by Roger Biermann
With ten generations under its belt, the Honda Civic boasts a back-catalog of exceptionalism in the compact hatch segment that few have the pedigree to match. In recent years we’ve seen a new generation every three to four years, a sign of Honda’s intent to keep the Civic fresh against firm rivals like the venerable VW Golf and the Mazda 3. The latest generation stays true to the traits of old with an enjoyable, exploitable chassis, while key aspects of spaciousness and refinement have been added in generous doses to ensure the Civic stays near the top of its class. The front-wheel drive hatch derives power from a 1.5-liter turbocharged engine developing between 174-180 horsepower and 162-177 lb-ft of torque in various trims and finds itself mated to either a CVT or six-speed manual transmission. Pricing, meanwhile, ranges from $21,450 to $28,750 with high levels of safety and tech giving the Civic hatchback a great value-for-money factor.
While the Coupe and Sedan models get a substantial refresh for 2019, only minor updates are made on the hatchback, which receives interior tweaks like physical controls for the infotainment and climate control systems, along with an accompanying price bump - albeit a minor one. The biggest change for 2019 comes in the form of safety, with Honda Sensing now standard across all trims for the new year model.
The Civic Hatch bears similar exterior design cues to its sharp-edged coupe and sedan brethren, with key elements differentiating various trims. The LX features 16-inch wheels, while the EX and EX-L Navi boast 17-inch wheels, and the Sport and Sport Touring 18-inch black alloys. The Sport and Sport Touring trim each equip a range of underbody spoilers, a tailgate spoiler, and a center-mounted dual exhaust, while all trims receive a shark-fin antenna and body-colored door handles. All but the LX receive front foglights, and halogen headlights are standard up to the Sport Touring which receives full LED headlights clusters. From the EX trim, a power sunroof is also equipped.
With a length of 177.9 inches, the Civic Hatch measures shorter overall than the Sedan, but longer than the Civic Coupe, however, it rides on the same 106.3-inch wheelbase of its siblings slotting it neatly into the compact vehicle segment. At 56.3-inches, it measures taller than both, while at 70.8 inches wide it retains the same width. Meanwhile, a curb weight ranges from 2,870 lbs in Sport manual guise to 3,009 lbs in the fully-loaded Sport Touring, placing the Civic hatch in roughly the same ballpark as the VW Golf.
From 2018 to 2019 Honda has retained the seven-strong color palette for the Civic Hatch. Available on all trims and at no extra cost, buyers can select a range of metallic finishes in Lunar Silver, Polished Metal, or Aegean Blue, or opt from three pearl finishes in White Orchid, Sonic Gray, or Crystal Black. Alternatively, the gloss-finish Rallye Red looks exceptional and complements the sporty body styling and black accents of the Sport and Sport Touring trims, or other trims equipped with the HFP package.
With all Civic Hatch trims equipped with a turbocharged 1.5-liter engine, performance is consistently better than alternate body shapes with lesser engines. The Sport trim is the quickest of the lot, with less weight than the Sport Touring and an extra six horsepower on tap taking the total to 180 hp. Torque differs depending on transmission, but up to 177 lb-ft of the stuff is available with the manual gearbox on the Sport, at the expense of shift times. With either the six-speed manual or CVT transmission buyers can expect 0-60 mph times from the front-wheel drive hatch of sub-6.5 seconds, but to beat the six-second mark you’ll need something feistier than the standard Civic, something with a Type R badge on the tail. Front-wheel drive handles the power sufficiently, however, rivals like the Subaru Impreza and the new Mazda 3 do offer all-wheel drive.
Regardless of trim, all Civic Hatchbacks are powered by a 1.5-liter turbocharged Earth Dreams four-cylinder engine. In its standard state of tune, it develops 174 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque. However, the Sport and Sport Touring trims get a bump in power to 180 hp overall. The Sport trim with a manual gearbox gets a bump in the torque figure as well, adding an extra 15 lb-ft to take the total to 177 lb-ft. It doesn’t add much of an outright performance advantage, however, as manual shifts take longer. The Sport is the only model to get a six-speed manual transmission, while all others (optional on the Sport) get a continuously variable transmission (CVT) by default.
The engine is a high-point for the Civic Hatch with punchy responses once it comes into boost, something it does with minimal traces of turbo-lag. Acceleration from a standstill is brisk while jumping on the throttle from moderate speeds sees the Civic surge forward eagerly to well beyond highway speeds. The CVT transmission is one of the best of its ilk, responding well to the turbocharged torque and seamlessly managing boost as the Civic glides about its duties. But it lacks the involvement of the six-speed manual gearbox on the Sport trim. The manual is one of a dying breed and we should consider ourselves lucky to still be offered this by Honda, as it shifts with one of the sweetest short-throw actions in the industry. It’s a pity this transmission isn’t offered on higher-specced trims.
