and around the headrests, complement the look. The black fabric can also be found on each armrest, while the seats in back feature the same grey stitching as those up front yet eliminate the centre stripe for a slightly starker appearance.


 

Like the rest of the Civic lineup the Hatchback is a wonderfully comfortable place to be, the driver's seat providing excellent lower back support and a decent level of lateral bracing, while there's at least as much room in back as the sedan. Another benefit gained by moving from four-door to five-door Civic is immediately noticeable from the driver's perspective, a larger rear window to aid rearward visibility when peering through the centre mirror. This combines with good visibility all around, which can be further optimized by raising or lowering the seat via a large lever to the left of the lower cushion, before toggling the power-adjustable heated side mirrors for the clearest view.

As noted earlier, the Civic Hatchback's standard instrument panel is a literal lightshow of dazzling colour, its digital displays as plentiful as this class gets and the quality of resolution also at the top of the pack. Where Honda differs from most competitors is the inclusion of this same quality gauge cluster and touchscreen from near base to top-line Civic models, while this Civic Hatchback gets the same class-leading electronics all the way through the line. This is a clear example of how well Honda understands the market it continues to dominate, the Civic having been the best-selling compact car in Canada for a very long time, let alone the top-selling car in this country period.


 

Hatchback LX delivers a good balance of performance and comfort 

Another thing Honda understands is overall driving dynamics, this especially true of the Hatchback thanks to the standard turbocharged engines noted earlier. Before you get all excited at the word "turbo", be advised that it doesn't immediately translate into hot hatch performance. Rather, this LX trimmed model is more about smooth, linear operation combined with a nice compliant ride, its front strut and rear multi-link independent suspension featuring stabilizer bars at both ends yet tuned with comfort as a first priority. This isn't to say the car tested can't cut up a canyon road, but it does so with a more relaxed demeanor than the aforementioned Si and R models.

Agile Handling Assist (AHA) comes standard, this being a torque vectoring technology that applies near imperceptible braking force to the inside wheels when the steering wheel gets turned before adding the same to the outside wheels when the steering is returned in order to improve overall responsiveness. Also impressive, its standard Straight Driving Assist technology reduces steering effort when moving on a sloped or crowned road surface.


 

Another positive is a five-cycle fuel economy rating of 7.7 L/100km city, 6.0 highway and 6.9 combined with the CVT or 8.0 city, 6.2 highway and 7.2 combined with the manual, the latter set of numbers being a price that performance fans will be only too happy to pay, especially considering that sticking with the manual will save you $1,300 from onset. Achieving either of these sets of figures will require the press of an "ECON" mode button on the lower console, which slightly retards throttle response while limited air conditioning output, etcetera, but even in default mode the Civic Hatchback delivers good economy.

The addition of the CVT resulted in my as-tested 2017 Civic Hatchback LX starting at $22,790, with the only factory options available for this trim limited to the $2,300 Honda Sensing suite and exterior paints including Lunar Silver Metallic, Polished Metal Metallic (grey), Crystal Black Pearl, Aegean Blue Metallic, and the pearly white exterior shade mentioned earlier.


 

An entry-level car with premium quality finishings  

This keeps things simple, from both a writer's and a purchaser's perspective, but once again the Civic Hatchback LX hardly feels rudimentary from behind the wheel. I've noted a few of my favourite things already, but I'd be remiss not to make mention of the exquisitely finished steering wheel controls. The execution of these is better than with most premium brands, as is the gorgeous detailing around the auto climate control interface over on the centre stack. In fact, all of the car's switchgear and finishings are top-grade, while soft touch composites can be found across most of the dash top and front door uppers.

  

If you want to add more luxury and excitement to your Civic Hatchback I'd recommend the upgrade to Sport or Sport Touring trim. Along with the additional power, CVT models get paddle shifters behind an upgraded leather-wrapped steering wheel, while the mid-grade trim also includes an aero package for the front fascia, side extensions and rear apron, plus fog lamps, larger 18-inch alloys on 235/40 all-seasons, walk-away auto door locks, a remote engine starter (with the CVT), proximity keyless entry with pushbutton ignition, textured aluminum pedals, speed-sensing variable-intermittent wipers, illuminated vanity mirrors, a powered moonroof, and Honda's fabulous LaneWatch blindspot display that projects a right-side rearward camera view of the adjacent lane when prompted by the turn signal.

The move up to Sport Touring trim enhances the list to include full LED headlights with both high and low beams, LED front turn signals, LED indicators on the mirror caps, rain-sensing wipers, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, navigation with detailed mapping, voice recognition, wireless device charging, a 542-watt audio system with 12 speakers including a sub, plus HD and satellite radio, leather upholstery, an eight-way powered driver's seat and four-way powered front passenger seat, heatable rear seats, and all the advanced Honda Sensing features as standard.



Passenger and cargo volumes are some of the best in class 

Cargo access with the Civic Hatchback is considerably better than either the Sedan or Coupe for obvious reasons, this model actually providing a level of passenger and cargo versatility unmatched by any Honda car this side of the subcompact Fit. Its capacity dwarfs its two Civic siblings as well, the Sedan capable of 428 litres in its larger than average sized trunk and an undetermined amount when its 60/40-split rear seatbacks are tumbled forward, and the Coupe's trunk allowing 337 litres plus who knows how much more when its divided seats are laid flat, whereas this Civic Hatchback can manage up to 728 litres behind its rear seatbacks and 1,308 litres when they're fully lowered.

For those lamenting the loss of Honda's Crosstour, take heart that the first number noted above is identical to that car's luggage volume, whereas the second figure is only 145 litres off the mark, which is not bad for a compact going up against a mid-size model. This said, with 1,492 litres at its disposal the brilliant little Fit provides more maximum cargo capacity than both when its rear seats are dropped down, but take note the Civic Hatchback (and therefore the Crosstour) wins out when its seatbacks are upright, even when combining the total available cargo volume ahead of the Fit's upward-swinging Magic Seats together with the space behind, which collectively equals 609 litres.


 

Suffice to say the new Civic Hatchback offers a lot for the money no matter the trim level chosen, but plenty of compact hatchback challengers were already in the mix when Honda decided to rejoin the fray, plus some new ones have arrived from unexpected rivals. Still, despite increased competition I don't think the Civic has much to worry about in Canada.

Last year's lead was almost 14,000 units ahead of its nearest rival with close to 65,000 Civics down the road, while after just six months of 2017 the total number of Civic deliveries was almost 9,000 units beyond its closest rival at 37,180 units. By August's close that number grew to 50,898 sales compared to just 37,177 for the runner-up. Certainly, if Honda can continue this pace it'll be a record year, all the more impressive considering some of its challengers are temporarily opting out of the small car business altogether.


 

The new Civic is proof positive that money and effort spent to engineer and produce a much better car than average can result in extremely strong sales, more so than any SUV currently available despite all the talk about crossovers taking over the automotive industry. In fact, the Civic's growing sales make it abundantly clear that plenty of consumers don't want an SUV at all, and thanks to this practical five-door Hatchback version increasing our Civic options we have yet another reason to choose Canada's favourite car. Could it be time to reintroduce the Civic wagon?

 


Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press 
Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press 
Copyright: Canadian Auto Press Inc.
// //