Australian new car buyers love a small hatch. And while sedans sell well in the segment they just can’t match five-door sales which is why Honda Australia must be over the moon that it now has a Civic hatch to sell alongside the sedan that arrived almost 12 months ago.
But Australia’s fast-moving market has changed since the sedan arrived and although Honda checks all the boxes for smartphone connectivity and infotainment flexibility many of its competitors have moved to make safety systems like autonomous emergency braking standard, or at least an affordable option.
For Honda that isn’t the case, with only the flagship model sporting advanced driver aids. However, with more space than ever before, an available turbocharged engine, and a distinctly-styled appearance, the Civic hatch is sure to appeal to new car shoppers once again.
Vehicle Style: Small hatch
Price: $22,390-33,590 plus on-road costs
Engine/trans: 104kW/174Nm 1.8 4cyl petrol, 127kW/205Nm 1.5 4cyl turbo petrol | CVT automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 6.4 l/100km (1.8) 6.1 l/100km (1.5 Turbo)
With a five-model range that mirrors that of the four-door the new Civic hatch offers the VTi and VTi-S, both powered by a carry-over naturally aspirated 1.8 litre four cylinder engine as the entry points to its range, with pricing starting from $22,390 plus on road costs.
The next three models, VTi-L, RS, and VTi-LX are powered by a 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder for a little extra performance and better economy and span a more middle of the road, sporty, and luxurious model range respectively. Pricing for turbo models kicks off from $27,790.
The move away from bargain-basement pricing reflects the more generous levels of equipment in even the Civic VTi (reversing camera, 7.0-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, climate control, 16-inch alloy wheels all standard), as well as the absence of a manual transmission option with all Civic’s fitted with a CVT automatic as standard.
All hatch models wear a more aggressive face than their sedan equivalents, and despite being mechanically identical Honda has dubbed this range “the sportiest Civic ever” trading on some of the appeal that made the nameplate such a star in the late 80s and early 90s
- VTi: Single-zone climate control, cloth seat trim, cruise control with speed limiter, LCD instrument panel, multi-function trip computer, tilt/reach adjustable steering column, powered adjustable mirrors, 16-inch steel wheels, LED tail lights
- VTi-S: (in addition to VTi) proximity key with push-button start and walk away lock, leather wrapped steering wheel, front fog lights, mirror-mounted LED indicators, 16-inch alloy wheels
- VTi-L: (in addition to VTi-S) Dual-zone climate control, auto lights and wipers, power-folding mirrors, rear privacy glass, steering wheel paddle shifters, Auto up/down power windows on all doors
- RS: (in addition to VTi-L) partial leather seat trim, heated front seats, eight-way power adjustable driver’s seat, alloy sports pedals, LED head and fog lights, 17-inch alloy wheels, electric sunroof
- VTi-LX: (in addition to RS) Satellite navigation, auto dimming rear view mirror
- Infotainment: 7.0 inch touchscreen infotainment, AM/FM radio, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, USB/HDMI input, eight-speakers, DAB+ digital radio (VTi-L and above), 10-speakers incl subwoofer (RS and VTi-LX)
- Cargo Volume: 414 litres to rear seats.
Despite their relative closeness in term of specification, Honda has made some minor changes the hatch's interior compared to the sedan, adding a more sporty black roof lining and charcoal cabin trim that contribute to the sporty mood.
With a huge range of adjustment from both the seat and steering wheel, the the Civic makes it easy for drivers of all shapes and sizes to get set behind the wheel, with a low slung feel to the driving position.
The information provided between in the digital driver's display and 7.0-inch infotainment screen is about as informative and comprehensive as you’ll find in the segment, but Honda’s out-of-the-way placement of USB connectors deep beneath the dash is less than ideal.
The cabin itself offers plenty of room in every dimension - not so surprising when you consider the Civic has grown in size to match the Accord of just a few generations ago.
