Several things make me feel irrelevant, and reviewing a Honda Civic is high on that list of things.
A 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo engine that’s punchy, sounds decent, performs well, and packs enough low-end torque that you rarely need to get it spinning much beyond idle to cruise though traffic.
My job description involves using a keyboard to describe the way a car feels and works, how it might fit in to its potential shopper’s life, and to tell readers what they may like (or not) if considering a certain vehicle alongside its peers. I try to understand what the shopper wants from their new vehicle, and to explain how well that vehicle provides it.
In simple terms, I make a living by telling people how cars drive, and (hopefully), by helping readers make a high-precision decision about what car to spend the next several years with.
Thing is, there are many reasons you buy a Honda Civic – and few of them have anything much to do with how it drives.
Mostly, you buy a Honda Civic because it’s a Honda Civic, and likely not your first, or second. The Civic is cemented onto the mental checklist of shoppers as one of the smartest choices for long-term ownership – thanks to reliability, safety, owner satisfaction, and the high likelihood that owning one won’t cause you any grief. Civic also tends to hold its value well, meaning when you go to sell it one day, it will likely prove to have been a good investment.
The 2018 Honda Civic Sport Touring Hatchback is the range-topping Civic Hatchback model if the frisky-pants Type R isn’t in your realm of feasibility. My tester was fully loaded at around $31,000 – not cheap, but for the money, you get virtually every must-have feature on the scene, a package brimming with clever and thoughtful touches, and a delivery of all of the above via a machine that’s distinctive, easy to spot, and easy on the eyes.
There are many reasons why Honda sells so many of these, and for the latest-generation Civic, these include giving shoppers a bigger-than-ever dose of exactly what they want.
Like power and fuel efficiency.
On this front, Civic’s most valuable asset is a 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo engine that’s punchy, sounds decent, performs well, and packs enough low-end torque that you rarely need to get it spinning much beyond idle to cruise though traffic in no particular rush. Give it a bootful of gas, and you get a nice shove into your seat, and watch the digital speedometer crank upwards in quick order.
For all of that, it’s very reasonable on fuel. Many small cars I test drive use as much, or more, and don’t perform as well. And, though turbocharged, Civic doesn’t require premium gas, though premium is recommended in the Sport trims.
The CVT transmission works nicely with the engine, maximizing performance and mileage without much sense that there are no gears to shift. It even pretends to upshift for a more conventional feel at full throttle. The way most drivers drive their Civic most of the time, it just feels like a regular automatic.
If the preceding paragraph has triggered your inner cranky stick-shift purist, you’ll be happy to know you can order your Civic Hatch Sport Touring with a six-speed manual, too.
All said, it performs nicely, but without incinerating your gas funds. Shoppers like this, and they want this, and the Civic delivers it.
Ditto features. Today, shoppers usually arrive on dealer lots with a list of gotta-have features and tech. These often include Android Auto and Apple CarPlay (which forwards parts of your smartphone’s functionality onto the main screen), as well as the market’s latest in outward-looking hazard-detection safety tech, including radar cruise and lane-departure mitigation. All were included on my tester.
Ditto navigation. Bluetooth. Automatic everything. Heated leather. Remote start. A back-up camera. A sunroof. Push-button start. A camera-based monitor for an enhanced view down the right-hand side of the car when you signal.
You also get the Civic’s latest interior. It’s more upscale than previous generations, with richer materials, more details, and a more sophisticated atmosphere conveyed to help support the price tag. On most aspects of appearance, it hits the mark – though I’m less and less a fan of its fairly plain, low-resolution digital instrument cluster every time I see it.
The real magic on board is the layout. You sit deep in the Civic Hatch. It’s a coupe-like driving position that surrounds you with the cabin, rather than seeing you perched above it. Entry and exit are simple thanks to wide door openings, and the cargo hold in back is generous, wide, and easy to load and unload. Rear seats can comfortably accept two adults of average size, though things can get a little congested around the cranial regions of taller passengers.
