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2017 Honda Civic Hatchback VTEC Turbo review

Honda has expanded its C-segment family car lineup with a hatchback that’s equally capable as its saloon sibling.

What’s new?

This is the five-door version of the Honda Civic complementing the existing four-door saloon variant in Thai showrooms. For the first time in many years, this strategy gives one of the country’s best-selling brands a two-pronged attack in the Thai C-segment. 

There is only one trim and one engine variant available for the so-badged Civic Hatchback: VTEC Turbo boasting the same 173hp/220Nm 1.5-litre petrol-turbo and CVT automatic as in the range-topping saloon. 

The Civic Hatchback goes for 1.169 million baht – 50,000 baht more than four-door equivalent and the similarly positioned Ford Focus Ecoboost, and some 100k more than the Nissan Pulsar DIG Turbo.

The last time Honda sold a hatchback version of the Civic was in fifth-generation form in the 1990s albeit with three doors. Back then, the Civic hatch was sold as a budget-priced Honda with stripped-down interior.

Today, the tenth-gen Civic Hatchback is seemingly doing the opposite by trying to attract sophisticated palates with one million baht to spend on a C-segment car, which means emotion is probably taking precedence over rationality in such a purchase.

What’s cool?

The most immediate difference the Civic Hatchback has over the saloon in styling terms is the exterior. Obviously. The shorter rear end of the Hatchback is the result of an overall length cut by nearly 130mm, to 4.5m. 

And the Hatchback’s rear windscreen is adorned with some aero bits which look particularly good on the eyes and harmless to ergonomics when seated in the driving cockpit. 

Other than that, the design cues and interior elements are the same as in the saloon. Which isn’t a bad thing, because, the latest Civic scores with bold details and a refreshingly modern cabin.

 Civic Hatchback only comes with 173hp turbo    power in Thailand.

Despite having a small power deficiency over the 180hp Focus and 190hp Pulsar, the 173hp Civic still manages its strut like both of them by being flexible at low revs, lively in the mid-ranges and decently frugal (not for the Pulsar in this particular aspect, though) at over 13kpl on the average. Yes, the Mazda 3 and its non-turbo 2.0-litre petrol engine is rather dated in tech terms when put into perspective here.

The Civic Hatchback’s CVT automatic isn’t some old-gen version, meaning that power delivery is smooth and virtually just as responsive as the Focus’ six-speed torque-convertor auto.

What’s not?

Despite have a generally smooth ride and easy steering setup, the Civic Hatchback lacks the more stable body control and sure-footed handling of the Focus at high speeds. In other words, the Ford feels more assuring to drive upcountry.

And while we’re not necessarily crying out for the Civic Hatchback to additionally come with the naturally aspirated 141hp 1.8-litre petrol motor to choose from, it would be nice if Honda could offer more grades for the VTEC Turbo at lower price points.

Despite being equipped with cabin-filled airbags and chassis electronics, the Civic Hatchback doesn’t come with some driver-assist features the cheaper Focus is boasting.

Buy or bye?

When we first drove the Civic VTEC Turbo in saloon form last year, we found it to be a quick, modern and refined car to be in. Add that with strong brand credentials. But it sheer driving terms, the Focus was the better car.

The case remains for the Civic Hatchback because it merely is a car based on an existing model - with just a different body design, generally speaking.

At least, it’s nice for a major car player – with a sizeable share of the entire Thai car market – to offer several body styles for buyers to choose from. Hey, choice can hardly be a bad thing.

And if you leave out the Focus (for all of its problems on the brand side in Thailand), the Civic Hatchback is easily the better car than the Mazda 3 and Nissan Pulsar.

This is another sign of Honda reinforcing its grip in the car market over a leading nemesis that tends to offer very limited choice to Thai buyers.

Driving cockpit feels more modern than in rivals.

Rear space is more than competitive.

Seats fold down but not in a totally flat manner.

Just like in the saloon version, the hatch is more about driving refinement than engagement.

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