SAN FRANCISCO — Honda has officially unveiled the 2017 Honda Civic Hatchback, and it's more than just a new body style.
Of course, the hatchback trunk is a big part of the story, especially with its 25.7-cubic-foot cargo capacity, edging out the already capacious Volkswagen Golf (22.8 cubes). Honda has also devised an ingenious sliding cargo cover that's housed on the side of the cargo area rather than behind the rear seatbacks. That means you won't have to remove the entire assembly in order to carry tall items; just slide the cover out of the way and you've got a clear path forward.
But if you're shopping for a sporty hatchback, you might be equally impressed by what's under the Civic Hatchback's hood. Like the Golf, this Honda comes standard with turbocharged power, dropping the Civic sedan's standard naturally aspirated 2.0-liter four-cylinder and providing the stronger 1.5-liter turbo across the board. If you get the LX, EX or EX-L trim, you'll have 174 horses and 162 pound-feet of torque at the ready, while the new Sport and Sport Touring trims dial it up to 180 horsepower, with sporty styling flourishes (including center-mounted dual exhaust outlets) to match. There's no fuel-economy trade-off, either, as the EPA projects up to 40 mpg highway depending on configuration.
Then there's the fact that Honda offers not one, but two transmissions on the Civic Hatchback. That's notable because the turbocharged sedan comes only with the continuously variable automatic (CVT). As CVTs go, it's a pretty good one, but Hatchback shoppers can also specify a six-speed manual on the LX and Sport trims — and save $800 in the process. The manual even brings a little extra punch, adding 5 pound-feet of torque to the LX and 15 lb-ft to the Sport 6MT. The only bummer is that stick-shifters will have to make do without some desirable higher-end features, including keyless entry and ignition, premium audio, a sunroof and touchscreen infotainment.
Throw in sportier-than-the-sedan suspension and steering calibrations for the whole lineup, plus a wheel-and-tire upgrade for Sport and Sport Touring, and you've got a rather exciting proposition compared to most compact hatchbacks. We're pleased to report that Honda has nonetheless managed to keep pricing competitive. You can get into a 2017 Civic Hatchback for as little as $19,700 — that's the LX manual — while the Sport manual will run you a still reasonable $21,300, a figure that could even make some Volkswagen GTI shoppers think twice. The EX checks in at $22,800, but prices head north quickly from there, with the EX-L reaching $25,800 and the Sport Touring veering toward near-luxury territory at $28,300. Note that the Honda Sensing safety tech suite adds $1,000 to the LX, EX and EX-L, while the Sport Touring gets it as standard and the Sport isn't eligible.
It's good to see Honda back in the compact hatchback game with such a strong product. Check out Edmunds' 2017 Honda Civic model review for the latest details and our expert vehicle evaluation.