The best-selling car in Canada since dinosaurs roamed the badlands, the Honda Civic is not only built in Canada, it has long been seen as one of the best automotive value plays in the business – though all our hatchback versions come from England, not Alliston. This latest-generation Civic is far from perfect, but lived up to that solid all-around reputation earlier this year, when we put the 2019 Civic Hatchback head-to-head against the all-new Toyota Corolla Hatchback, with the Civic coming out just ahead in the end.
The Civic Hatchback may be a more practical body style than the sedan, but the top Sport Touring trim we drove was also considerably more aggressive-looking too. It has Lamborghini-worthy nostrils on its front nose, dwarfing its small circular fog lights. Its Polished Metal grey paint gave this Civic a high-quality look that may have some Mercedes-Benz A-Class hatchback intenders taking a second look.
But the real visual excitement with this car comes from its back end, highlighted by the dual-tipped exhaust emanating from the centre of the rear bumper. Now, they’re far from the most smoothly integrated exhaust tips, but the black honeycomb “nostrils” that flank the rear bumper combine with its dual rear spoilers above and below that steeply angled back glass to give it a bit more visual punch than the sedan, though because the regular Civic sedan’s rear glass flows into the trunk in a hatchback-like sweep, it also means there’s less of a silhouette difference between the two versions.
That heavily sloping rear glass cuts into cargo room and therefore cargo flexibility somewhat, but because the rear cargo area is already massively larger than its closest Japanese rivals (and even the blockier VW Golf), it’s a good choice if you want to haul hockey bags or other larger cargo on a regular basis, though the taller Golf may fit bikes a touch better.
When it comes to people-space, the Civic hatchback seemed wider and slightly more spacious inside than the Toyota, and after checking the numbers, it was: it contains 277 more litres of passenger space overall inside, and amongst the most in its class. But both the Corolla Hatchback and that more upright Golf would be a better choice for taller drivers, as they both offer notably more headroom.
At just over $33,000, this fully loaded Civic hatchback comes with an impressive array of features one may not expect in a Civic: wireless phone charging, leather seats, a 542-watt 12-speaker stereo system, driver and passenger power seats, and heated rear seats all come exclusively on this top trim.
Just down from this top Sport Touring trim, the Sport also includes proximity entry and walk-away door locks.
One glaring omission, however, is the lack of a heated steering wheel, especially notable in the winter, but also missing on those cool mornings all year long. I’d trade the rear heated seats for this option in a jiffy, though the Civic is one of the few compacts to offer a remote start function, which gives it back some climate points for being able to heat or cool the cabin beforehand.
User Friendliness: 8.5/10
Honda has long been known for special driver-friendly features – which made their deletion of a volume knob on some Civic trims for a brief period seem especially heinous – but the volume knob is present, as well as simple steering-wheel controls that allow you to easily navigate that stereo without having to take your hands off the steering wheel. Yes, it takes some time to set up your presets properly for easy steering-wheel scrolling, and the lack of hard actual preset buttons may disappoint some traditionalists looking for knobs. But the large knobs remain for the climate controls, though I found myself more than once pumping up the heat than the tunes.
One annoying aspect of this Civic is the view out the rear. It’s great that there’s a rear wiper to clean off the steeply raked rear glass – not great that this cheap-looking wiper parks itself right in your rear view at all times.
There’s a worthy 180 hp four-cylinder engine under this Civic’s hood, with 177 lb-ft of torque, which lands it right near the top of this class, though lower than out-and-out hot hatches like the Subaru WRX and VW GTI and the Civic Type R, which start at varying notches above where this Sport Touring trim tops out.
This power comes from a relatively small 1.5-litre turbocharged four. It’s just a touch less power than the Mazda3 GT Sport, but slightly higher than most other rivals, with an energetic and sprightly feel to the engine revs that helps it feel quick too.
The Civic’s zippy and energetic feel also means that more engine noise enters the cabin than some rival compact hatchbacks like that Corolla, especially in the cut and thrust of urban driving. But for longer commutes or trips out of town, there’s some good long-distance comfort when driven with less verve.
A deep centre console allows for even tall travel mugs to be placed in there – or laptops, or tablets, or small sinks – and still allow the driver to rest an elbow on the adjustable sliding armrest, with hands still on the steering wheel.
Driving Feel: 8.5/10
The Civic’s healthy power figure and overall engaging driving personality was fairly impressive given that its continuously variable transmission (CVT) are typically tuned more for automatic comfort and fuel efficiency than driving fun. There’s a Sport mode in the transmission though, which raises the revs and the engine noise entering the cabin, but also making it more responsive and engaging to drive, as do the paddle shifters – even though there’s technically no separate gears to “shift” into.
The steering responds quickly, and though there’s clearly still a couple of notches of roll control saved for the Civic Type R, overall it can still provide enough fun to bring those shift paddles into play after all.
There’s some fairly advanced safety systems here, with lane-keeping assist that helps keep you centred between the lines, which worked surprisingly well even on highway curves. Try its autonomous capability, and it would tell you to put your hands back on the wheel, but combine this system with the Honda’s adaptive cruise control, as well as low-speed follow with stop-and-go, and it feels like it has the advanced safety moves of a car costing twice as much.
There’s also Honda’s unique LaneWatch system, which brings up the view outside the right side of the car every time the driver flips on the right turn signal.
Fuel Economy: 8.5/10
With on overall fuel consumption figure of 7.3 L/100 km, it’s not the most efficient of the compact car crowd, notably behind the Corolla Hatchback, but it’s ahead of most other rivals, which is especially impressive considering this Civic’s size and power output. But what may turn off some folks here is that this Civic “recommends” 91 octane fuel, but lists “minimum” 87 octane right on the inside fuel flap. So you could fill with regular all the time, though for many drivers there will likely be higher fuelling costs here than with most of its regular-swilling market rivals.
There’s a lot of value here, but I can’t help shake the feeling that for many non-enthusiast buyers, the Alliston, Ontario-built sedan may be the way to go. That’s not just a home-team/currency advantage, as the sedan starts at closer to $18K versus $22K for the base hatchback – granted, that base hatch is better equipped, but that price difference extends to other trims too. And there’s an even more powerful 205 hp Si sedan version to boot.
For drivers looking for a fun, practical, and engaging-to-drive hatchback that teeters on the edge of performance and real-world usability for not a lot of money, the Civic Hatchback provides a lot to like in this class – especially if you’re a fan of the aggressive looks.
|Peak Horsepower||180 hp @ 5,500 rpm|
|Peak Torque||177 lb-ft @ 1,900 rpm|
|Fuel Economy||7.9/6.6/7.3 L/100 km city/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space||728 / 1,308 L seats down|
|Model Tested||2019 Honda Civic Hatchback Sport Touring|
|Price as Tested||$33,045|