REVIEW: 2017 Civic Hatch Sport Touring – Honda’s Latest Overachiever

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Every style and trim of the new Civic is impressive, but this particular model is outstanding.

What is it? 

The Honda Civic is one of the top-selling cars in a top-selling segment. Once called a “compact” car, the Civic Hatch is actually now officialy considered a “Lage Car” by the EPA due to its large interior space.

Pricing and trims

The Honda Civic now comes as a coupe, a sedan, and this five-door hatchback model. Of the group, and we have tested every style, the hatchback seems to make the most sense. It is equally stylish and has the most available space, and the most usable space. Why not get the most for your money? Speaking of money, the Civic starts under $20K as a sedan with the last-generation engine, but we strongly suggest you consider the trims starting at about $21K with the new turbocharged engine. Our tester was one of the top-spec trims, which end up just under $30K.

The 2017 Civic Hatch Sport Touring we tested had an MSRP of $29,175. That included Navigation, a CVT automatic transmission, leather trimmed seats and an audio system with over a half kilowatt of power.

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Safety

Having tested lower trims of the hatchback Civic without the full suite of safety features, we were excited to test this one with all the active safety do-dads. The Civic Hatch Sport Touring has both forward collision prevention and adaptive cruise control. It also has lane keeping assist. Combined, these are darn close to autopilot, and on the highway, the car can pretty much drive itself as long as you maintain contact with the steering wheel. Or you can forgo these features and suffer no idiot lights to punish you.

The Civic we tested also had an outstanding rear camera we loved and Honda Lane Watch we are neutral on. Lane Watch shows the view to the rear and right side of the car when one actuates the right turn signal. It is helpful to see that view when exiting a highway or turning in close quarters, but it shuts off the info screen when it does its thing. It can be shut off or customized via the settings menus.

There was no added cost for the safety features our Civic Hatch Sport Touring came with, but not all trims have this technology.

IIHS gives the new Civic its Top Safety Pick rating. Only Poor-rated headlights held it back from the highest “Plus” designation.

Performance

Put bluntly, the 2017 Civic Hatch Sport Touring would shame most expensive luxury sedans of just a few years back, and some on the road today. It is quick off the line, fast when given running room, handles well, and has almost perfect brake feel. But what is most striking is how solidly this Civic seems to be built. The performance is built on a foundation that just screams quality. Driving the Civic Hatch Sport Touring is such a pleasure it almost defies description. We’ll try.

Having now tested the new 1.5-liter turbocharged engine in the multiple Hondas including the CR-V, we have come to love this motor. In the Honda Civic Hatch Sport Touring it generates 180 hp and 162 lb-ft of torque from a very low 1,700 RPM. This engine is torquey, and when driven normally, very responsive. When the car is pushed, it is fast and feels powerful. In older Civics, and even Civic SI trims, turning on the AC meant hobbling the low-torque engine. No more. In the new Civics equipped with the 1.5-liter engine, the car does not seem to lose any power when the AC compressor is running. The engine feels much more stout than the specification sheet indicates.

With an EPA 32 MPG combined rating, the Civic is at the top of its class. However, Honda has decided to rate the Civic using premium fuel. That puts it on par with the Hyundai Elantra GT for EPA-estimated annual fuel costs and behind the Mazda3 2.5 GT in this regard. Honda does not make premium mandatory, but if we don’t have to use it, why didn’t Honda just rate the car using regular fuel? Estimates aside, we traveled 257.7 miles on 7 .0 gallons of fuel in our time with the Civic, and that equals an amazing 37 MPG.

Having previously tested the Honda Civic Hatch Sport with the excellent six-speed manual we were very happy to have a chance to test the automatic continuously variable transmission (CVT) version this time around. The CVT in this Honda is one of the best on the market and we love its smooth operation. Even better, Honda adds paddle shifters that allow the driver to pre-stage the engine in its upper rev band when the circumstances warrant that. The result is instant and plentiful power when approaching on-ramps, preparing to pass, or when hammering the Civic on back roads (we mean enjoying spirited, but respectful motoring). Unlike the automatics in so many sporty cars, this one does not lessen the fun much and makes traffic much more bearable. The simple and effective “S” for Sport setting on the gear shift also puts the Civic into the higher rev ranges all the time for extended sporty driving. In Sport mode, this car feels downright fast. There is also an Eco setting, but we have no idea why anyone would use it given the 37 MPG we enjoyed during our test week.

