Are you ready for some good news? You remember what that is right? Some positive information that you may not have had and is worth sharing with other people. No? Well I can’t blame you for forgetting. Bad news, or as most people call it, news, generally dominates the media landscape these days, but allow me to break into the cycle of gloominess with this special report.
Honda is no longer f$&*@#g around when it comes to the Civic.
Whether you’re an automotive enthusiast or someone looking for basic transportation, this is big. The 8th and 9th generations of the Civic lacked any of the redeeming qualities possessed by their predecessors and Honda’s market share in the compact car segment suffered appropriately. This new 10th generation Civic has already turned things around, charging to the top of Honda’s sales ahead of the mighty CR-V and Accord. This runs counter to the narrative that crossovers are king and that there’s no place for “regular” cars in the future. Oddly enough I agree with the latter, don’t think there’s a place for regular cars in the future. However a hatchback is not a regular car and the 2017 Honda Civic Hatchback Sport is all the evidence I need to support that claim.
When I first saw the new Civic hatchback, I wondered aloud why they were even bothering to build a sedan version because the hatch looks so much better. After spending a week with a Sonic Grey example, which is a great take on the flat grey paint trend, I’m now convinced they should stick a fork in the regular four door immediately. You could give the sedan the same “Sport” appearance treatment, black side trim, black front splitter, side sill extensions, revised rear fascia with a center mounted twin tip exhaust, dark 18” alloys…and it would still look ungainly. These days there is no need for sedan variants of most cars, especially those in the compact segment. They make inefficient use of the platform architecture, are less practical and they never look as good as their 5-door counterparts. I would be embarrassed to be seen driving a Civic sedan, but I would spend my own hard earned money on a Civic hatchback, and I have recommended to many friends that they should do just that.
Honestly, I have not had so much fun with a mass market vehicle in a long time. The seats reminded me how great cloth can be when it is done right and there’s just the right amount of bolstering for a car of this nature. One hand on the slightly chunky steering wheel, the other on a top notch Honda shift knob, rowing through the perfectly notchy gearbox, squeezing every ounce of juice from the 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, chasing down that 6,500 rpm red-line at every opportunity, that’s my idea of a good time. The Hatchback Sport gets a slightly quicker steering ratio than the other models in the lineup and for the segment I’d say it’s well above average in terms of feel. I kept premium fuel in the tank for the duration of my loan so that I could enjoy all 180-horsepower and 177 lb-ft of torque that the Sport specific tune has to offer. The power goes down smoothly, no torque steer, though you can chirp the tires from a dead stop, and through the first 3 gear changes, hypothetically speaking of course.
All this talk of driving enjoyment, power and styling is well and good, but sadly, most buyers don’t care about these things. Nope, what they want to know is “Is it a good value and will it carry all my crap, because I have a-lot of crap”. More good news everyone, the answer is yes to both of these pressing questions.
With the standard 60/40 split rear seats folded you’ll have 25.7 cu-ft of space to utilize however you see fit. Being 5’10 it’s not exactly a challenge for me to lay down in the back of most hatchbacks with the seats down, but I still think it’s worth mentioning that I was able to do so with comfort and ease in the Civic. With the seats up there’s still a good amount of space for stuff in the back and Honda finally solved the cargo cover problem that has plagued hatchbacks and wagons for years. Instead of a 25 pound bar that you will inevitably need to remove and store somewhere, or a cheap cardboard cover that rattles around, Honda installed a simple retractable cover that extends right to left. Might not sound ground breaking, but it’s one of the little details that tells me that Honda is actually trying again.
The same goes for the reconfigurable center console upfront, with cup holders that slide out of the way to make more storage space available. These are things that people are likely to notice when comparing the Civic to the competition and having spent time in nearly all of the cars that benefitted from the lackluster Civics of the past decade, I can say that they’ve got their work cut out for them now.
On the subject of value, one really need only consider three things: price of entry, operating cost, and residual value. The Hatchback Sport slots in above the LX base model and below the mid-range EX with a starting price of $21,300. Add the $875 destination charge and you have the price of my loaner, $22,175. You can add options, but the idea of the Hatchback Sport is to keep things simple and enjoy the ride. You don’t get nav, but you do get Bluetooth connectivity and a backup camera, and honestly, isn’t that enough? I’ve got a big ‘ol screen in my BMW but I can’t remember the last time I opted to use it for navigation purposes rather than GoogleMaps. Buy a vent clip, put your smartphone in it, connect it to the Bluetooth, you’re good to go.
As far as operating costs and residual values go, it’s a Honda Civic, does anything else really need to be said? At 39 mpg highway and 30 mpg city, the fuel costs won’t burn a hole in your pocket even if you’re putting premium in it all the time and ALG places the 36 month residual value at 52%, and 60 month at 38%. Those are great figures, but I don’t think they’re all that important because this is the kind of car you buy and drive into the ground, pass down to a family member, or modify to the point of no return. That’s how it used to go with Civics and how I’d love to see it go from here on out. All that remains to be seen is if people latch onto the culture the way they did through the first five or six generations. With the stylish Hatchback Sport already leading the charge, and Si and Type R(!) on the way, I’d say there’s a damn good chance that we’ll see a full blown resurgence in the cult of Civic, just without all that “Vtec Yo!” business. There’s no need to bring that back, it can stay dead with JNCOs and neon light kits.