If there’s a small car on the market that needs a little bit of love right now it’s the Honda Civic.
Sales have slumped for the Honda Civic sedan and hatchback ranges so far in 2015. In fact, they’re down more than 50.0 per cent year-to-date, with the pair now ranked 12th
on the small car sales chart.
So, what better time for a refreshed, UK-built 2015 Honda Civic Hatch to come on the scene, bearing new fruit, a swish new look and updated pricing, which comes just months after the updated Thai-made Civic sedan arrived here, too. (It's worth noting that the new-generation model of the hatchback will also be built in Thailand, and should therefore both be more affordable than it currently is... which should help sales!)
In terms of the look, there are new LED daytime running lights and a restyled grille and bumper that combine to create an even sharper look at the front, while new lower side mouldings muscle up the profile.
At the rear there are revised tail-lights and an integrated spoiler, as well as a reworked bumper that makes it easy to distinguish the updated model from behind.
As for specification changes, you can read all about them in our 2015 Honda Civic Hatch pricing and specifications story.
There are some notable items worthy of mention, chiefly in the cabin. The VTi-S automatic base model specification tested here (which costs $24,450 plus on-road costs) doesn’t have keyless entry, push-button start, auto on/off headlights or auto wipers.
What this 2015 Civic does have, though, is Honda’s Display Audio touchscreen media system, where in the previous base model hatchback there was a dark black plastic interface with old-school buttons.
The new screen enables easier Bluetooth connectivity and audio streaming, a mirroring function (for compatible iPhone models via USB input), and also acts as a display for the reverse-view camera. Disappointingly, there’s no satellite navigation, and you need to spend $31,090 for the top-spec VTi-LN model to get it.
The screen itself isn’t Honda’s newest system as we’ve sampled in the new-generation Odyssey and HR-V, and while it is a visual improvement over the old car, the system is fiddly to use.
The hard buttons to the side are small and not back-lit, making it a game of guesswork when you’re driving at night. Further, there’s a lack of intuitive menu control like you find in the Mazda 3 (which has the benchmark MZD Connect system with its clever rotary dial controller). Still, after a few days of use, it wasn’t too confusing, even if the secondary screen that sits alongside the large, clear digital speedometer on top of the dash is clearly almost redundant.
Other 2015 Honda Civic Hatch interior updates include a new passenger-side dashboard garnish that breaks up the black but oddly doesn’t match the material used near the gear-shifter, which makes it feel a bit incongruous when combined with the new chrome accents on the doors. Further, there’s a new “sporty” cloth seat material for the VTi-S and VTi-L models, which is more pleasant than the existing fuzzy cloth.
That said, all of the materials are of a high quality, including the soft-touch plastics on the dash and doors, the leather-wrapped steering wheel with paddleshifters, and the drilled pedals that add a little spice to the space.
The physical space on offer is adequate if not exceptional for the class, with enough room for four adults so long as those in the back aren’t tall. If they’re children, they’re catered for with outboard ISOFIX anchor points, but there are no rear air vents.
If you need to use it to load parcels rather than passengers, the rear seats fold 60:40 with a reasonably flat load-through space. The boot itself is 400 litres, with a deep space that is suited to big bags. Honda’s clever Magic Seats system also means you can lift up the rear seat bases if you need to store something taller across with width of the car, such as a pushbike.
Being a Honda storage for loose items is excellent, with good sized door pockets all around and covered cup-holders up front. The centre console also houses twin USB inputs and a HDMI input for watching movies on that new screen (when parked).
Under the bonnet there have been no changes to the petrol Civic Hatch line-up: you’ll still find the same 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine that is available with either a six-speed manual in the entry-level model, or a five-speed automatic as tested here.
Engine outputs remain at 104kW of power (at 6500rpm) and 174Nm (at 4300rpm), and as is the case with most Honda engines you need to rev it hard to get the most out of it.
The power delivery is quite linear for the most part, and the automatic generally does a decent job of detecting when a down-shift is required. However, the throttle response is quite doughy in the normal mode while in Eco mode it is downright sluggish, with progress particularly hampered with four passengers on board.
Slip the transmission selector to S for Sport and there’s more reward to be had, and the paddleshifters are probably the best in terms of drivability we’ve sampled in this price range. The transmission won’t overrule you if you want to rev the engine out to redline, and the shift response times are quick, too.
Perhaps we spent too much time at the top of the rev range, because our time in the 2015 Honda Civic Hatch saw us use an average of 9.1 litres per 100 kilometres – well over the claimed use of 6.6L/100km.
In terms of cornering and handling, Honda has added its Agile Handling Assist (AHA) safety system, a torque-vectoring by braking mechanism that works with the car’s stability control system to apply light braking during cornering for claimed added stability and performance. So, take a corner fast and it will brake the inside wheel to help pull the car through the bend.
The Civic Hatch was already one of the sharper dynamic performers on the market, but the new AHA system makes it even more fun to drive.
The steering is light but direct – particularly on-centre when you’re cruising on the highway – and the suspension is very good at coping with bumps. There’s a nice level of composure with a reassuring firmness that is never jiggly or uncomfortable.
Larger bumps like speed humps were also dealt with well, but we noted the car would bottom out regularly due to its very low front air splitter under the bumper.
As for parking, the camera certainly helps, and rear sensors wouldn’t go astray either (they’re optional; front sensors unavailable on this spec), but that split rear glass design and the large C-pillars still mean the Civic hatch is one of the more difficult hatchbacks to see out of.
Honda requires the Civic Hatch to be serviced every six months or 10,000km, which is more often than many rivals. It isn’t the cheapest to service, either, with visits costing an average of $558 per year/every 20,000km. The Civic is covered by Honda’s standard three-year/100,000km warranty, which can’t match the class-leading Kia Cerato (seven years/unlimited kilometres).
On the whole the 2015 Honda Civic Hatch is an improvement on the version that came before it – and the new standard equipment, along with styling and trim revisions, are welcome.
It is still a worthy small car option, and one deserving of a lot more love than it currently gets.
Click the Photos tab above for more images by Christian Barbeitos.