If you want a reliable, compact, and economical car, you’ll consider a Honda Civic. I don’t care who you are. And if you want to stretch that usability even further, then you’d absolutely consider a 2020 Honda Civic Hatchback.
It’s just an added bonus the car is actually quite fun to drive, too.
(Full Disclosure: Honda loaned me a 2020 Civic Hatchback Sport Touring for the weekend and included a full tank of gas and an E-ZPass for all my tolls. Among other things, I used it to fetch my boyfriend from LaGuardia Airport because that’s romance, baby.)
The Civic comes in all sorts of body styles, all kinds of trims, and at several levels of enthusiast offerings. I didn’t choose this hatch; it chose me (or, rather, the fleet company offered it to us and we said yes). But I’m glad it chose me because I enjoyed it very much.
The Honda Civic was first introduced in the early ’70s. The five-door hatchback body style soon followed later on in the decade. Now, the Civic is in its tenth generation. It’s bigger than ever (177.9 inches long and 70.8 inches wide; the first Civics measured 139.8 and 146.9 inches long), but it’s also spacious and extremely functional.
The 2020 Civic Hatchback offers sedan space for its five passengers but also hatchback storage capabilities for all their cargo. The car might be unrecognizable from the one that first debuted nearly 50 years ago, but the Civic still maintains that same philosophy of affordability, economy, and practicality.
From its 1.5-liter, turbocharged, four-cylinder, the Civic hatch in Sport Touring trim makes 180 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque (this is with the CVT transmission; with the six-speed manual, the Civic hatch has 177 lb-ft of torque).
Seating three adults in the rear is definitely possible, but it’d be a little tight. Hope you’re comfortable rubbing shoulders. Cargo capacity comes to 22.6 cubic feet with the seats up. It’s enough room if four people needed to store four medium-sized suitcases. Curiously, however, the non-Sport Touring Hatchback trims offer slightly more cargo space (25.7 cubic feet) according to this spec sheet.
The Civic Hatchback’s mileage estimates are impressive as well. It gets an EPA-rated 29 mpg in the city, 35 mpg on the highway and 32 mpg combined. And, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the car scored five stars on its overall vehicle score, as well as in frontal crash, side crash, and rollover tests.
Think about it this way: If you buy a Civic for yourself now, your son or daughter will get a very safe hand-me-down car later on when they’re ready.
I’ve been in big cars before where the exterior girth mysteriously didn’t translate to much interior space. The Jaguar XF Sportbrake, for example. The Civic, on the other hand, has an airy and spacious cabin. There’s room to move around, there’s room for your stuff, there’s room for your elbows, there’s room to breathe.
Sure, the cabin is more on the basic side, but this isn’t some fancy Lexus that needs 14 different kinds of trim to make up a door panel. This is a Civic. It’s functional. Is everything there to do its job? Yes. Cupholders nice and deep? Yes. Some thoughtfully positioned nooks and crannies for your phone, keys, and wallet? Yes. All important controls visible and easily accessible? Yes.
Then it’s perfect.
Unfortunately, I’d also have to say the Civic falls into the category of New Cars That Are Difficult To See Out Of. Front and side visibility are alright, but you can’t really see anything out the back. The hatch design means it’s got thick C-pillars and an aggressively slanted rear window, so you’ll be relying a bit more on your mirrors here.
And try as I might, I couldn’t ignore the drone of the four-cylinder that drilled into the cabin at the higher rev range. It’s not a pleasant sound, unchanging in its unenthused moan, only growing louder as you speed up.
My final gripe concerns the Civic’s looks. Here, I find myself conflicted. On the one hand, I think the Civic Type R looks righteous, full of angles and wings and flares and such. On the other, I feel like this same aesthetic is far too extra for something more pedestrian like the Civic hatch.
Couldn’t Honda’s designers have dialed it back a bit for the regular Civics, and then unleashed their pens on the Type R only? Not everyone wants something as over-designed as the current Civics for their daily.
In news that surprises approximately nobody, the Civic is a wonderful commuter car. Perhaps the best in its class. It doesn’t handle as though it’s as petite as a Toyota Corolla, but it’s still a pleasant and enjoyable thing to fling about. This especially comes from how light it feels on its feet. You can flick it around easily, perform last-minute emergency maneuvers and car will respond without complaint. Rather, it seems to relish in the normal stuff. This is where it shines.
It’s a wonderful sense of liberation because most cars today aren’t springy and light-footed. They feel big and heavy. Lazy. Driving the Civic, even to run errands like picking people up from LaGuardia, was like shedding a heavy winter coat. Your road experience, no mattering where you’re going, becomes more alert overall. Fresher.
The Civic hatch is no sports car, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t try and behave like one. At higher speeds, that light-footedness translates into tossability. The ride and chassis don’t feel as tightly solid as a Volkswagen Golf’s, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a little grin tugging at my mouth through all this.
Putting the car into sport mode gives it a little more urgency, but this is where I would have really appreciated the manual instead of the CVT. See, being stuck in traffic and driving around the neighborhood with the CVT isn’t terrible at all. It keeps a relatively low profile. But as soon as you want the shifts to come faster and with more conviction, the CVT is a drag. Like trying to pull the gears through a tub of molasses.
And since you can get the Civic hatch with a six-speed manual, why the hell wouldn’t you?
If all you care about is having a Civic hatchback, then the base model that comes to $21,750 MSRP is a good deal. You get a hell of a lot of highly competent car for a very reasonable amount of money, just slightly less power than some of the other higher trims.
My loaner, as mentioned above, came in the Sport Touring trim, which is the highest trim you can have. It includes interior leathers, a premium audio system, power seats, adaptive cruise control, emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, and road departure mitigation. After you factor in destination and handling, the total price of the car came to an MSRP of $29,780.
I don’t know about you and your driving habits, but I sure wouldn’t need stuff like a good sound system, a leather interior, and driver assistance systems in my Civic. They don’t add to or take away from the Civic-ness of the experience. Ask yourself this: do you truly need all the luxury gizmos? They’re nice, but they are also expensive to fix if any of it goes wrong.
And if you want the manual, know that it’s offered on both the high-end Sport Touring trim and the lower-end Sport trim. Skip the CVT and do yourself a favor.