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by Matt Campbell

This new-generation 2017 Honda Civic hatch is a big deal. It could be a step too far to suggest that Honda Australia’s future depends on it being a success, but the Japanese brand is sure as hell hoping for big things from it.

It’s such a big deal, in fact, we decided to get one for a few months to see if it lives up to the hype.

It’s the first time in more than a decade that Honda has offered a concurrent, similarly-styled and specified version of the Civic hatch as the Civic sedan.

This time around, both the sedan and hatch are sourced from Thailand – previously the hatch came from the UK, and the sedan from our Southeast Asian neighbours.

According to Honda Australia this car is going to grapple for attention in the private buyer segment, and hatchbacks are the typically one of the sweet spots in that part of the Aussie car market. Overall, hatches are roughly twice as popular as sedans with small car shoppers.

This specification in particular, the RS, will likely be a standout in the private buyer ranks. It has been for the sedan, with the RS accounting for the bulk of sales with its sportier-than-standard styling.

That same approach is taken with the Civic RS hatch, which is differentiated on the showroom floor and on the street by its central exhaust outlets, black side skirts, boot-lid spoiler, dark chrome door handles, LED headlights and electric sunroof.

It does stand out from the pack to a degree, but it’s also fair to say all Civic hatches have pretty extroverted bumper styling, including the base model VTi with its epically large black plastic inserts and dodgy plastic wheel covers.

Inside, the RS gets sporty drilled alloy pedals (only two of them, because it’s auto – more on that in a sec), an eight-way power adjustable driver’s seat, heated front seats, black leather seat trim and gearknob, and 12-speaker stereo with subwoofer.

You get all that stuff for $32,290 plus on-road costs, which is competitive in the segment for the most part, but the Civic RS misses out on some of the safety equipment you may expect for that outlay. We’ll get to that in our second report.

Like I said, this Civic hatch – and indeed all Civics bar the incoming Type R hatch – are automatic, with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) adjoining a 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine. In lower spec models there’s a 1.8-litre non-turbo engine, but this definitely fits the character of the Civic RS a little better.

Yes, we should talk about the fact it’s called an RS – because it’s a huge issue for me. I hate it. This is commonly the shortened form of the German Renn Sport or Racing Sport and when you’ve got RS versions of the Porsche 911 GT3, it seems pretty audacious to label what is essentially a slightly pimped version of a standard hatchback the same.

But Honda isn’t the only one to have done it – Holden’s Astra hatch range has a mid-range car called the RS, too, and there have been RS versions of other small hatches that didn’t live up to that standard in the past, too. At least we Ford has done the right thing in reserving it for a proper racy/sporty hatch in the case of the Focus RS.

Okay, now that’s off my chest, I’ll be able to go into this long-term ownership dealio with a clear head. But tell me if you concur or not in the comments section below.

Over the coming weeks this series of long-term reports will cover off all the important elements that matter to you as a buyer. Stay tuned for the next instalment.

2017 Honda Civic RS hatch

  • Price: from $32,290 plus on-road costs
  • Engine: 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol
  • Power: 127kW at 5500rpm
  • Torque: 220Nm at 1700-5500rpm
  • Transmission: CVT automatic, front-wheel drive
  • Claimed fuel use: 6.1 litres per 100 kilometres
  • Weight: 1337 kilograms (tare mass)
  • Seating: five
  • Boot space: 414 litres
  • Country of origin: Thailand
  • Odometer at time of collection: 1400km

Click the Photos tab above for more images by Sam Venn.

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