Historically, the Civic has always been far more fun to drive than its reliable, economy car roots would suggest.
So when we saw the 2017 Honda Civic Hatchback Sport on the test drive schedule? We had high hopes, because Honda has been on a tear lately. For proof, enthusiasts need look no further than the Type R — the Civic’s track-tuned, manual-only, 300-horsepower big brother. While it’s been available overseas for a decade, until this year it’s been forbidden fruit on our shores, and the automotive press has given it a rapturous welcome.
But as we’ve said, being able to wring fun out of a seemingly pedestrian platform has always been one of Honda’s greatest strengths. And while the Civic Hatchback Sport didn’t set any speed records at the infamous Nürburgring, we were fairly confident it would spice up our daily commute, and make mundane errands more fun. Spoiler alert: We were right.
2017 Honda Civic Hatchback Sport Exterior:
Our Civic Sport Hatchback arrived in Rallye Red, and while not every reviewer is a fan of the multiple black accents, we thought they looked great against the bright paint. But we’ve always thought subtlety is overrated virtue. The bottom of the front fascia features prominent honeycomb vents and fog lights, and the bold accents are carried along the body by black side skirts.
Out back, the rear lip frames the trick-looking center-mounted rear exhaust tips, another pair of vents at each corner, and an integrated spoiler which rides across the rear Hatchback. We particularity liked the black 18-inch alloy wheels, which are a slick upgrade from the standard LX trim level’s.
2017 Honda Civic Hatchback Sport Interior:
Honda didn’t go overboard with options for the Civic Hatchback Sport, and the result is a cabin that’s strictly business, in a good way. The five-inch center screen doesn’t dominate the dashboard, but the backup camera provides plenty of visibility, and in an era where many functions are relegated to a touchscreen, the Civic has welcome knobs for the climate control and radio functions.
The center console is notably cavernous, in that it will swallow a 40-ounce Slurpee cup without complaint. The cloth seats are comfortable, if unremarkable, though the leather-covered wheel and shift knob — along with the drilled-aluminum pedals — all make for great touch points. That said, we’d prefer an traditional manual parking brake to the car’s electric one. But that’s a small complaint.
2017 Honda Civic Hatchback Sport Performance:
Power comes from a turbocharged, 180-horsepower 1.5-liter four cylinder, and while much has been made about the lack of Honda’s legendary VTEC, variable valve timing is still on the menu. That said, don’t expect anything to “kick in” in the upper range, as little mill’s power curve flattens out slightly shy of its 6,500-rpm redline. A CVT automatic is available, though we’d emphatically recommend getting the stick — especially since the Brake Hold feature removes the threat of rolling back on a steep hill.
Now, Honda has always made a great gearbox, and the six-speed unit in the Civic Hatchback Sport is no exception. The clutch action is light without feeling flimsy, throws are snappy, and fans of a manual transmissions will find running through the gears a joy. The steering is a sharp too, and flinging the lithe little hatchback into corners makes for fantastic fun. So, does the fact that it takes north of seven seconds to hit 60 mph matter? Not in our book.
2017 Honda Civic Hatchback Sport Safety:
In National Highway Traffic Safety Administration test, the Civic Hatchback Sport scored five-star ratings across the board. That means it excels in frontal, size, and rollover crashes. Of course, all the modern nannies are present, including anti-lock brakes, stability control, side-curtain air bags, daytime running lights, and tire-pressure monitors.
At this trim level, Honda Sensing active safety tech — which includes blind spot monitoring, cross traffic alerts, and lane departure technology — isn’t available. And while we didn’t miss it here, we think many buyers would welcome the opportunity to choose it.
2017 Honda Civic Hatchback Sport Overall:
The Civic Hatchback Sport is an unmitigated win for Honda — at the end of the week, we honestly didn’t want to give this baby back. In 2017, it’s a welcome reminder that cars don’t need to have crazy horsepower or every bell and whistle to make being behind the wheel satisfying.
In fact, it’s proof that often, the opposite is true. Nothing about this machine feels overwrought, fussy, or forced. It’s a fun, practical Hatchback that’ll prove perfect for daily driver duty, and since the price of entry starts in the low 20k range, it’s an easily affordable choice. It’s worth noting that there aren’t many options available for the Hatchback Sport, and even though it has Bluetooth, USB compatibility, and cruise control, some buyers might still view the equipment list as spartan. But to put that opinion into perspective? We’d compare this Civic to golden era Sony product, which savvy buyers knew had less features, but great sound and bulletproof guts.
That gear provided everything you needed and nothing you didn’t — and that’s exactly what the Civic Hatchback Sport provides too. It’s a proud entry into a long line of great Civic models, and one test drive at your local AutoNation Honda dealer will make that crystal clear.