Honda Civic Hatchback Sport opens up new possibilities

The 2017 Honda Civic Hatchback Sport is a bold new design for the company’s small entrant.

2017 Honda Civic Hatchback Sport Touring: Better than the sedan?

Price: $29,175 as tested (no options on test vehicle). A base hatchback can be had for as little as $19,700.

Conventional wisdom: Car and Driver liked the “look-at-me design, great balance of fun and comfort, tons of tech” but not the “get-a-look-at-that-guy design, no volume knob.”

Marketer’s pitch: “Beyond bold.”

Reality: There must be magic in the hatch. 

Civic war: Regular Driver’s Seat readers will know that Mr. Driver’s Seat has had his issues with the Honda Civic. A revamp for the 2012 model year left myself and many other reviewers whelmed, and a more recent review of a 2016 version left the old spine so twisted as to conjure up images of Berks County’s own Sturgis Pretzels (no relation). 

So with some trepidation, I scheduled the all-new Civic Hatchback. Though readers may believe otherwise, writing bad reviews is not the joy of my miserable little life. I especially don’t like writing bad reviews about Hondas, whose public relations team can be a sensitive lot. 

What is it: It’s a Civic with a hatchback, as the name implies. No real mystery. The new look — with a rounded-off hatch — is strictly love it or hate it. I loved it, 16-year-old Sturgis Kid 4.0 hated it.

“A fun little car”: When the fleet driver who delivered the Civic arrived with those words, I was heartened. I called the 2012 “a comfortable, sensible, sturdy shoe.”

On the road: The Civic Sport was no Si, but it definitely lived up to the Sport name. Handling on curves was enjoyable, and the Civic exhibited a sprightly feel.

Driver’s Seat: This item has become the backbone of my contention as a Civic complainant. Many drivers like a lot of lumbar support, but I tend to turn it all the way off. In the Civic, there was no off, just on and more on, leaving me with a sore back and thigh, pain which disappeared two days after the car left.

Not so the Civic Hatchback; I spent a week in complete comfort, and my kidneys were able to relax after being braced for the worst. The leather-covered seat is not soft by any stretch, but no columnists were harmed in the making of this review.

The ride in the Civic Hatchback Sport is on the harsh side; test drive it over some bumpy stretches before buying.

Up to speed: The Civic Sport features a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine, and 180 horses make the acceleration quick — 6.9 seconds for 0 to 60. A Sport mode livens things up immensely.

Shiftless: The gearless CVT does come with paddle controls and seven “gears,” and “shifts” are smooth and responsive. Only the 1-2 shift could be a little balky at times. 

Friends and stuff: Rear seat room is not bad for a small hatchback. Legroom, head room, and foot room are all ample.

The middle seat passenger, as usual in smaller cars, will be less than thrilled, from their perch on high, scooted forward a tad, feet placed awkwardly around the giant hump.

Cargo space is 46.2 cubic feet behind the front seats.

Play some tunes: My experiences with Honda’s sound system, however, have not improved. Touchscreen buttons that switch location depending on the screen and difficulty switching from map to music make the experience unpleasant.

The nifty right-turn camera also interferes with radio operation, but only while the right turn signal is on. Which is often when you’re at a light, thinking “Hey, I’d like to change the … oh, man.”

And furthermore, the USB hookup is down near the accelerator, kind of an awkward stretch. 

Keeping warm — and cool: The HVAC system is also operated through the infotainment screen as well, so changing temperature means momentarily losing your location.

Fuel economy: I averaged about 32 mpg in the usual Mr. Driver’s Seat mix of city and exurban driving. Premium fuel is recommended.

Where it’s built: Just where you'd expect a Civic to hail from — Swindon, Wiltshire, England. 

How it’s built: Far below average, predicts Consumer Reports. Because of the England connection? Did CR have a fight with Honda? Its last few years of data show its only major trouble spot was in-car electronics. Hmmm.

In the end: I’m throwing that reliability report out as an outlier, and saying this is a pretty fun little Civic. Keep your eyes open, though, as the data unfold.