The firebreathing Civic Type R may steal headlines with front-wheel drive lap records around the Nurburgring, but we’re happy to report the enticing driving dynamics are imbued into even the base Civic Hatch. Once the initial thrill of turbocharged acceleration subsides, the joys of a chassis that’s light on its feet continues to thrill. There’s a fluidity to the Civic’s handling as it threads down a winding road, supple suspension managing primary bumps without losing composure while ironing out secondary imperfections wonderfully. Changes of direction happen swiftly and without much fuss, while under duress there’s an abundance of grip and minimal body roll to speak of. Steering responses are exceptional, even if the Civic is lacking in feedback, but it still gives the driver a great sense of control and involvement - particularly when rowing through the gears of the sublime six-speed manual.
Despite the performance pretense, the Civic hatch loses none of the comforts we’ve come to expect not just from Honda but from all entrants in the midsize segment. It doesn’t quite have the same bump absorption of a crossover, but the Civic rides like a far more expensive, refined car than its price and dimensions might suggest. Without robbing the driver of all feel, bigger impacts are absorbed competently, while undulating surfaces are ironed out smoothly.
Honda’s 1.5-liter turbo engine offers potent performance without compromising efficiency, plating up some of the best gas mileage figures in the segment. The most economical trims of the range are the LX, EX, and EX-L Navi with identical EPA-rated estimates of 31/40/34 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles respectively, owing a large amount of their economy to the CVT gearbox. With a 12.39-gallon gas tank, these trims yield a maximum driving range of 422 miles in mixed driving conditions. With the extra power, the Sport and Sport Touring trims in CVT configuration sacrifice some economy, with figures of 30/36/32 mpg, while the manual-equipped Sport is marginally more economical overall with an average of 33 mpg, bolstered by the 38 mpg highway rating despite the lower 29 mpg city figure.
Spacious and versatile, the Civic’s cabin blends high-quality materials with practical design and layout that rivals the class-leader in this regard, the VW Golf. Seating for five occupants is about as generous as any midsize vehicle could hope to be, while the cabin features numerous storage nooks for personal effects. In general, the ergonomics are sound, too, with comfortable seats, a great driving position, a wide range of seating adjustments, and controls that lie within reach and are generally easy to understand and operate. The volume knob and physical controls for most climate control functions are great considering Honda’s previous troubles with its touchscreen volume control, but the infotainment itself still lags behind the best systems in the segment.
The Civic Hatch seats five occupants in a spacious, airy interior. While the exterior dimensions are par for a compact vehicle, the interior is roomy. Access is easy through large front door openings, although rear occupants need to duck a little due to the sloping roofline. Once inside, the roofline doesn’t impede headroom too much and front and rear occupants are both given generous amounts of space. Only those taller than six-foot may find the headroom tight, but no rivals offer anything better. Legroom is generous too, for both the front and rear passengers, and the driver will find a wide range of adjustments on both the tilt-and-telescopic steering as well as the seat (power eight-way on higher trims) to provide a great driving position with good visibility through all but the rear three-quarter views. LATCH anchors in the rear add practicality, while large rear door openings allow easy inserting and removal of child safety seats.
While leather trim is available on higher trim lines, the base interior specification of the Civic Hatch is black cloth upholstered seats for the LX, Sport, and EX models. From the EX-L Navi, leather upholstered seating surfaces are equipped in black, while the Sport Touring give buyers a choice between black leather or combination black/ivory leather surfaces when paired with the White Orchid and Polished Metal exterior hues. On the Sport and Sport Touring models, aluminum sport pedals add a touch of flare along with a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift-knob, the latter also equipped on the EX-L Navi. The bulk of the dash is black with silver highlights and most of the key touchpoints are soft-touch in nature.
With 25.7 cubic feet of storage space behind the rear seats, the Civic Hatch dominates the segment for standard storage volume. The Chevrolet Cruze is closest at 22.7 cubic feet while the Toyota Corolla Hatch only boasts 18 cubic feet. However, with the rear seats folded (they collapse in a 60/40 split to enhance practicality), the Civic’s maximum volume of 46.2 cubic feet is behind the 47.2 of the Cruze and the 53.7 of the VW Golf. The standard volume is however generous enough for regular grocery shopping or large suitcases, and the large hatch opens wide and has a low lift-over height making it easy to load larger items.
