You may not love its looks, but Honda’s Civic is a superb vehicle.
The Honda Civic is an all-around excellent small car, arguably the gold standard in its segment. This machine has a thoughtfully designed, high-quality interior, it offers plenty of standard equipment, including the Honda Sensing suite of advanced driver aids, and its real-world fuel economy is exceptional. Further broadening its appeal, this little Honda is offered in a range of body styles, from a traditional sedan to a sporty coupe to a five-door hatchback. If you’re in the market for a small car just get a Civic and chances are you won’t be disappointed.
LikeExcellent driver-assistance techEfficient powertrainAffordable pricingSpacious interior
Don’t LikeThe infotainment system isn’t greatElevated interior noise levelsOverstyled exterior
A hatchback-to-basics car
This hatchback is offered in five different trims, from the entry-level LX model up to the Sport Touring variant, which is what I’m testing here. The most basic version Honda offers starts at just about $23,000, including $995 in destination fees. Naturally, my review unit is pricier than that, checking out for around $29,905, which is still a totally reasonable sum considering all the equipment it comes with.
When it’s time to haul a load of goods from your local big-box store, this Civic is happy to oblige. With the rear seats up, it provides 25.7 cubic feet of space. Fold those backrests down and that figure grows to a Costco-worthy 46.2 cubes, a figure that, while plenty useful, is slightly less than what you get in either a Hyundai Elantra GT or Volkswagen Golf, both of which offer more than 50 cubic feet of maximum volume.
Why is this Civic’s roofline so droopy?
Other competitors of this Honda include five-door versions of the Mazda3 and Toyota Corolla. These rivals have their own strengths and weaknesses, though I’m not afraid to say that all of them are more attractive than the Civic. It’s not that this Honda hatchback is ugly, it’s just that it’s got a lot of extra styling, from fake air vents to overly busy-looking bumpers to an oddly deflated roofline to its duet of rear spoilers. It is, unfortunately, not a very pretty car.
It’s what’s inside that counts
But if you can get past that wrapper, the Civic’s interior is far more pleasant, and arguably one of the best in this segment. Front and rear, the seats are comfy and there’s plenty of room for heads and legs. Even taller folks should have no complaints while riding in this Honda, though older people might run into a little trouble. The Civic sits pretty low to the ground, which makes it almost feel like you’re getting up off the floor when alighting.
The Honda Civic hatchback is a great, if weird-looking, vehicle
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The quality of this car’s cabin is extremely high. In fact, some of its interior materials are nicer than what you get in some luxury cars. Improving its versatility, the Civic’s center console does more tricks than a magician. The armrest slides fore and aft to better accommodate different people, but it also flips up, revealing a deep, spacious storage bin. Within this compartment are several cup holders as well as a separate storage tray. Several of these components also slide. There’s even an additional storage cubby underneath the center stack should you need more junk-stashing space.
It may be roomy and versatile, but all is not roses inside this Honda. One element I don’t care for is the instrument cluster. Like its body, the Civic’s gauges are unusually robotic, with odd-looking analog meters flanking a mildly reconfigurable center screen. The overall look is a bit hokey and is unlikely to age very well.
A part of this car that’s already out of date is the infotainment system. All versions of the Civic hatch, save the entry-level LX model, come with a Display Audio system and a 7-inch touchscreen. With unattractive graphics and a challenging user interface, it is not one of my favorite multimedia arrays available today. At least Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are included. Top-shelf Sport Touring models also come with a premium 12-speaker audio system, which sounds fine, neither awful nor amazing.
The Civic’s interior is rife with high-quality materials.
Along with its front buckets, the rear outboard seats are heated, which is good, but the lack of any USB ports serving backseat passengers is not. Higher-end versions of this car come with only two such outlets, one delivering 1.5 amps’ worth of juice, the other a measly 1 amp.
One feature of note is the electronic parking brake with automatic hold. Doing away with a mechanical handbrake frees up space on the center console. And I’ve got to say, automatic brake hold has become one of my favorite features. When enabled, a firm push of the pedal while stopped will hold the car stationary, so while waiting at a light you don’t have to keep applying pressure on the brake pedal. It’s a welcome convenience feature, one that’s still fairly uncommon in this vehicle segment.
The Honda Sensing safety suite is standard equipment here and it’s as good as ever. This includes things like forward-collision warning, collision-mitigation braking, adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist. Those last two features work extremely well; in fact, they’re some of the best available in the industry today. The cruise control with lane centering is particularly good, keeping the vehicle locked in the middle of its lane with minimal ping-ponging from one side to the other.
The infotainment system ain’t great, but at least you get a volume knob.
Power and performance
All mainline Civic hatchbacks are powered by a 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. In Sport and Sport Touring models, it delivers a respectable 180 horsepower and either 177 pound-feet of torque when paired with a six-speed manual transmission or 162 lb-ft when bolted to the available CVT. Non-Sport variants brandish 174 hp in their under-hood stables.
Pedantic vagaries aside, this powerplant is smooth and quiet, even when running all-out. Despite the pint-size displacement (technically 1,498 cc is 3.17 US pints, but I digress), this engine delivers plenty of midrange punch, a thick serving of torque right in the heart of its rev range. In normal use, the Civic won’t leave you wanting for more performance as it feels quite lively.
While not quite as responsive as I’d like, this car’s continuously variable transmission is smooth and helps deliver some impressive fuel economy. So equipped, the Civic Hatchback is rated at 29 miles per gallon in the city and 35 on highway drives. Combined, it should return 32 mpg, though in mixed use I’ve seen just shy of 35 mpg. It’s always great when you can beat the EPA’s estimated ratings without even trying.
This is probably the Civic’s least-flattering angle.
This Honda’s ride quality is about on par for a compact car, being neither pillow-soft nor buckboard-stiff. It strikes a nice balance between sport and comfort. At speed, however, this hatchback’s cabin is a bit on the noisy side, with unexpectedly noticeable tire and wind ruckus. Another downside is the design of the C-pillars. They’re chunky, even chonky, and seriously block rearward visibility.
Still a great option
The 2020 Civic hatchback is good at just about everything. Sure, I’d appreciate an updated infotainment system, some nicer instruments and toned-down styling, but the car is so fundamentally solid I can look past these minor faults. If you’re in the market for an efficient, versatile and well-equipped vehicle but don’t want to go the crossover route, make sure to check out this Honda or any of the other Civic body styles. They won’t disappoint.