Up front, two attributes hit hardest: maximization of storage space, and handy touches. Within reach are a reconfigurable centre console, sliding cupholders with a bin beneath, a generous dash storage cubby with a wireless charging pad (and a handy charging cable pass-through in case your phone doesn’t have wireless charging), and power outlets galore. There are additional pockets on the doors, and smaller ones on the centre tunnel. It’s all well thought-out, in terms of helping occupants keep smaller items organized, out of the way, and charging, as needed.
So: how’s it drive?
Let’s set the tone via the Sport Touring designation, which suggests that my tester would be both a) sporty and b) well suited to long-distance driving comfort.
In that context, the badge is partly right.
The Sport side of the designation is deserved. The steering lacks much meaningful feel of the happenings between rubber and tarmac, but it’s a touch quicker than average and heavies up a little when worked hard and fast. Mostly, it’s a well-sorted all-purpose steering feel, but with a bit of extra responsiveness and eagerness dialled in.
Brakes are similar: a fairly standard feel with a touch more precision and potency than you might expect. Civic’s brakes aren’t so sensitive and hyperactive that they’re difficult to work smoothly in traffic, but the brake pedal feels like it’s attached to a semi-sporty braking system, not a partially melted cheese pizza. In emergency stops, I wished the pedal was a little firmer, but the Civic pulls down from speed in quick order and with little fuss, nonetheless.
Performance from the engine is pleasing when called upon. The sound is meatier than the 1.5 litres of displacement lead on, there’s strong pull at virtually all revs, and the CVT transmission quickly whips up an appropriate gear ratio curve to get the Civic firing along fast when the throttle is jammed. Stand on the throttle, and the transmission even simulates a sequence of high-rev, rapid-fire upshifts that remind me of a close-ratio automatic.
The ride? Sporty. Not jarring. Not excessively rough or harsh. But taut and firm and free of much unwanted body movement, even on rougher surfaces. Even if you whack the sort of crater that momentarily sees your soul leave your body and causes hearing loss in your right eye, there’s a softness dialled in around the edges of the suspension that effectively neutralizes some of the worst parts of heavy impacts.
But it’s not a Touring ride, as I know it. This one’s more on the sporty side, firmer than some will like, and seems focussed on feeling athletic, not floating-on-a-cloud comfortable. Some may take the Touring designation to suggest that this Civic rides like a buttery Cadillac or Lexus, but this is not the case.
Further, if you’ll do your touring at highway speeds, you may find the ride to be too noisy. A dull roar seeps in at all times, louder and more apparently than I expect for the money. By 110 km/h, you’ll need to raise your voice a little for a conversation, and most of the noise seems to be coming in from beneath the car, suggesting the tires may be mostly to thank.
Other gripes include the low-resolution camera displays, and some interior plastics that seem to smudge or scratch if you so much as look at them the wrong way.
In summation: no issues with the Sport designation, though the Touring designation can be taken to centre mostly around the equipment and features, not the ride and noise levels.
You’re backed on long drives by the latest in connectivity, really good headlights, a nice stereo, and automatic everything. I’d ultimately like my Touring car to be a little softer and quieter, but it’s hard to argue with all the goodies included – which you’ll find perpetually useful for staying entertained, connected, safe and on course as you travel away from home. Also, it’s hard to argue with the fuel mileage.
Here’s an instantly recognizable car renown for sensible long-haul ownership, and one that delivers strongly on what shoppers want: feature content, efficient performance, and delightful design touches that make it easy to live with. Mostly, the latest Civic embodies the benefits of doing something for a really long time, and getting really good at doing it. Other than a little too much noise and a ride that some will find a little too stiff and loud, here’s a package that’s pretty stellar at what it does.
|Peak Horsepower||180 hp @ 5,500 rpm|
|Peak Torque||162 lb-ft @ 1,700–5,000 rpm|
|Fuel Economy||7.9/6.6/7.3 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space||728 / 1,308 L|
|Model Tested||2018 Honda Civic Hatchback Sport Touring|
|Price as Tested||$32,885|
$300 – Aegean Blue Metallic $300