The Honda Civic nameplate has been around since 1972, but even icons need to adapt with the times. Back in 2011, the ninth-generation Civic was widely criticized for a low-rent interior and average driving experience. Honda rushed out an upgrade early, and set about making sure the tenth-generation cars don't suffer the same fate. Enter the new Civic hatch, which is gunning for the Golf with a sharp exterior, practical cabin and fully-independent suspension.
Although it's the most practical offering in the Civic lineup, Honda has worked hard to make sure the new hatch packs the same visual punch as its more exciting brethren. That means it gets twin exhaust pipes at the back, a steeply raked rear windscreen and a front bumper with gaping air intakes. It's a far cry from the last generation's wannabe-spaceship looks, although it isn't nearly as cohesive as the VW Golf or Ford Focus from certain angles.
Backing up the tarted-up exterior is a chassis setup promising to inject a bit of fun into the little Honda's handling. The tenth-generation Civic's body is stiffer and lighter than the model it replaced, while fully independent suspension with liquid-filled bushings at each corner bode well for backroad fun.
Power comes from a turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine available in two trims. Buyers who opt for the car in LX, EX or EX-L trim get 174 hp (130 kW) of power and 220 Nm (162 lb-ft) of torque, while cars in Sport and Sport Touring spec get an extra 6 hp (4.5 kW) from a freer-breathing exhaust setup. Both engine tunes return a combined EPA economy figure of 34 mpg (6.9 l/100km), and can be coupled with a six-speed manual gearbox or CVT transmission.
As is now the norm in everything bar the cheapest compacts on the road, the new Civic Hatch will be available with a full suite of active safety features. That means forward collision warning, lane keeping assist, auto-emergency braking and adaptive cruise will be there to help drivers.
As yet there's no word on pricing for the Civic hatch, but expect it to closely mirror pricing for the coupe, which kicks off at US$19,050. The car will arrive in North American dealerships during the fall, and will provide a preview of the new Civic Type-R that will launch in 2017.