A small percentage of the car-buying public still enjoys the mechanics of driving. But manual transmissions are increasingly rare. Meet the 2017 Honda Civic hatchback sport.

Honda decided this year to make its perennially top-selling compact more versatile, via an imported hatchback. The 10th generation of the sedan, manufactured in England, is available with a six-speed manual transmission.

The 2017 Honda Civic hatchback marks the return of the trim.
The 2017 Honda Civic hatchback marks the return of the trim after a 12-year absence. Image © James Raia/2017

While the efficiency of continuously variable transmissions has simplified driving and Honda is at the automotive forefront with its version, the carmaker also appreciates tradition. Thirty years ago, about 25 percent of new cars sold in the United States featured manual transmissions. Today, it’s less than five percent.

The Civic debuted in 1972 and it’s perched between the Honda Fit and the Honda Accord. Although its segment designation has changed from sub-compact to compact and its dimensions also qualify it as a midsize sedan, the Civic hasn’t often been mistaken for a sports car.

But this year, the hatchback joins the soon-to-be re-appearing Civic Si and Civic Type R and gives the Civic its sportiest presence. All three trims offer manual transmissions.

The Civic hatchback, which was last offered in 2005, is powered by a 1.5-liter turbocharged, four-cylinder with 180 horsepower in the Sport model, my test vehicle. The hatchback trim options also include the high-end Sport Touring, fully equipment at $29,135. The Sport trim is priced at $22,135, and its equipment list is also lengthy and impressive.

Gas mileage estimates are 30 miles per gallon in city driving, 39 miles per gallon on the freeway and 33 miles per gallon combined. Honda recommends premium fuel. Acceleration in the standard 0-60 miles per hour test is 7.0 seconds.

Props to Honda for also maintaining another quickly disappearing drivers’ tradition. The new hatchback has a key ignition.

The Civic hatchback, like many other compacts, in now long removed from its box-on-wheels past. The sharp-angled exterior and all of its edginess are polarizing. It’s marketed for younger buyers, but the rest of us need not be excluded.

With its short-shifting manual transmission, driving the Honda Civic hatchback is all about fun. Shifting is smooth. Further, where once the Honda Accord and Honda Civic seemed almost like siblings from different parents, the two are now nearly twins. The Civic’s seats are more comfortable, and cabin noise has been reduced. The Civic in many ways is now an Accord of small dimensions.

The Civic’s available eight-way driver’s seat provides comfort with firm padding. Honda isn’t known for smoothing road imperfections. But Honda’s superior handling dilutes any issues and particularly on long highway hauls, the Civic has a big personality; it’s more refined than its reputation.

With its unusual styling, the new hatchback attracts plenty of attention. During a return from the Bay Area to Sacramento, a fast-approaching driver swung past me to my left in the fast lane and beeped his horn a few times. It wasn’t out of anger. He was also driving a new hatchback Civic with the same exterior colors, White Orchid Pearl with black trim and black wheels. The driver gave me a “thumb’s up” he accelerated past.

The new hatchback shares the same platform as the Honda Civic sedan and coupe. The three trims have all received five stars (the highest rating) by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Likes:

Smooth-shifting transmission.
Fuel economy.
Overall comfort and composure.

Dislikes:

Exterior design is too edgy.
Infotainment functions require a learning curve.

Facts & Figures: 2017 Honda Civic Hatchback (Sport)

Acceleration: 0-60 mph, 7.0 seconds.
Airbags: 6.
Fuel economy: 30 mpg (city), 39 mpg (highway), 33 mpg (combined); six-speed manual transmission.
Horsepower: 180.
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $21,300.00.
Manufacturer’s Web site: www.honda.com.
Price As Tested: $22,135.00.
Warranty: Bumper to bumper, 3 years/36,000 miles; Powertrain, 5 years/60,000 miles; Corrosion, 5 years/unlimited miles.

What Others Say:

“If you want a slightly sportier offering than the competition that won’t break the bank, the Civic Hatchback Sport is a very tough act to beat.” — cnet.com.

The Weekly Driver’s Final Words:

“For years, the Honda Civic, Honda Accord and Honda CR-V been among the country’s 10-top best-selling vehicles. With the value and overall quality of the new hatchback and the other pending sporty trims pending, the Civic’s current status is secure — at the least.”

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