The small car game has well and truly moved on and there's no better evidence of that than the all-new Honda Civic hatch. And, at the entry-level, the 2017 Honda Civic VTi hatch sets a new benchmark for the brand.
Kicking off with an asking price of $22,390 (plus on-road costs) for both the Civic VTi hatch and sedan, the automatic only range (with the exception of the Civic Type R) aims to offer technology and safety, making the car accessible for a large cross section of buyers.
While styling is entirely subjective, the look of the Civic hatch doesn't really sit well with me. There's a lot of plastic add -ons and a number of different angles. It just looks a little less resolved than the Civic sedan.
But, you say potato, I say potato, some may like the styling and for those that don't, the Civic sedan is available for the same asking price as an alternative.
At the entry-level, the Civic hatch is well equipped. Standard features include:
- 16-inch steel wheels
- Body-coloured door handles
- Powered door mirrors
- Powered windows with auto up/down function (driver and front passenger)
- Halogen projector headlights
- LED daytime running light
- Black fabric seats
- Cruise control with speed limiter
- 7.0-inch touch display with radio, Bluetooth control, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, two USB ports and one HDMI port
- Eight speakers (four speakers, four tweeters)
- Eco Assist System (speedometer display)
- ECON Mode
- Hill Start Assist (HSA)
- Driver Information Interface with colour display
- Steering wheel-mounted controls
- Bluetooth phone connectivity
- Cruise control
- Air conditioning single zone climate control
- Remote central locking
While the Civic hatch comes with a number of safety items as standard, it misses out on things like Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), which is now standard across the Mazda 3 range.
- Front, side, full-length curtain airbags
- Rear-view camera with normal, wide, top-down views and on-screen guides
- Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA)
- Agile Handling Assist System (AHAS)
- Straight Driving Assist
- Anti-lock Braking System (ABS)
- Electric Brake-force Distribution (EBD)
- Emergency Brake Assist (EBA)
- Emergency Stop Signal (ESS)
- Traction Control System (TCS)
- Tyre Deflation Warning System (DWS)
- Two ISOFIX points
Inside the cabin, buyers will be surprised by the amount of space available both in the first and second rows. There is plenty of storage in the centre with a deep console, storage ahead of the gear shifter and storage alongside the centre tunnel.
Infotainment comes in the form of a 7.0-inch colour touchscreen that features technology such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, along with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, two USB ports and a HDMI port. The sound system is also great, featuring a total of eight speakers.
The steering wheel features a number of controls, including controls for the information display ahead of the driver. This cool 3D display includes the speedometer and critical vehicle functions.
While the seats and plastic steering wheel feel a little cheap, the rest of the interior is incredibly well built. Fit and finish is excellent and the car feels very solid – it certainly doesn't feel like an entry-level model. It may sound a bit cliche, but it feels like it's worth more than it really is.
In the second row, your passengers will have ample leg- and headroom, along with plenty of toe-room, even if the driver has their seat further back. But hot summer days could make the second row a bit stifling due to the lack of rear air vents.
Cargo room comes in at a class leading 414 litres. The second row folds in a 60/40 configuration with two ISOFIX points.
Under the bonnet of both the Civic VTi and VTi-S is a 1.8-litre four-cylinder naturally aspirated engine that produces 104kW of power and 174Nm of torque, mated to a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), consuming a combined 6.4 litres of fuel per 100km.
If that doesn't sound like much power, well, it's not. While the Civic VTi hatch only weighs 1289kg, the engine reaches peak torque at 4300rpm and peak power and 6500rpm.
That means that to get it moving with any hussle, you need to push it to that 4300rpm marker to hit the engine's torque sweet spot. That means really getting stuck into the throttle out of traffic lights and when overtaking.
Being a CVT, the gearbox tends to exaggerate big throttle inputs by over revving into the peak torque zone. That results is quite a noisy experience in the cabin each time you demand more power from the engine.
It's sluggish in and around town and even more so when you have a full complement of passengers on board, or if you're trying to overtake. It's a bit disappointing because there's plenty of steering feel and the ride is well sorted, only let down by the engine.
Despite lacking pep, the engine is quite fuel efficient. We were able to get close to the advertised claim, coming in at around 7.0L/100km.
Of course you can step up to the more powerful 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder version of the Civic hatch, but that kicks off with the VTi-L from $27,790 (plus on-road costs). And Australia doesn't get any manual models, which could have helped make better use of the naturally aspirated petrol engine.
Engine response aside, the Civic hatch is a comprehensive package that's really fun to drive. Honda offers the Civic hatch with a transferrable five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty, six-year protection against rust and capped price servicing.
Over a three year period, the Civic hatch needs to be serviced once every 12 months, or 10,000km, meaning three services are required over a three year, 30,000km period. Coming in at $284 per service, it's a fairly affordable $852.
While the Civic hatch offers a comprehensive package at the entry level, it's let down by an underdone engine that brings down the entire vehicle. If you have your heart set on the Civic, we'd recommend checking out the turbocharged 1.5-litre models (the VTi-L, RS and VTi-LX).
At this price point, it's hard to beat the offering from Mazda with the 3 or Hyundai with the all-new i30. Like always, we recommend a 24-hour test drive to get a proper feel for the car before you purchase – especially if you're looking at the entry-level Civic models.