With the 10th-generation Civic, Honda brought back much of what American fans of the storied compact loved through the years, as well as added a few new wrinkles—hello, Type R! But as excited as we are for America’s first ever Civic Type R, it’s the return of the hatchback body style to the lineup that makes that even possible. Having already had positive experiences behind the wheels of the Civic sedan and coupe, it’s time for us to strap our gear to the hatchback, which we tested here in its top-of-the-line Sport Touring trim level.
A Different S.T.
Despite there being multiple racing series dedicated to touring cars, the words sport and touring aren’t typically paired together on vehicles you can actually buy (except for some Buicks—go figure—and grand touring is a whole other thing). That’s because touring conjures thoughts of comfort and space, while sport centers on a more dynamic driving experience, often at the sacrifice of daily comfort or convenience. The Civic Sport Touring hatchback manages to reconcile these seeming incongruities, however, combining fun to drive, comfort, ease of use, and practicality in one package.
The Civic Sport Touring we tested (and the Sport, which offers a six-speed manual unavailable on this trim) does not differ much at all in its chassis tuning from the rest of the lineup, as Honda is saving the significant handling upgrades for the Si and Type R models. In fact, only two things change about the driving experience when the Civic goes Sport Touring or Sport: the steering (which has a barely quicker, 11.1:1 ratio versus 10.9:1) and its shoes. The Sport models get 18-inch rolling stock compared with the 16 inchers on the LX and 17s on the EX and EX-L Navi. All-season rubber is standard on all trim levels.
Under the hood of all Civic hatchbacks lives a 16-valve 1.5-liter turbocharged inline-four engine. Although not required, premium fuel is recommended for the Sport and the Sport Touring, which both have upgraded knock sensors. Honda claims the higher octane—as well as the center-exit dual exhaust standard on the Sport and Sport Touring—will provide a tiny boost in power. Running premium, the Sport and Sport Touring with the continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) make a claimed 180 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 162 lb-ft of torque from 1700 to 5500 rpm. Burning regular unleaded, the turbo four paired with the CVT makes a claimed 174 horsepower and 162 lb-ft at the same peak rpm, just as it does in the LX, EX, and EX-L, which have the standard knock sensor and single-pipe exhaust.
Although we prefer a manual transmission for vehicles with the word sport in their names, the CVT is the only option on the Sport Touring trim. However, Honda’s CVT is one of the best currently on the market, and it is a willing partner in getting the engine to rev and is responsive to throttle applications across the rev range. In our testing, the CVT and turbo four combo powered the car from zero to 60 mph in 6.9 seconds, completed the 30-to-50-mph dash in 3.9 seconds, and ran the quarter-mile in 15.4 at 93 mph.
While there are many hatchback competitors to this Civic, there are two primary benchmarks: the Volkswagen Golf and the Mazda 3. We’ve awarded both of those cars with multiple 10Best Cars awards for their superb chassis tuning, well-designed interiors, and practicality. In terms of driving feel, the Civic hangs in with those standard-bearers, and it slightly bests them in objective performance. An automatic 2016 Mazda 3 hatchback went from zero to 60 mph in 6.8 seconds and a 2017 Golf TSI we recently tested did it in 7.3 seconds.
Stopping from 70 mph in 166 feet, the Civic also excelled in our braking test, with the firm and progressive pedal returning a stop two feet shorter than did the Golf (which has a reputation for strong brakes) and five feet shorter than the Mazda 3.
The Civic hatchback has exemplary road manners, with quick and light steering that helps the car feel nimble. The MacPherson strut front and multilink rear suspension and well-tuned dampers keep body motions nicely in check during spirited cornering while still providing a ride quality that’s daily-driver livable. Aside from an occasional coarse note coming from the engine bay at higher speeds, the cabin is quiet and well insulated from outside noises.
The EPA estimates the hatch Sport Touring should reach 32 mpg combined, but during our drive time, it achieved only 27 mpg. That’s 1 mpg less than what we recorded for the Golf and 2 mpg less than we achieved with the Mazda 3.
