The hatch is back on a Civic like no other

The Washington Post Sunday - - CARS - Warren Brown warren.brown@wash­post.com

Amer­i­can Honda Mo­tor’s spokes­men told me their com­pany was sell­ing a new hatch­back in the United States. I thanked them for the in­for­ma­tion and filed it some­where in the back of my clut­tered mind.

Hon­das are among my fa­vorite cars. But, let’s face it, the lit­tle Civic, be it sedan, coupe or hatch­back — and it hasn’t been hatch­back in Amer­ica for a while — has never been a style leader. It al­ways has been a won­der­fully ordinary lit­tle car — re­mark­able for its re­li­a­bil­ity, ef­fi­ciency and safety. Ex­cept in 2008-2009, when Ja­panese sup­plier Takata smeared its safety rep­u­ta­tion with fa­tally faulty air bags.

Honda has been fight­ing back ever since and do­ing a very good job of it, but not good enough for me to be ex­cited by news of a new Civic hatch­back.

Still, it helps to keep an open mind. It pro­tects you from hav­ing yours blown, as mine al­most was when the 2017 Honda Civic Sport Tour­ing hatch­back was de­liv­ered to my drive­way.

It is a hatch­back with at­ti­tude, cer­tainly the most at­trac­tive Civic I’ve ever seen. It wears a sporty front fas­cia, sculp­tured side pan­els and an up­lifted rear that gives the com­pact, fron­twheel-drive car an in-flight ap­pear­ance.

At first, about the se­cond day be­hind its wheel, I thought the new styling was too much, too bold a de­par­ture from the vanilla ap­proach to re­al­ity that char­ac­ter­ized pre­de­ces­sor Civics. I rad­i­cally changed my mind by the end of the week.

Who­ever thought of this new Civic hatch­back de­sign should get a pro­mo­tion or a raise. Se­ri­ously. Peo­ple in my gen­er­a­tion, baby boomers who have “seen it all,” loved the ex­cel­lently func­tional, sim­ple-as-a-straight-line early Civics.

They were a wel­come counter to the chrome-laden, gas-guz­zling, al­most-as­dys­func­tional-as-a-politi­cian cars rolling out of Detroit.

Note to the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion: You might want to do a se­ri­ous, aca­demic study of the U.S. au­to­mo­bile in­dus­try. You’ll find that Amer­i­can com­pa­nies didn’t start mak­ing their cars else­where solely in pur­suit of cheaper for­eign la­bor. Asian and Euro­pean auto man­u­fac­tur­ers forced them to start pro­duc­ing au­to­mo­biles that Amer­i­cans and al­most ev­ery­one else pre­ferred — cars such as the lit­tle Civic. And, now, Honda has upped the ante again.

The 2017 Civic hatch­back is of­fered in two trim lev­els, Sport and Sport Tour­ing. They are both snazzy. But the Sport Tour­ing has dis­cernibly more at­ti­tude. It ap­peals to a younger gen­er­a­tion — folks who love func­tional sim­plic­ity but who also have a highly tech­ni­cal sense of style.

The Civic Sport Tour­ing gives it to them.

It also gives them a tur­bocharged 1.5liter, gaso­line four-cylin­der in­line en­gine that de­liv­ers a re­spectable 174 horse­power and 162 pound-feet of torque.

It does more — runs well on reg­u­largrade gaso­line at 31 miles per gal­lon in the city and 40 miles per gal­lon on the high­way.

To me, the lit­tle Civics usu­ally have been noisy cars, prone to bat­ter­ing by high winds and rum­bling on rough roads. The 2017 model is sub­stan­tially qui­eter, although not as quiet as one might ex­pect given its ag­gres­sive wind­cheat­ing styling.

Still, I like it.

It is a hatch­back with at­ti­tude, the most at­trac­tive Civic I’ve ever seen.

HONDA

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