Lukewarm is one of the most worrisome descriptors we can think of. It’s not hot, it’s not cold, it’s middling. Iced coffee? Sure. Hot coffee? Of course. Lukewarm coffee? Gross. In automotive terms, nobody wants a lukewarm hatchback. There are economy hatches for people who want basic transportation, and there are hot hatches for driving enthusiasts who want to drive fast without giving up some semblance of utility. But where’s the vehicle that offers a decent middle ground?
When we heard about the return of the Honda Civic hatchback, we wondered where on the hotness scale it would fall. Turns out we needn’t have worried. The 2017 Honda Civic hatchback isn’t a hot hatch, and it’s not trying to be. What it is, though, is a useful addition to the brand’s best-selling compact car, with an entertaining turbocharged engine and enough added utility that it might sway some would-be crossover buyers.We’re mixed on the effectiveness of the hatchback’s unique exterior design. Aggressive is good, but the Sport trim’s front and rear fascia feature exaggerated air intakes that are a bit too gaudy, especially since they aren’t functional. The taillights flow into a small spoiler with a glass panel below for visibility from inside. There’s another spoiler at the top of the hatch, too, and if that’s not enough visual pizzazz for you, Honda’s accessories catalog has plenty of options from which to choose.
All Civic hatchbacks come with a 1.5-liter turbocharged engine. LX and EX models get a 174-horsepower version of the engine, but the Sport trim ups the pony count to 180 (premium fuel recommended). Opt for the six-speed manual transmission (which unfortunately removes the option for navigation), and you’ll get 177 pound-feet of torque. CVT-equipped Civics are limited to 162 lb-ft. The EPA estimates six-speed Civic hatchbacks will return 30 miles per gallon in the city, 39 on the highway, and 33 combined. Get the CVT and the figures rise by 1 mpg across the board, except for the Sport, which only manages 30/36/32 with the automatic.
Pricing for the Civic hatchback starts at $20,535 for the base LX trim level. The CVT adds $800. Sport models start at $22,135 with the six-speed manual, while top-shelf EX-L models with Navi run $26,135 and come with a standard automatic transmission. A Sport Touring model, which combines the body kit and wheels of the Sport with all the options of the EX-L, will be available soon.
So it’s not a hot hatch, even if it does say Sport on the badge. But that hardly matters. The 2017 Honda Civic hatchback is a fun car. Just like its sedan and coupe siblings, the Civic hatch fulfills its role as a daily driver with aplomb, and it adds a dollop more utility. It’s quick enough to be entertaining, especially with its available six-speed manual transmission, and its driving dynamics are among the best in its class. Turns out that sometimes, being lukewarm can be just right.