Civic loyalists, your car is back!
If you’ve wanted a performance Civic hatch, it’s been a long wait. The last one was in 2003!
In Si form, that Civic five-door was a neat little car. We especially liked the rally-style shifter mounted high on the center console, the sport bucket seats, and the large (for Honda) 2.0-liter with i-VTEC. And while not a nose-bleed revver like the smaller Civics, it was still fun to drive hard.
But that was 14 years ago! And while we’ve had plenty of enjoyable Civics to drive, they’ve only been offered in Coupe and Sedan body styles. And frankly, when you want to replace your beloved Si, a Fit Sport or CR-V really didn’t cut it.
Well, Honda has at least done those enthusiasts a favor and made the new Civic hatch exciting – maybe the most exciting one offered on these shores. And more are coming. More on that later.
Honda says the new hatch is class-leading in cargo room, and we found it spacious enough that you may decide you’d rather have a sport liftback instead of a stubby small SUV. At least now you have a choice.
You might have already seen the new Civic hatch on the road and not noticed – especially in profile. Unlike previous hatches that looked like wagonettes, or European hot hatches like the GTi, the new model looks very close to the new Civic Sedan.
Which is not a bad thing, as the new Sedan is a handsome, low-slung looking piece. Honda did decide to give the Hatch a more aggressive look, with a piano black grille large mesh intakes and projector beam headlights up front, and C-shaped LED headlights, a sharp rear spoiler and more mesh intakes out back.
If you want hotness though, you want the Sport model like our tester. It adds fog lights, an underbody spoiler kit, unique 18-inch wheels, and maybe our favorite feature – a center-mounted dual exhaust.
Dressed in a unique color Honda calls Sonic Gray Pearl, our tester turned heads – not only with Civic Nation – just about everyone loved our Sport’s aggressive looks. It reminded us of how tuners would dress up a vehicle to stand out from the crowd. Honda’s done it for you already.
While the exterior separates itself from the sedan, the interior is pretty much shared. The Sport does perk things up with red illumination and a nice leather wrapped steering wheel and shift lever.
Otherwise the Sport is basic Civic, which is well designed, and nicely equipped. We did find the info-tainment on the thin side with a smallish 5-inch LCD, no Satellite radio, no Apple Carplay, no navigation. The 4-speaker audio system sounded fine, but we felt like the goodies had been left out.
Well not all the goodies. The reason our Sport was a little spartan had to do with the lovely 6-speed manual stick nestled between the front seats. Honda has decided, as it does in other vehicles, if you want a loaded model, it’s coming with the CVT automatic transmission. The CVT-equipped Sport Touring is due this winter.
Although CVT’s are getting better, and Honda is making some of the best, one drive in the manual Sport may convince you that you can live without all the luxo-stuff.
At the heart of the driving experience is Honda’s new 1.5-liter, turbo 4-cylinder. It punches out an impressive 180 horsepower (other Civic hatches lose the center exhaust and 6 horsepower with it) and the powerband is wide and fat.
1.5-liters may not sound huge, but keep it on the boil, and Sport will hit 60-mph in a little over 6-seconds. Plenty fast, and the exhaust has a nice rich tone, that encourages you to braap around town.
The 6-speed manual is typical Honda – light, direct, easy and the clutch is light enough that even heavy traffic is not a chore. If you can stay out of the turbo zone – which we couldn’t – you can probably average 35 mpg.One reason we couldn’t leave the turbo alone was the handling. The sport suspension connected to the 18-inch wheels and tires give the Sport superb grip, and the suspension feels fluid, an excellent compromise for a daily driver that you might want to wring out on the twisties. The brakes feel powerful as well.
This is a beautifully balanced car – it does everything well.
While we at first were groaning about the lack of goodies like a sunroof, navi, or even satellite radio, we shut up quick when we saw the price. The Sport model starts at just $21,300, and that’s exactly how ours was equipped. Gulp. That’s a lot of car for the money.
Looks, performance, practicality. And it’s a Honda, so it will probably give you a long life with just occasional stops for fuel, and an oil change. And when it comes time to sell, our guess is it will hold its value. It’s a Civic after all.
We’d estimate the Sport Touring with standard CVT will bump you up to the mid-twenties or higher. We’d think long and hard before laying out the extra cash. If you absolutely need an automatic, then we would pop for the extras, because you’ll probably enjoy them. But honestly, we didn’t miss them with the fun of the Sport with stick.
And this is just the beginning of a Civic performance resurgence, Honda has announced a higher performance Si model coming this year, and the first ever Civic Type R offered in the U.S. to follow after that.
In the mean-time the Sport is one sweet piece of the Civic pie. We know of at least one enthusiast who is leasing a Sport until the Type R hits these shores. So not only do the Civic loyal have a lot to celebrate, but there are going to be many more converts to the cause in the future. Good news all around.
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.