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You know that phrase about patience being rewarded? Turns out it's as applicable to cars as it is to finally chowing down on a long-braised stew. The satisfying element here isn't beef chuck but the all-new Honda Civic Hatchback.

Yes, the Civic is now available as a hatchback, and for those not quite up on their Honda history, that's where our patience-as-virtue comes into play. While hatchback versions of the Civic have existed in other parts of the world, they've been forbidden fruit in America for many years. All told, it's been nearly 30 years since we last saw a 5-door Civic hatchback sold in the U.S. of A.

Now, for buyers seeking the efficiency, refinement, value and playful manners of the latest-gen Civic but with greater cargo capacity and flexibility, the wait is over. On sale now, the 2017 Honda Civic Hatchback is part of a greater Civic story. The all-new, 10th-gen Civic debuted as a sedan, was followed by a coupe, and now arrives as a 5-door hatch. And in the words of a late-night infomercial, we can say: "But wait! There's more!" Soon to follow will be performance-oriented versions of Honda's popular compact car with the Civic Si, and the hotly anticipated Honda Civic Type-R, which is based on this hatchback.

Euro-inspired, Euro-built

As perhaps another reward for our patience, Civic Hatchback buyers can be further satisfied in knowing we're the first to get imports of Honda's new hatch. And where it's imported from may surprise you. While your typical 2017 Civic is built in the United States, the hatchback actually comes from the United Kingdom.

After much anticipation, we recently drove the new Civic Hatchback and, yes, it was indeed rewarding.

Unlike the Civic sedan and coupe, whose base models employ a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter 4-cylinder, the 2017 Civic Hatchback comes standard with the 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that propels higher-trim variants of the other two.

Producing 174 horsepower (or 180 in Sport and Sport Touring models), the new Civic Hatchback moves with a sense of urgency. This 1.5-liter is a fantastic little engine that is highly responsive and surprisingly economical. Several of the trims -- there's five in all -- earn up to 40 mpg, and all have combined EPA ratings in the mid-30s. During our recent drive from San Francisco to Monterey in Northern California, we found that to be spot on, averaging around 35 mpg on a wide mix of roads ranging from suburban crawl to open highways and winding backwoods byways. A further tip of the hat goes to Honda for being able to pull off those kind of fuel economy figures without having to resort to an engine start/stop system that cuts power an idle, as so many other automakers are doing to mixed results at best.

Also: Class of 2017 - New Cars Ready to Roll

Easy rider

The Civic Hatchback felt ultimately at ease over every road we encountered. It was Civic compliant when trotting along on the usual highways and city streets, yet ready to play on the backroads. If not quite as sharp as a Mazda3, the Civic feels more planted. In addition to the turbocharged engine and sporty-feeling chassis and suspension setup, credit must be given to the transmissions. The optional continuously variable transmission (CVT) that most buyers will opt for feels like a traditional automatic, ready to mimic kicking down gears when you plant your foot. But the 6-speed manual transmission mustn't be overlooked. In a world where almost every new car is bought with an automatic, the Civic's manual transmission is as crisp and refreshing as cold seltzer on a summer day. It costs less, too.

Finally, we really like the steering feel of this vehicle. It's firm enough to feel sporty, communicates the road well, and most of all doesn't feel artificial despite being an electronic power steering (EPS) steering.

None of these findings should be a surprise if you've been following the Honda Civic story. Our impressions of the 10th-gen Civic sedan have been great -- it was just crowned the overall Kelley Blue Book Best Buy Award winner for a second year in a row.

Practical edge

What gives the hatchback an edge over the sedan is its extra dose of utility. While the sedan's trunk is large at 15.1 cubic feet, the hatchback boasts up to 25.7 cubic feet of storage capacity behind its rear seats. Fold them, and you're looking at 46.2 cubic feet -- nearly the same as a small SUV. The load area is highly usable, too, with 60/40-split seats that fold nearly flat. Even the tonneau cover is ingenious. Rather than sliding back and having a crossbar to deal with, this one slides sideways. Furthermore, the unit it rolls into and out of can be mounted on either side of the hatch , and while it takes up little space, can be unmounted to fit especially bulky items. This is progress, friends.

Also: Kelley Blue Book Best Buy Awards of 2017

But wait, there's more!

Beyond rewarding driving manners, efficiency and practicality, the Civic Hatchback boasts many other well-regarded features of the Civic sedan and coupe, and a few that aren't loved so much. Available is the recommended Honda Sensing suite of safety features that includes forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist and active cruise control. Honda Sensing is available on even the lowest trim -- the Civic Hatchback LX -- and is included on the top-line Sport Touring model.

On the not-so-loved end of the spectrum is a touch-based audio, climate control and information system that is finicky at best and frustrating at worst. We've already harped on Honda enough for a lack of volume knob, but other aspects can disappoint, too, including small touch-screen buttons that take precision aim of a finger and a USB port that is awkwardly placed near the driver's right knee. On the other hand, we like that it comes ready to play with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Here's a secret: If you want a Civic Hatchback without the fuss of that Honda Display Audio system, buy an LX or Sport model, which have simpler interfaces -- and buttons! -- for climate and audio functions. Since these are lower on the trim rung, they don't come with all the goodies of the other models, but in this respect that isn't a bad thing, and will cost you less, too.

And that brings us to pricing. Including destination, the 2017 Honda Civic Hatchback begins at $20,535 for a manual transmission LX model. Add a CVT automatic, and you're looking at $21,335 -- still an excellent value, especially when you factor in the Civic's traditionally high resale and low ownership costs. Sport models, which add a few horsepower, neat-o center-mounted twin exhaust outlets, paddle shifters on CVT models, larger wheels, revamped steering input and more, start at $22,135. Add $1,500 for EX models and $2,500 beyond that for a leather-lined EX-L model with navigation. At the top of the this Hatchback pack is the Sport Touring model, which debuts just over $29,000. LX, EX and EX-L Navi models are on sale now, with Sport and Sport Touring trims joining in the coming weeks.

No matter which trim you opt for, our initial brushes with the all-new Civic Hatchback have shown it to hit the bulls-eye of the sport + practicality equation. 


 

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