Compared with the Civic sedan, the hatchback’s wheelbase is the same, while overall length is down by 4.4 inches. But the five-door offers 23 cubic feet of stowage behind the folding rear seats, a marked improvement over the sedan’s 15-cubic-foot trunk.
Our car wore an MSRP of $29,175, with the major differences between the Sport and Sport Touring being technology and interior upgrades extensive enough to warrant a price $6200 more expensive than a CVT Sport. All Sport Touring hatchbacks include keyless entry and push-button start (as well as remote start), an eight-way power driver’s seat and four-way power passenger seat, proximity entry and ignition, navigation with voice control, and adaptive cruise control. It also gets the Honda Sensing group of safety technologies (lane-keeping assist, automated emergency braking, and adaptive cruise control), plus moving guidelines on the backup camera display, LED lighting with automatic high-beams, heated side mirrors with LED turn signals, and rain-sensing windshield wipers. But, wait, there’s more, as it also packs heated front and rear leather seats, a 12-speaker sound system, dual-zone automatic climate control, and a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability.
The cabin is well-built, comfortable, and offers good overall visibility, but the interior’s multiple layers, textures, and materials make for a somewhat disjointed aesthetic that might be an acquired taste. (As might be the exterior styling. Many of us dig the racer-mech-meets-practical-box look, but we understand how it may be too much for some folks.) That said, the Civic offers many of the small, practical items that mark modern Hondas, such as a configurable center console cleverly designed with multiple stowage areas and smart organization. The placement of one of the USB ports underneath the center tunnel can make for awkward reach, however.
The infotainment screen splits the difference between being fully built-in and the trendier look of a standalone tablet, resulting in a design with a small empty space behind the upper half of the screen that looks like a place for dirt and dust to accumulate. Operation of some infotainment functions is a source of frustration; we’re not big fans of Honda’s volume touch slider at the side of the screen, but that can be avoided with the clicking volume buttons on the steering-wheel hub. (The Civic’s interior was designed just prior to Honda returning a volume knob to its vehicles; expect a mid-cycle update to address this flaw.) In addition, some screen menus are not intuitive, and the system lacks the ability to display functions such as audio and maps side-by-side. The screen does employ Honda’s Lane Watch system, displaying the view from a camera on the passenger-side mirror when the turn signal is activated. You can cancel this view with one touch at the end of the stalk or turn off the feature altogether; some of our drivers found it annoying when the display replaced an active navigation map.
Like the Golf and the Mazda 3, the Civic hatchback is a practical machine offering a balance of enthusiast-sating driving enjoyment and laid-back cruising ability. Of those three models, the Civic makes the boldest exterior design statement and, in this Sport Touring trim, packs a load of features for the cost. Just a few points separated the three in our recent comparison test of manual-transmission models—which the Honda won—providing further evidence that the Civic has its mojo back.
VEHICLE TYPE: front-engine, front-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door hatchback
PRICE AS TESTED: $29,175 (base price: $21,375)
ENGINE TYPE: turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve inline-4, aluminum block and head, direct fuel injection
Displacement: 91 cu in, 1496 cc
Power: 180 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 162 lb-ft @ 1700 rpm
TRANSMISSION: continuously variable automatic
Wheelbase: 106.3 in
Length: 177.9 in
Width: 70.8 in Height: 56.3 in
Passenger volume: 95 cu ft
Cargo volume: 23 cu ft
Curb weight: 3007 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS:
Zero to 60 mph: 6.9 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 18.5 sec
Zero to 120 mph: 30.7 sec
Rolling start, 5–60 mph: 7.3 sec
Top gear, 30–50 mph: 3.9 sec
Top gear, 50–70 mph: 4.8 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 15.4 sec @ 93 mph
Top speed (governor limited): 127 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 166 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad*: 0.90 g
EPA combined/city/highway driving: 32/30/36 mpg
C/D observed: 27 mpg