2017 HONDA CIVIC HATCHBACK SPORT FIRST TEST

Every year, cars get more complicated. Be it under the hood or in the cabin, more gizmos keep arriving, especially if you’re willing to open your wallet. As feature saturation continues unabated, though, it’s refreshing to occasionally drive a car that’s kept things relatively simple, and the new 2017 Honda Civic Hatchback Sport is about as basic as you can get.

At just 2,864 pounds, the Civic Hatchback is the lightest hatchback we’ve weighed in years, and it would be difficult to make it any heavier. Our test car was stripped, but there’s still very little you can add via the options sheet. There’s no premium stereo, no navigation, no Honda Sense active safety gear, no leather seats, no dual-zone climate control, no seat heaters, etc., because Honda for some reason still believes people who buy manual transmissions don’t want nice things. Note to Honda: People don’t buy manuals because they’re cheap anymore. They buy them because they want to drive a manual. You’d sell more cars and make more money per car if you’d let manual buyers pay extra for stereos and such.

2017 Honda Civic Hatchback Sport rear three quarter

All that aside, the extra sheetmetal involved in making a sedan into a hatchback does add weight, but it’s less than 100 pounds. That might help account for the difference in performance, too. We clocked a Civic Sedan with the continuously variable transmission at 6.8 seconds to 60 mph. This Hatchback Sport, despite its more fun six-speed manual and an extra six horsepower and 15 lb-ft of torque, needed 7.5 seconds to do the same. It was a smaller gap at the quarter-mile mark, with the Sedan crossing the finish in 15.3 seconds at 93.0 mph and the Hatchback Sport just behind at 15.5 seconds at 91.5 mph. We tried to get a better result out of the Hatchback Sport, but after about 20 launches, the engine heat soaked badly.

Honda apparently didn’t intended for the Sport moniker to denote quicker acceleration but rather better handling. In that department, the Hatchback Sport pulled 0.88 average g on the skidpad to the Sedan’s 0.84 and lapped the figure eight in 27.1 seconds at 0.63 average g to the Sedan’s 27.4 seconds at 0.64 average g. The Hatchback Sport also stopped 5 feet shorter, in just 115 feet.

The Hatchback Sport’s performance also compares favorably to its competitors. A Hyundai Elantra GT with an automatic transmission hits 60 mph in 8.4 seconds, runs the quarter mile in 16.4 seconds at 84.5 mph, pulls 0.81 average g on the skidpad, stops in 121 feet, and does a 27.7-second figure-eight lap at 0.60 average g. A Mazda3 sedan with an automatic (we haven’t tested a Mazda3 hatchback) needs 7.8 seconds to hit 60 mph, 16.1 seconds to finish the quarter mile at 86.8 mph, pulls 0.80 average g on the skidpad, stops in 129 feet, and runs a 27.9-second lap around the figure eight at 0.59 average g. For the Volkswagen Golf, it’s 7.8 seconds to 60 mph, 15.9 seconds to run the quarter mile at 87.8 mph, 0.86 average g on the skidpad, 118 feet to stop from 60 mph, and 26.8 seconds to run the figure eight at 0.65 average g. One competitor it can’t hang with: a manual transmission Kia Forte5, which hits 60 mph in 6.7 seconds, runs the quarter in 15.1 seconds at 92.6 mph, pulls 0.85 average g on the skidpad, stops from 60 mph in 112 feet, and laps the figure eight in 26.9 seconds at 0.68 average g. Of course, all of them will be looking at the taillights of a manual Golf GTI, which hits 60 mph in 6.1 seconds and burns through the quarter in 14.6 seconds at 99.7 mph while also pulling 0.96 average g on the skidpad, stopping from 60 mph in 107 feet, and lapping the figure eight in 25.0 seconds at 0.78 average g. You wanna play with that, you gotta get the new Civic Si, which doesn’t come as a hatchback.

2017 Honda Civic Hatchback Sport front end in motion

It’s not a total hot hatch, then, but it is still fun to drive. Honda’s sporting credibility is built in part on its history of making practical, inexpensive cars go around corners well, and modern Civics have finally gotten back to that. The Hatchback Sport might not be screaming quick, but there’s a genuine sportiness to its handling that makes you want to fling it around in ways you wouldn’t normally treat a compact sedan. The six-speed manual remains one of the best front-drive stick shifts around, with short, crisp throws that encourage you to use it as often as possible. The steering is light and quick, but it doesn’t communicate much from the road surface. Engine power is delivered with a long, linear pull that starts to plateau 1,000 rpm short of redline, so you’ll never be in danger of hitting the rev limiter trying to wring it out because there just isn’t any more to be had.

It’s very good as just a hatchback, too. The interior is spacious and comfortable for its size, though it could use some color. The cargo space is the largest in the class and second largest with the rear seats folded. Worthy of special commendation is the side-mounted cargo cover, which is much more compact than the traditional bar that spans the width of the cargo area. Pop it off and mount it on the other side, or toss it under the trunk floor to get it out of the way. No matter what, it’s never in the way when you need to load larger items in the back, and it’s such a simple solution it’s amazing no one thought of it before.

Being enthusiasts, we can’t help but wish the Civic Hatchback Sport were more like a Hatchback Si. Anyone who needs a practical car but still wants to have fun will be happy with it as is, especially when they see the $22,135 sticker price.

2017 Honda Civic Hatchback Sport
BASE PRICE $25,175
PRICE AS TESTED $25,175
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door hatchback
ENGINE 1.5L/180-hp/177-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4
TRANSMISSION 6-speed manual
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 2,864 lb (60/40%)
WHEELBASE 106.3 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 177.9 x 70.8 x 56.3 in
0-60 MPH 7.5 sec
QUARTER MILE 15.5 sec @ 91.5 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 115 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.88 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 27.1 sec @ 0.63 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON 30/39/33 mpg
ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 112/86 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.58 lb/mile