The 2017 Honda Civic Hatchback is both the acknowledgment of the compact hatch’s resurgence in the U.S. and the latest attempt to extend the red-hot Civic brand to a new genre.
“Civic” and “Hatchback” used to be linked in the first 30 years of the model’s existence, but come later this year, Americans will get the first Civic hatch since 2005. This time, Honda is betting buyers who are looking for more features and performance will be attracted to this new variant.
Its shape is strikingly similar to the prototype shown in the spring at the New York Auto Show, with sharp angles and boomerang-shaped taillights that continue a theme found on the latest Civics. Versions of the concept’s wheels and black accents also show up in some versions of the Civic hatch.
Under the skin, it’s closely related to the Civic sedans and coupes that began appearing last fall. But Honda will give the Civic Hatchback only the 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that’s an option on the 2016 Civic. On LX, EX and EX-L models, it produces the same 174 horsepower. On new Civic Sport and Sport Touring models, it puts out 180 horsepower. All models get a continuously variable transmission (CVT) as on the other Civics, too, which is good for fuel economy (Honda says in a press release that it expects the CVT-equipped Civic to deliver an EPA-estimated 31/40 mpg city/highway.) But LX, Sport and EX grades will get the option of a six-speed manual transmission, which is a first for a turbocharged Civic. That pairing will be extended to other 2017 Civics, too.
It’s clear Honda wants to attract driving enthusiasts with this Civic from the powertrain lineup, but the company openly admits this hatch will be the basis for future performance models, such as the next-generation Civic Type-R that, right now in Europe, develops more than 300 horsepower and is one of the most outrageous mainstream cars you can buy. That European heritage extends to this new Civic, with the hatch being sourced from Honda’s factory in Britain. In essence, this is Honda’s most European model offered here.
But in terms of a hatchback, Honda is talking a strong practicality game with this Civic boasting best-in-class rear legroom and overall cargo carrying capacity, according to the automaker.
The 2016 Civic is already sparkling to drive, notably in turbo form and when paired with the six-speed manual. Now that the two are available in conjunction with each other, the Civic could be one of the best driver’s cars for less than $30,000. With good interior materials and muted noise from the road, it’s also likely to give premium compacts from Audi and Mercedes-Benz a run for their value. Honda is going out of its way to disassociate “Civic” and “Hatchback” from “cheap.”
Another plus: Honda’s wide availability of driver assistance technology continues here. Adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist and forward collision warning can all be had on every Civic Hatchback, some of which are rarities in this class.
Rivals to the Civic Hatchback will include the Ford Focus, Kia Forte5, Mazda3, Volkswagen Golf and the upcoming Chevrolet Cruze hatchback. Prices are likely to mirror the $20,000-$28,000 range for the Civic Sedan.
The Civic already puts up a good fight against all of those in sedan form, and beats most of them as an overall package. Whether or not it wins the hatch stakes, too, will have to be determined after the 2017 Civic Hatchback goes on sale this fall.