2017 Honda Civic Hatch RS Review
Isaac Bober’s 2017 Honda Civic Hatch RS Review with specs, pricing, performance, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.
In a nutshell: The Honda Civic Hatch completes the garden-variety Civic line-up.
2017 Honda Civic Hatch RS
PRICING $32,290+ORC WARRANTY three-years, 100,000 kilometres SAFETY five-star ANCAP ENGINE 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol POWER 127kW at 5500rpm TORQUE 220Nm from 1700-5500rpm TRANSMISSION CVT DRIVE front-wheel drive DIMENSIONS 4515mm (L); 1799mm (W); 1421mm (H) BOOT SPACE 414 litres FUEL TANK 47L THIRST 6.1L/100km (combined)
THE HONDA CIVIC HATCH followed the Sedan onto the market here in May this year completing the garden-variety Civic line-up. The Hatch added some variety for those who thought the Sedan might make them look like they’d suddenly turned 60.
The Hatch follows the naming structure of the Sedan and the pricing too, and so that means whether you choose one or the other variant ends up coming down to how much you like the styling of one or the other. And, oh my, doesn’t the RS variant we’re testing walk up and smack you in the face with its scoops and skirts and black bits and pieces… and then there’s the twin pipes at the back… we’ll come back to this.
What is the Honda Civic Hatch?
The Civic Hatch completes the garden-variety Civic line-up (the Type R will be here next month) and is based on the same platform as the Sedan. The 10th generation Civic, says Honda, was one of the brand’s most complete and boldest new model undertakings since forever and that’s saying a lot from the company that launched the NSX at a time when it was better known for vehicles like the Civic.
Honda also claims that the arrival of the Hatch gives buyers the opportunity to buy the “sporty and dynamic” hatch or the “bold and successful” Sedan. Only, the way the sedan and the hatch ride and handle is identical. Sure, they’re both a massive step forward compared to the old Civic, but let’s call a spade a spade; the key customer choice here is that the two variants look different… from the back.
Don’t misread me here, I’m not suggesting the Civic is a dud. The thing was benchmarked against the likes of the Audi A3 and Volkswagen Golf, Honda claims it worked on improving the Civic in key areas, including ride, handling, steering and noise, vibration and harshness performance. This saw the thing’s suspension honed on high-speed autobahns in Germany, while hot weather testing was carried out in Australia. Indeed, Honda Australia, for the first time ever said that it had been involved right from the very beginning of the Civics development.
The Hatch like the Sedan is available in five grades and with two engines, base models get a 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine and higher-spec models get a 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder making 127kW and 220Nm of torque; this is the engine that’s in our RS variant.
Sticking with the RS we’re testing… we mentioned the looks but digressed. This thing looks all the world like it climbed into the Civic Type R’s clothes bin and threw on a t-shirt and pair of pants belonging to the hot hatch in the family. From the front, the scoops and skirts work; the snout looks low and wide and angry, but from the rear and, sorry Honda, it kind of looks like a spaceship and an awkward looking one at that. More than that, the Sedan kind of came across as a liftback-meets-hatchback anyway, but, the Hatch is here now, so, let’s go for a spin.
What’s the interior of the Honda Civic Hatch RS like?
Across the range, the Hatch features a digital speedo behind the steering wheel, with the display able to show infotainment and communication menus to ensure the driver’s eyes remain fixed on the road; indeed, Honda claims there’s only a five-degree eye movement to check the speedo and menu items, but a 15-degree eye movement to check the centre screen.
That centre screen is only a seven-inch unit and it looks small. The system offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity and is feature rich but the menu is fiddly to use and I’d stick to using your smartphone for maps and music.
Other key features include the mobile phone shelf at the back of the centre console with a hole at the back to pass the cables through… it keeps the phone out of reach so that you won’t be tempted to pick it up while driving. And the cup holders are nice and deep to keep you from bumping your cup of coffee over. You can remove the cup holders and liberate 7.2 litres of storage space which is enough space to hold an iPad.
The interior, in general, is good with plenty of soft touch surfaces and good quality leather used on the seats, but there are elements that let it down, like the fact that the centre console is made of thin, hard, scratchy plastic and, that when you close the doors they close with a slightly tinny sound. It certainly doesn’t give the same premium feel you get from the new Subaru Impreza or the Hyundai i30.
What’s the passenger space like?
You expect the Hatch to be smaller in the back but that’s not the case at all; the rear roofline is taller than the sedan by a little bit. I managed to sit comfortably behind the front seat that had been adjusted to suit me. The two outboard seats are well shaped while the middle one is a perch rather than a seat.
There’s only one pocket on the back of the passenger’s front seat and there are no rear air vents. There are ISOFIX mounts on the two outboard seats only.
