2017 Honda Civic Hatchback: It’s so endearing, a grievous fault is … – STLtoday.com

Driving the new Honda Civic hatchback is like true romance: your significant other is so attractive, so much fun and makes your life so much better, you can overlook faults that are enough to give a woodpecker a headache.

That’s Civic.

The fun aspect is Civic’s marvelous turbo four, which pairs to either a six-speed manual or a remarkably satisfying CVT automatic.

The life-easing simplicity is this five-door’s versatility, which allows it to haul a small-crossover-like 46 cubic-feet of stuff with the rear seats folded or, should people be the payload, transform to a civilized ride with comfortable seating for four (five in a pinch, but then rear-seat occupants won’t be quite so comfortable).

Meanwhile, its appearance, whether in LX, EX, EX-L, Sport or Sport Touring trim, ranges from simply attractive in the more conservative letter-trim duds to an absolute knockout in the Sport Touring we drove.

Our Rallye Red Sport Touring featured a lusty face with a blacked-out grille and black mesh in both the lower air dam and faux air intakes. The profile showed more audacity, with dark rocker panel appliques, smoked 18-inch wheels and a rising beltline that gives this guy the appearance of forward motion even at rest. Finally, there’s the I’m-ahead-of-you rump, with twin spoilers, one atop, one below the fast backlight, two coffee can-sized tailpipes bundled in middle and twin black faux air ducts aping the front-end look.

This car says, “Hey, look at me!”

And all that allows us to overlook its most grievous fault: an infotainment interface — perhaps the most maddening in the business — that is devoid of easy-to-use knobs or handy, redundant center-stack buttons. It’s navigated via display-screen touch pads and sliders or — only a slight improvement — steering wheel controls. Operating it is more frustrating than trying to find your glasses without your glasses. (It’s worth noting Honda’s CR-V had the same sort of gawd-awful interface, but added a radio-volume knob in its 2017 redesign. Civic might take a hint.)

Motivation for the hatchback, which joins its Civic sedan and coupe brethren, is provided exclusively by a 1.5-liter turbo four that makes 174 hp in letter trims, 180 in Sport and Sport Touring.

Our Sport Touring’s CVT tranny was a revelation. No droning! Its artificially induced shift points are notable yet smooth, like a first-rate step-gear automatic. If you weren’t tipped off, you’d never know it was a CVT.

Finally, our Sport Touring’s cabin trim was, well, sporty, with red-faced gauges, a black decor and faux matrix appliques.

Here’s one more hatchback that likely will erode Americans’ storied resistance to that rump-gap body style.

Dan Wiese is a freelance automotive writer. He is a regular contributor to the Post-Dispatch and to AAA Midwest Traveler magazine’s online Web Bonus. You can email him at drivingwithdan@gmail.com


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