Similarly, the boot is also huge with 414 litres available, although it is more compact than the sedan’s 519 litre measurement, but with a rear hatch and fold down rear seats the five-door proves more versatile, particularly for loading large items. In cabin storage is also well catered for, with a range of storage options littered throughout the cabin.
Interestingly, the manufacturer has dropped the clever, if unintuitive, steering wheel-mounted swipe control for stereo volume (as found in the sedan) in favour of more conventional buttons.
Also on the way is a physical volume knob to take the place of the touch-sensitive slider control on the audio head unit in response to customer feedback - though its timing is still some way down the track meaning the fiddly touch-system stays for a while yet.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 104kW/174Nm 1.8 litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol (VTi, VTi-S), 127kW/220Nm 1.5 litre turbo four-cylinder petrol (VTi-L, RS, VTi-LX)
- Transmission: CVT automatic, front wheel drive
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front, independent rear
- Brakes: Four-wheel disc brakes
- Steering: Electric power steering, turning circle: 10.7m
- Towing Capacity: 800kg braked, 500kg unbraked
Just as you’ll find in the sedan, the Civic hatch takes a two-pronged approach to engines starting with a naturally aspirated 1.8-litre unit that uses 6.4L/100km to make 104kW and 174Nm in the entry-level VTi and VTi-S.
It’s a variant of the previous Civic’s engine, and as with that generation (and little in the way of significant changes) it’s a ‘get the job done’ engine which works fine slurring around town, but lacks verve away from the city for overtaking or merging.
By far the better pick is the turbocharged 1.5-litre engine in higher-grade models with more impressive fuel consumption rated at 6.1L/100km and more robust performance thanks to 127kW and 220Nm outputs.
Unlike the 1.8-litre engine, which has to rev beyond 4000rpm to deliver peak torque the turbo motor delivers the bulk of its pulling effort from as low as 1700rpm, making it a much more effortless engine.
While it’s hardly the equal of the growing field of warm hatch engines, it proves itself with a stronger on-road feel although Honda’s CVT automatic does dull its shine a little.
Honda’s “sportiest Civic ever” claims also deserve a little scrutiny - obviously the more performance orineted Civic Type R due later this year will wear the flagship crown but even as a mainstream model Honda has done better with cars like the sixth-generation Civic VTi-R hatch of the late 1990s and its rev-happy naturally aspirated engine, outstanding manual gear shift and lightweight, agile dynamics.
Of course some small cars drive with all the excitement of freshly painted drywall, so it is at least encouraging to find that the new Civic has a positive feel from behind the wheel. Excellent ride and impressive body control mark the newest Civic up, but overall the chassis lacks the precision found in rivals like the Ford Focus, and the CVT automatic is no way to make a car sporty.
ANCAP Rating: 5 Stars - the Honda Civic hatch scored 34.68 out of 37 possible points when tested in 2017, Civic hatch data was obtained via technical information that showed the five-door model offers the same level of protection as the sedan.
Safety Features: All Civic models arrive with six airbags (dual front, side and curtain), stability control and traction control, ABS brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist, front seatbelt pretensioners, a rear view camera, and tyre pressure monitoring.
The VTi-S and above also come with front and rear parking sensors, and lane watch camera, while the VTi-LX includes Honda Sensing with forward collision brake warning, collision mitigation braking, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, road departure mitigation, adaptive cruise control, and low-speed follow.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Ultimately Honda has done the right thing with its latest Civic, trading in some of the driving agility of previous models for a more practical and urban-friendly balance.
The sharp looks are sure to pique buyer interest, braking away from the ho-hum space efficient looks of something like a Corolla or i30 in favour of a more individual image.
Interior size and flexibility to rival some medium SUVs will also impress young families unsure if they need to make the step up to a bigger more cumbersome family truckster that may never go offroad.
Overall Honda has delivered a polished machine that deserves to do well in Australia. This newest Civic is absolutely deserving of a place on the small car buyer's shopping list, although it does fall slightly short of being the standard by which other small cars are measured.
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