Over in the front the seating set up feels good although the seats do feel rather low-slung which might feel a little odd for those not used to sporty seating positions. Of course, you can adjust the seat forwards, backwards and up and the steering offers reach and height adjustment too. The seats are well shaped and I’ve found them to be comfortable on longer drives; one little niggle, and it’s more to do with my legs than the car, is that where my knee touches the centre console is right on a join in the plastic and, on longer drives, this can become quite irritating; think of someone scratching your leg in the one spot for an hour.
Vision out the front and sides is good although the rear three-quarter is slabby which makes Honda’s lane-watch camera system so very useful when overtaking or turning a corner. The camera is mounted in the wing mirror and activates when the indicator is turned on, or can be manually activated via the right-hand stalk. My only gripe is that there isn’t one in the right-hand window too… it’s such a great little thing.
What’s the boot space like?
What about the boot? Well, it’s a good shape and easy to drop items into and then lift them back out again, but it’s smaller than the Sedan’s at 414 litres (sedan offers 517-519 litres). That said, it pips competitors, like i30 and Impreza.
The side-mounted luggage cover is cool and means you don’t have to remove a rigid cover and stash it under your bed when it’s not needed. Lift the boot floor and there’s a temporary spare lurking beneath. Honda has made mention of the fact it has carpeted the boot and that’s good news as it helps to filter out some of the road noise that would otherwise thunder up from the rear wheels into the cabin.
What’s the Honda Civic Hatch RS like to drive?
Honda has fitted the Civic with a new multi-link rear suspension setup that’s been rigidly mounted to the rear sub-frame to improve lateral stability, and it’s also fitted, to the front and rear, hydraulic compliance bushings which are usually only fitted to more expensive cars, but are great at insulating against steering wheel shake and road noise transmission.
Thicker anti-roll bars at the front and rear, compared with its predecessor, help to keep body movements in check, while a body that’s 25% stiffer and packed full of insulation mean the Civic Hatch offers the ride, handling and interior quietness (thanks to impressive underbody insulation) of a more expensive feeling car.
The handling work reveals itself at the first corner you tip the thing into with a resistance to bodyroll and impressive grip. The ride is impressive with even hard-edged hits heard rather than felt. Now, I haven’t driven the rest of the range, but the RS gets 17-inch alloys and slightly grippier rubber than others in the line-up on 16s, and so grip is good as is the noise insulation across a range of surfaces. Our first drive of the Civic Hatch mentioned road noise from this wheel and tyre package, but across the Practical Motoring road loop which includes dirt, I didn’t find that at all. About all I noticed was a little bit of wind noise from around the wing mirrors.
The steering is good and gets better as the speed increases or the car has settled into the corner. There’s a bit of sponginess to the straight-ahead and first few degrees off centre but, as I said, this falls away after that initial movement. The hydraulic compliance bushings, as Honda suggested, ensures that mid-corner bumps do nothing to upset the cornering stance or steering. The brakes are good with a progressive action.
The engine is a 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder making 127kW at 5500rpm and 220Nm of troque from 1700prm to 5500rpm. This is mated to a CVT which, on par with the CVTs from Subaru, sets the benchmark for just how good a CVT can be. I’ll brook no complaints about this one… it’s smooth, quiet and responsive to the throttle and it makes the most of the power and torque available.
The Civic Hatch is not going to snap your head off with acceleration but it’s got enough grunt to keep up with traffic and ensure hills are dispatched with ease, even with the family on board. Give it the full size-12 and Honda reckons its G-Design shift will create the sense of ‘stepped ratios’ like a conventional automatic for a more connected drive experience, and I’d agree with that.
Work with the CVT and throttle and you can make pretty swift progress in the Civic Hatch. Sure, the thing isn’t as fun to punt along a twisting road as, say, an i30 SR,but you won’t die of boredom behind the wheel either.
What safety features does the Civic Hatch RS get?
The Civic Hatch shares the Sedan’s five-star ANCAP rating. Civic Hatch gets airbags, traction and stability controls, as well as clever front seatbelts with automatic tensioners and load limiters which work in conjunction with the airbags and so will immediately tighten in the event of a collision, but then relax tension slightly to avoid causing injury to the occupant via the seatbelt. The new Civic gets an electric park brake with automatic brake hold function, which is handy in stop-start traffic. All models get a multi-angle reversing camera which offers a wide-angle view, a narrower view a top-down view, front and rear parking sensors are also standard from VTi-S up.
However, disappointingly, only the top-spec VTi-LX gets Honda Sensing which includes AEB, lane departure warning, road departure mitigation, forward collision warning, lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow.
So, what do we think of the Civic Hatch RS?
Well, if the Sedan is a little too staid for you then the Hatch is likely to appeal and especially so in RS trim. It’s hard to fault the ride and handling which places it among the very best in the class. Some of the hard, scratchy trim knocks the shine off an otherwise good interior. The lack of active safety features you get in key competitors and the fact this thing lines up so very closely to the i30 SR Premium which gets a full active safety suite mean the Civic Hatch is marginally behind the eight ball on the value for money equation. And that’s a shame because it’s a good machine.