Muskoka, ON – The best-selling car in the country for the past 18 years has in recent weeks welcomed a new member to the family. The 2017 Honda Civic hatchback has just launched and joined its highly popular sedan and coupe siblings, the 2017 editions of which have been available for a few months already.
Honda Canada is signaling its intention of holding on to its perch atop Canadian sales rankings by adding a new model that is at once sporty and practical – both qualities that appeal to Canadians in general.
The debut of this 5-door variant also foreshadows the upcoming launch of the highly anticipated Type R, which is set to directly challenge performance-edition big guns like the Ford Focus RS, Subaru WRX STi and Volkswagen Golf R. It’s already known that the Civic Type R will be based on the hatchback chassis… with, of course, some added aerodynamic touches! What’s more, Honda took the occasion of the hatchback launch to announce the coming delivery of an Si version on this side of the Atlantic.
While we wait for the rest of the Civic family to arrive, I was able to get hold of two versions (one CVT-equipped and one with manual transmission) of the new 2017 Civic hatchback for a test drive north of Toronto, thanks to an invitation Honda Canada extended to a few members of the automotive press.
Mechanics: Advantages of the hatchback
Convinced that that its target market for this new Civic version is apt and able to spend a little more for it, Honda equipped the hatchback with the 1.5L, 4-cylinder turbocharged engine. This has pumped up the cost of entry to the newest Civic somewhat.
The difference in price between the DX version of the sedan ($16,390) and the base model of the new hatchback ($21,390) is not insignificant. It’s important to note, however, that comparing the two is a bit of an apples-and-oranges exercise: the DX sedan is notably less well-equipped than the LX hatchback.
To come back to that engine bloc, which debuted earlier in 2016: The manufacturer is proposing two power levels, one for the LX and the other for the Sport and Sport Touring versions. With an output of 174 HP and 167 lb-ft of torque, the Civic LX has no reason to back down from any of its segment competitors, and has the cost-saving benefit of being able to take regular gasoline.
Moving one level up, the 1.5L turbo increases the ardor to 180 HP and 177 lb-ft of torque. However – and this is something consumers should take into account when considering the Sport and Sport Touring versions – these two models require super unleaded fuel. You can of course fill up with regular, but Honda warns performance will suffer if you do.
Aside from this not-insignificant factor, there is another reason to celebrate the new 2017 arrival, as Honda has made more accessible the manual transmission, which could not be wedded to this turbo engine previously. As of now, this combination is possible in the Civic hatchback, as well as in the coupe version. This will please those who like to drive with a third pedal, but take note that the CVT is still available as an option, and does in fact remain the most popular choice for motorists.
At the wheel
Sharing a platform with its siblings, the Civic hatchback naturally has several points in common with them. The hatchback is, however, shorter by 135 mm in the rear, with its unique silhouette resulting in a shortened overhang. Honda has pointed out that the newest Civic does feature some adjustments unique to it alone, but nothing that drastically distances it from the other two Civics.
Armed with a new transmission box married to an engine that is already highly regarded, the Civic aims to entice driving enthusiasts back to Honda showrooms. Will it succeed? While it isn’t a sports car in the true sense of the term, the Civic hatchback did leave us with a favorable first impression.
Among the details that make driving the new hatchback more exhilarating, we noted its rigid chassis, a suspension that filters out the irregularities of the Ontario roads we tested it on, and steering that firms up at higher speeds. Even the braking has noticeably more bite than did the previous generation. While fitted with tires bereft of high-performance DNA, the little LX demonstrated that a car needn’t be a track animal to raise the pulse rate of its driver.
The performance capabilities of the CVT box are already well-established thanks to the sedan and the coupe, and it is as efficient as ever. As for the manual transmission, its takes up where those of other Hondas left off. The gear stick is light, precise and fun to handle even over longer distances. A slightly more raucous sound from the exhaust system wouldn’t be unwelcome, but for that we’ll just have to wait for the Si model. Overall, this 2017 Honda Civic hatchback represents a substantial addition to this segment which continues to grow in Canada.
Which model to choose?
The base-model LX edition with manual transmission offers a near-comprehensive roster of features (heated front seats, backup camera, Appple CarPlay / Android Auto connectivity, automatic climate coontrol, and I could go on) at a starting price of $21,390. The CVT transmission adds an extra $1,300 to the cost, while another $1,000 gets you the Honda Sensing system.
At the other end of the spectrum, the Sport Touring versions ($29,390 or $30,690) are certainly more costly, but they offer features and amenities that approach luxury-car levels.
In my view, the Civic Sport with manual transmission offers the best value, with a price tag of $25,190. Not only is it eye-catching, with its 18-inch alloy wheels and central exhaust, but the equipment is a notch above. For $27,490, the Sport with CVT represents a good choice as well, especially as it comes with the Honda Sensing safety system.