Car Review: Need more space in a compact? The 2017 Honda Civic Hatch delivers

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WASHINGTON — 2017 seems to be the year of the compact hatchbacks again with Chevy and now Honda adding the once popular five-door hatches back to their lineups.

For years, Volkswagen, Mazda and Ford have pretty much been the big players in the compact hatch market. Now, you have three choices of how many doors you want with your Honda Civic, the coupe, the sedan and the hatch, giving you more options with the popular Civic.

I drove the top-of-the-line Civic hatch Sport Touring model and while this has the base engine, it puts out 180hp — really decent for a compact hatch.

Honda has been switching over to smaller turbocharged engines lately, and this small 1.5L turbo engine moves the Civic without any problem, with good acceleration and power for passing.

Some trim levels have a manual transmission but my Sport Touring comes with a CVT automatic only. There is some drone in certain situations but it’s pretty good most of the time.

Fuel economy is strong. I managed 34 mpg for the week and better than the sticker, 32 mpg. Honda has spent time making sure that this is a more hushed ride with less wind noise and road noise than the Civic of just a few years ago. But I did notice some squeaks and rattles a few times over rough roads. The Civic Hatch handles well, too. It’s not as sporty as the Mazda 3 but it’s not too far off at all.

The $29,175 Civic Sport Touring stands out from the crowd with what I would call comic-book styling. Honda didn’t play it safe at all. With bold colors, like my test vehicle’s Sonic Gray, the car looks sort of blue sometimes. From front to back the Civic delivers interesting shapes and no real straight lines on the car.

The front end has a lot of blacked-out trim which includes the grill and around the fog lights. There are body creases at the lowers portion of the doors and the large 18-inch wheels seem push to the edges of the car.

Even the rear-end styling stands out with dual center exhaust tips, a rear spoiler and blacked-out trim give it its sporty look. This is more a true hatchback than wagon like than most of the competition.

The inside is toned down compared to the exterior styling. That’s a good move, in my opinion.

I wasn’t a big fan of the previous Civic with its strange two-tier dash. This is a simple yet handsome place to be. With the Sport Touring trim level it’s complete with all the goodies like leather-trimmed seats, steering wheel and shift knob.

Seat comfort is a bit firm but it seems better than in the past and four adults will fit nicely. You also get heated seats, front and back, and there’s a standard power moonroof that tilts and slides. NAV and a rearview camera also come on this Sport Touring Civic Hatch with a seven-inch touch screen. There are no knobs and the systems can be slow. It even froze and restarted itself on me once.

Luckily, there are some controls on the steering wheel but I still would like some knobs.

Safety is a plus with the Honda Sensing Package with adaptive cruise, collision warning and mitigation which applies the brakes if you don’t. There’s also lane departure warning and lane keep assist plus if you start to go off the road it will apply the brakes.

The 2017 Honda Civic Hatch offers more space than the normal compact sedan but adds a big helping of style. With standout looks you also get a nice all-around compact that has good performance and fuel economy. With prices starting around $20,000, you can stand out in the crowd without breaking the bank with the Honda Civic Hatch.

Mike Parris is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association. The vehicles are provided by STI, FMI or Event Solutions for the purpose of this review.