2017 Honda Civic Hatchback first drive review: the return of cool [Video]

The 2017 Honda Civic Hatchback represents the beginning of exciting cars by the Japanese automaker. Right now, the 2017 Honda Civic Hatchback (base price $19,700) has four main trim levels: the LX, Sport, EX and EX-L Navi. Soon, there will be a Honda Civic Si based on the Honda Civic Hatchback.

Options are pretty limited and, for some unknown reason, there is no option for navigation on the LX or Sport Civics. Nowadays, many people use their phone for navigation – but there are plenty of folks who would prefer their car to have it. Unusual decision. Things get a bit confusing when you look at the horsepower and torque numbers for all four trims too.

Honda Civic hatchback concept | New York auto show

Each vehicle uses the same basic turbocharged, 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, but horsepower and torque numbers change slightly on nearly every iteration:

LX Manual:
Horsepower: 174 @ 5500 rpm
Torque: 167 lb-ft @ 1800-5500 rpm
30 city/39 highway/33 combined MPG rating

Horsepower: 174 @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 162 lb-ft @ 1700-5500 rpm
31 city/40 highway/34 combined MPG rating

Sport Manual:
Horsepower: 180 @ 5500 rpm
Torque: 177 lb-ft @ 1900-5500 rpm
30 city/36 highway/33 combined MPG rating

Sport CVT:
Horsepower: 180 @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 162 lb-ft @ 1700-5500 rpm
30 city/36 highway/32 combined MPG rating

EX and EX-L CVT:
Horsepower: 174 @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 162 lb-ft @ 1700-5500 rpm
31 city/40 highway/34 combined MPG rating

Honda Civic Hatchback

The Civic Hatchback is a great example of form and function working together beautifully. Cargo space is 25.7 cubic feet behind the rear seats and 46.2 cubic feet with the rear seats folded. That’s more than the Ford Focus hatchback and the Nissan Versa Note. It sits about mid-pack on paper, but the comfort and useable space is top notch.

While I shrug at the carbon-fiber-like trim, the rest of the interior is well featured and comfortable. The infotainment system and the easier to use IP are simple and logical, but the navigation system takes more time to learn than I am accustom to. Perhaps that’s why its only available in one model.

Backseat space is more comfortable than the Ford Focus hatchback with great seating surfaces. Given its size, utility and comfort, the 2017 Honda Civic Hatchback could just as easily fill in for a small family car as it can a fun car for a single male.

Honda Civic Hatchback
The main thing to focus on the Civic Hatchback is its performance and ride. Both are top notch and even the CVT equipped hatchbacks are a hoot to drive. Sure, the manual is more fun and, in the Civic Hatchback Sport, more powerful, but you would be surprised how good the CVT is in this car.

Ride and comfort benefit from a multi-link, independent rear suspension. The ride is almost BMW-ish in overall feel. While never floaty, the suspension soaks up road irregularities like a champ while still giving a smooth highway ride. The Sport was stiffer, but just a tad. Noise and vibration were well muted too. There was some road noise, but it was never intrusive.

Paddle shifting in a CVT-equipped vehicle makes little sense, but the driving character of the CVT Civics was sportier than expected. The turbo spools up quickly and there is only a slight lag between accelerating and having the engine surge. Honda builds the best CVTs.

Oddly, the one issue I had with the 1.5-liter turbo popped up while I was zooming around in the six-speed manual version of the Civic Hatchback Sport. Red-line is way down at 6,500 rpm and if you push past, the rev-limiter takes away your fun. Considering how rev-happy Honda cars usually are, this turned my smile upside-down.

Honda Civic hatchback concept | New York auto show

It’s not the angry bee engine I’m used to. Once I began to push harder in the corners and shifted at 6K, the fun returned and I was smiling again. Man this car likes to be hustled! I’m not just referring to the Sport, I think all of the trim levels return great smile-per-mile and all of them are cool.

In fact, I think that, unless you must have the appearance of the Sport, I think you should stick with the LX and save some bucks. Sure, the Sport has slightly more power, but it’s not that noticeable in most driving situations. It will save you about $1,600.

Speaking of prices, the 2017 Honda Civic LX starts at $19,700 with the base model Sport (manual) starting at $21,300. Pony up $22,800 and you get the EX with standard CVT. The top-of-the-line EX-L Navi starts at $25,300. These are competitive prices and, as I stated before, the 2017 Honda Civic LX is the smart bet.

Check out this first drive video with the 2017 Honda Civic EX-L and Sport!