 Ride and handling

The handling of this Civic Hatch Sport Touring is just spot on. The car’s steering is lightly weighted and provides excellent road feel. Despite its affordable front-drive design, the car feels solidly built. Turn in is nicely flat and in spirited driving, the front never loses its grip. We have not tracked the new Civic yet, but from what we can sense on the road, it has everything sorted the way a good track car does. On the bumpy spring roads of New England, the car is very smooth and we never felt any bump-steer in corners with patched potholes. This Civic punches way above its weight class in both power and handling.

Seating

The seating position of the Civic is part of why it feels so good to drive.  The power seat can be lowered so that the driver is down inside the car. The tilt and telescoping steering wheel can then be lowered and brought forward. The effect is that the driver feels low to the ground in the Civic seat, instead of on top of the seat like in many modern cars (including the VW Golf and GTI). This enhances the sporting nature of this car significantly.

The Honda Civic Hatch Sport Touring has a whopping 97 cubic feet of interior passenger space. That is one foot more than both the Hyundai Elantra GT and Mazda3 5-Door. The leather seats are of high quality and look as good as they feel. We did miss lumbar support, but the seat heaters are powerful and found on all four outboard seat positions. We loved the carbon-fiber look to the interior trim and the faux (or maybe real?) aluminum offset trim around the edges. This car looks fantastic inside. Like many front-drive cars, the Civic has more rear passenger seat legroom than rear-drive cars like a Lexus IS or BMW 3 Series.

Cargo

Cargo capacity of the HondaCivic Hatch Sport Touring is impressive at 26 cubic feet. Here it separates itself from the Hyundai Elantra GT’s 23 cu ft and the Mazda3 5-door’s 22 cu ft. Under the cargo floor is a spare tire, and the rear seats fold 60-40 to allow for hockey sticks, fishing rods, skis or whatever to be stowed while still offering four seats for passengers. Honda even reinvented the cargo area cover. It is seen stowed on the right side in the image. It is a fabric sheet that comes out to the left and makes the entire cargo area invisible to prying eyes. Better yet, when stored it makes zero clatter.

Infotainment and controls

The Civic Hatch Sport Touring’s infotainment system had us conflicted. There is much to love about it. For example, we found the navigation system outstanding. It anticipates your inputs perfectly and a full address is quickly and simply tapped in. We also like that Apple Car Play and Android Auto are supported in the EX and above trims.  While that is great, isn’t that feature more important on lower trims without Nav?

We also can’t get past there being no volume and tune knob. Honda has gone back and forth on the volume knob and this 2017 Civic model without it was just frustrating. Why can’t we have the knobs and the other methods to turn the volume up or down or to quickly move to a new station? Maybe we are being overly critical because the Civic is so amazing in all other ways, but the infotainment seemed to be the one area where we wanted more.

Overall

We rarely discuss the looks of cars in reviews. Readers have eyes of their own. However, we have to mention the Civic’s looks. Yes, Honda went to great lengths to make the car look sporty, but we don’t think they went too far. From every angle, it looks cool. The center mounted “twice pipes” are just one way it rises above average. People of all ages commented on how sharp they thought the new Civic looks to us during testing. More than one asked if it was a new midsize Acura or new generation Accord. Parking next to an older Civic, we were struck by how much more mature and stylish the new model is. And how much bigger.

If we were a little hard on this Civic Hatch Sport Touring in our infotainment section it is only because the rest of the car is such an amazing package.  This is a breakthrough model for Honda and it is so good any small imperfection is magnified. We hope that our enthusiasm for this car came through. It drives so well, looks so good, and is such an amazing value we really can’t help but gush.

2017 Honda Civic Hatch Sport Touring

Base price: $19,700 (Hatch LX)

Price as tested, $29,175 including $875 destination charge:  

Options:

Navigation – Included
Honda Sensing – Included

Likes:

  • Outstanding Engine and CVT Transmission
  • Fantastic Looks Inside and Out
  • Value

Dislikes:

  • Infotainment Is Imperfect
  • No Lumbar Support
  • Made Outside the U.S. (Assembled in England With an Engine From Thailand)

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John Goreham

John Goreham