2017 Honda Civic Hatchback

Double Take: 2017 Honda Civic Hatchback

Take one: Kevin Mio

The Honda Civic has a long history in Canada as one of the country’s best selling models. And the Civic and I also have a long history since it was the first car I bought for myself after graduating university.

So every time I have the chance to get back into a Civic, I take it – especially when it’s a manual transmission.

But this time, there was something different waiting for me – a hatchback version of the Civic, which returns to Canada after a hiatus.

2017 Honda Civic Hatchback

The black tester was a base LX trim with the aforementioned six-speed manual transmission, unlike the CVT Sabrina experienced in her ride.

I have always been a fan of Honda’s manual gearboxes and the Civic Hatchback didn’t disappoint, with really smooth and effortless shifting that made the car fun to drive.

The 174 horsepower from the 1.5-litre engine is more than enough to make the hatch a treat to boot around town, and with the manual gearbox you get 167 lb-ft of torque vs. the 162 with the CVT. That’s a small difference, but every little bit helps.

The Sport and Sport Touring models offer a bit more horsepower (180) and torque (177 with a manual), but I found the setup in the LX to be quite capable.

The 2017 model marks the comeback for the hatchback to Canada and let’s just say that the styling hasn’t been universally embraced.

I am of a split mind when it comes to the design.

From the front, there’s nothing terribly controversial – except the two large black grilles positioned in the fascia below the headlights. On a car with a black paint job, they blend it, but they would stand out like a sore thumb on, let’s say, a blue or red.

In silhouette, the hatchback has some nice lines and looks good – and I especially liked the stylized two-tone mag wheels.

However, when looking at the hatchback from the rear, things get a little more complicated.

For starters, those black panels from the front are mirrored at the rear, and there are actually two spoilers – one atop the rear window and one on the trunk lid.

And the taillights … well they meld into the lower spoiler and I am not sure why.

But at least the hatchback’s interior was redeeming.

The seating proved to be quite comfortable for me, and there was good legroom for rear occupants. And installing the car seat for my son was nice and easy thanks to how designers placed the LATCH brackets, something I wish more automakers would do rather than hiding them away like some afterthought.

The overall design and layout of the interior is good, with clear displays and easy to use controls on the steering wheel.

My one complaint was that the USB port was hidden in a lower storage cubbyhole rather than in the main one right near the shifter.

When you do find the USB plug, it allows you to enjoy Apple CarPlay, which turns the Civic’s infotainment system into an extension of your smartphone. It’s a great feature.

But I wish there was a old-school volume dial rather than the touchscreen feature for the audio. Call me crazy, but with all the other distractions in cars these days, why not keep things like that as simple as possible?

There was very little to complain about, however, when it comes to how the Civic Hatchback drove and handled during an extended test that saw Old Man Winter throw freezing rain and lots of snow its way. 

And being a hatchback came in handy when hauling home a mirror for some redecorating. The wide opening and tall hatch made it a breeze to load the mirror once the seats were down. But long, wide items might be an issue because of how the opening narrows toward the front of the trunk.

2017 Honda Civic Hatchback

Take Two: Sabrina Giacomini

I was really excited to see the Civic Hatchback marketed in North America once more. I was too young to drive one, back when the sixth generation was all the rave, but the number of three-door Civics on the road was a testament to the model and somehow, it stuck with me. So when Honda finally announced that after a decade-long wait, the tenth generation of their best-selling model would be offered with a hatch, it got me all fuzzy on the inside. After the fuziness, came the anticipation of getting my hands on one.

First off, I like the design. I know Kevin hasn’t decided yet, but I have. Some think it’s a little bold or even messy considering the model’s previous generations, but to me it screams revival. Not that the Civic was on a ventilator or anything, being Canada’s best selling car for almost 20 years, but the design had lost a bit of its fire. I’m glad it got the “it” factor back. I have nicknamed the design ‘origami’ because of all the lines and folds that remind me of paper craft, as though a paper crane or flower inspired its lines.

At the back, the hatch looks like a sedan that was driven backwards into a wall. Two spoilers add to the dynamism, one integrated right into the taillights design. The rear bumper inserts repeat the pattern of the front air intakes to create a symmetry and my version sported double exhaust hidden under the plastic.

The inside is a bit of a let down. Though on the one hand, everything is clean and airy, the boldness of the exterior design has not carried over to the interior. But I will give it to Honda, no matter how bland the look of the dashboard, it does most things efficiently. Except for the volume. The lack of a proper volume control has been a running joke for a while now, to the point where the new-generation Honda CR-V now sports the glorious knob once more. Add to that the positioning of a touch-sensitive volume control positioned right next to the radio controls, changing songs or radio channels often turned into an unsuspected change in volume.

And considering I was driving the LX trim, which is the entry-level model,  if some more mainstream features were missing, it still came standard with a full infotainment system, heated seats, Bluetooth streaming and power windows. The hatch lifts up on some proper cargo space, making the segment proud with a volume of 727 litres, compared to the sedan’s 428.

The Civic hatchback is also the first one in the Honda family to team the new 1.5L turbo engine with the six-speed manual transmission. And if that’s the pairing I was most excited about, I was instead booked into a CVT-plagued one. Kevin’s offer to grab coffee next time I’m in Montreal really is the only thing that has kept me from holding a grudge. But let’s be professional here.

The CVT decreases the torque 162 lb-ft, down by 5 from the manual version. Not all CVTs are bad, but this is one of them. I understand that this type of transmission is not meant to be fun but is intended rather to improve fuel economy. At a combined 7.1 L/100km, I don’t believe an automatic transmission would have made that number a lot worst, but it sure would have made the car a little more fun to drive. The suspension is also a little soft for my taste, but overall the car handles really well. I took it out for a spin in the Ontario country side, from Toronto to the lovely town of Elora and even in the first snow of the season, the Civic with its proper snowshoes on, behaved very well. I was hoping to get a little more bite out of the turbo, which I believe the manual would allow for.

But as Kevin mentioned, at 174 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque, that’s plenty to take you where you need – or want – to be. Five doors however come at a price and that is $5k over the base, 2.0L engine sedan. That said, I feel this price point is still reasonable given the quality of the new Honda Civic Hatchback.

2017 Honda Civic Hatchback

Price as tested (before taxes): $21,390
Freight: $1,595.00
Configuration: front engine, front-wheel drive
Engine/transmission: 1.5L, 4-cylinder engine / 6-speed manual transmission (available CV)
Power/torque: 174 hp / 167 lb-ft
Fuel-economy ratings (L/100km): city 8.0, highway 6.2
Observed fuel-economy (L/100km): 7.1
Warranty (basic): 5 years / 100,000 km
Competitors: Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback, Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus Hatch, Kia Forte 5, Mazda3

Related Links:
Honda Canada
The Truth About Cars

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