Where the Civic Hatch excels is in the interior storage options, where large door pockets are practical, the two-tiered center storage binnacle offers a pass-through for a charge cable, and the under-armrest storage bin is massive. The cupholders are generously proportioned and are deep as well, while the glovebox is one of the larger ones in this segment.
The Civic Hatch is a feature-packed vehicle in most of the available trims. All offer the Honda Sensing safety suite of collision avoidance features, while from the EX model you’ll be equipped with the Lane Watch blind spot camera. All models receive a rearview camera and climate control (dual-zone for the EX and higher trims), while power windows are standard all around. Adaptive cruise control is yet another feature on all trims, while the likes of an auto-dimming rearview mirror are reserved for the EX (optional), EX-L Navi, and Sport Touring. Lower trims are equipped with manual seat adjustment, but eight-way power adjustment is added to the driver’s perch from the EX-L Navi along with heated front seats, while front passenger power adjustment is reserved for the Sport Touring which also adds heating to the outboard rear seats. A power tilt-and-slide sunroof is equipped to all models from the EX onwards.
Infotainment on both the base LX and Sport trims is taken care of via a five-inch color AM/FM radio system with media streaming via Bluetooth, USB, and auxiliary inputs, Bluetooth hands-free, and a four-speaker audio system. Apple CarPlay and Android auto are integrated from the EX trim, which upscales to a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system with eight speakers, SiriusXM satellite radio, HD radio, and an additional USB port. The reserve of the top-of-the-line Sport Touring model is a 540-watt premium audio system with 12 speakers including a subwoofer, while the trim also receives a built-in navigation system with voice recognition and HD traffic information.
While on the whole this generation of Civic Hatch seems to have been more reliable than its forebears, and than other Civic body styles, there have been a few complaints leveled against the model, such as soy-based wiring that attracts rats. There have been no recalls issued for the current generation Civic Hatch, however there is currently a class-action lawsuit pending over the 1.5-liter Earth Dreams engine, with plaintiffs alleging design flaws leading to premature engine wear and the engine frequently engaging limp mode. As of yet, there has been no decision made on the matter pertaining to 2016-2018 year model Civics.
The Civic hatchback earns top safety ratings for 2019 with the standard inclusion of Honda Sensing on all trims. The NHTSA awarded it an overall rating of five stars out of five, while the IIHS awarded it best available scores of Good in most metrics with Superior ratings for frontal crash prevention.
The Civic Hatchback provides greater levels of safety than previous iterations with a high level of standard safety features. Previously an option, the Honda Sensing suite of driver assistance features is now standard, equipping the Civic hatch with adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, forward collision warning, collision mitigation braking, and road departure mitigation. This adds further safety to the standard safety equipment which includes six airbags in the form of dual-front airbags, side impact airbags, and side curtain airbags with rollover sensors.
The Honda Civic Hatch is, simply put, the most enjoyable combination of comfort and driver involvement in the midsize hatchback segment. But Honda ensures the Civic lives up to the hype created by the halo Type R hot-hatch, imbuing this base derivative with a potent-yet-frugal turbocharged engine and a chassis that blends the best ride quality with involving driving dynamics and astute handling. The fact that Honda gives the Sport a sweet six-speed manual gearbox with an accompanying bump in torque and power just sweetens the deal for the purists.
However, the Civic is a practical masterpiece as well, with comprehensive lists of safety and convenience equipment, a spacious, well-appointed cabin, and generous cargo volume. The VW Golf and Mazda 3 might be well worth a look, but the Civic ultimately comes out the top of its class in 2019.
The cheapest model in the Civic hatch line-up is the LX trim, carrying a base MSRP of $21,450 before tax, registration, license, and a $920 destination charge. Four further trims exist, the Sport with a sticker price of $22,250, the EX at a price of $23,750, the EX-L Navi priced from $26,250 and topping the range, a fully-loaded Sport Touring trim at $28,750. Prices took a slight bump for the 2019 model, however with initial demand now subsiding, dealers should be commanding less of a markup and buyers are likely to find several enticing incentives or alternative lease options available.
The Honda Civic hatchback lineup comprises a range of five trims: LX, Sport, EX, EX-L Navi, and Sport Touring. All models in the hatchback line-up are powered by a 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine mated to a CVT transmission as standard on all but the Sport trim which gets an available six-speed manual transmission.
The LX starts the range with 16-inch alloy wheels, automatic projector headlights, automatic climate control, power windows, cruise control, and a five-inch color AM/FM radio with Bluetooth hands-free. Safety is taken care of by a rearview camera and the Honda Sensing safety suite.
Step up to the Sport trim and buyers get the choice of a manual transmission, 18-inch alloy wheels, a bespoke body kit, and sporty interior trim with a leather-wrapped steering wheel. The Sport also equips the LaneWatch blind spot monitor.
The EX features 17-inch alloy wheels, heated side mirrors, a power sunroof, keyless entry with push-button start, dual-zone climate control, and a seven-inch touchscreen HondaLink infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality.
Adding onto the EX’s functionality, the EX-L Navi gets a leather-wrapped steering wheel, auto-dimming rearview mirror, navigation with voice control, and leather upholstery with heated front seats and driver’s power adjustment.
The Sport Touring tops the range with 18-inch alloys, sport exterior trim, automatic LED headlights, heated rear seats, and power adjustment for the front passenger seat. Infotainment is bolstered by a 12-speaker audio system.
|LX||1.5-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas||Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)||Front Wheel Drive||$19,933||$21,450|
|Sport||1.5-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas||6-Speed Manual or Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)||Front Wheel Drive||$20,674||$22,250|
|EX||1.5-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas||Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)||Front Wheel Drive||$22,063||$23,750|
|EX-L||1.5-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas||Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)||Front Wheel Drive||$24,377||$26,250|
|Sport Touring||1.5-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas||Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)||Front Wheel Drive||$26,692||$28,750|
While numerous accessories can be equipped to the Civic Hatchback as standalone items, Honda offers few packages and necessary optional extras.
Adding to the Civic’s performance, a Honda Factory Performance (HFP) package equips sporty underbody spoilers, a tailgate spoiler HFP badging, drilled brake rotors, black 17-inch alloys, and Sport pedals. Available on all trims, the HFP package costs $2,999 on the LX, EX, and EX-L Navi trims, while the Sport and Sport Touring models offer slight variations to the package (19-inch HFP alloys) for $2,499.
In the way of key standalone options, the LX can be equipped with foglights for $425 and a wireless phone charger for $305, the latter available across all trims. On the EX an auto-dimming rearview mirror is available for $182 (standard from the EX-L Navi), while worthwhile options on the EX-L Navi and Sport Touring are limited to the wireless charging pad.
High levels of safety and a potent turbocharged engine on all models make the Civic Hatch enticing in all trims, but two stand out above the rest. The EX-L Navi offers excellent value for money, equipping smartphone integration and a touchscreen infotainment system, along with dual-zone climate, keyless entry, and a power sunroof for added convenience. However, there’s no option for a manual transmission on the EX, which is why for driving enthusiasts we recommend the Sport trim. It doesn’t get access to Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, but the six-speed manual is joyous to row, and there are an extra six horsepower and 15 lb-ft of torque to go with it. If you’re willing to sacrifice the niceties of smartphone integration and accept single-zone climate control, the Sport is huge amounts of fun for a relatively budget price.
In many aspects, the VW Golf is seen as the benchmark of this segment - a jack of all trades and a complete package. But the Honda outshines the VW in many aspects, not least of which is standard cargo volume behind the rear seats and abundant passenger volume. The VW does provide more cargo volume with the rear seats flattened, however, and the interior quality rivals premium brands while the Honda’s doesn’t quite meet the same standards. Both are priced similarly and offer similar specification, but the VW adds a couple of extra features like full blind spot monitoring and a better infotainment system. However, the Civic boasts a more powerful engine that beats the Golf’s mileage estimates. It’s a close match-up, but the Civic just offers more where it matters and is the better vehicle between the two.
The new Toyota Corolla Hatch is a return to form, style-wise, for Honda’s Japanese rival. It’s all-new and is priced lower than the starting point for the Civic range, but only offers two trims to the versatility of the Honda’s five. While the Toyota’s ride is pliant and offers a six-speed manual gearbox, neither lives up to the standard set by the Civic Hatch. The Honda features a turbocharged engine with more power and torque than the Corolla’s naturally aspirated setup and performance is overall better in the Honda, but the Corolla beats the Civic in mileage estimates, averaging two mpg higher in all metrics. On the features front, the Toyota offers an easier-to-use infotainment system but only with Apple CarPlay (not Android Auto). While the new Corolla is stylish, spacious, and comfortable, it’s not up to the standards of all-round excellence set by the Civic Hatch.