2020 Honda Civic Review: Sedan Sweetness, Hatchback Happiness

The Honda Civic has been an affordable transportation icon for more than four decades.

Brand: Honda
Product: Civic Sport sedan / Civic Touring sedan / Civic Sport Touring hatchback
Release Date: October 8, 2020
Price: $20,550+
From: automobiles.honda.com

Even the auto-agnostic among us know the name Honda Civic. It’s been a staple of American roads since 1973, with more than 7.3 million rolling out of Stateside dealerships in the last 46 years. Even in the current truck- and SUV-obsessed marketplace, Honda moved 325,760 new Civics last year — and unlike most carmakers, that’s without moving any to rental car fleets. You might not have ever owned a Honda Civic, but odds are good you know somebody who has.

Over the past year, the sedan, coupe and hatchback have all received a mid-life tweak that brought a few small but much-appreciated tweaks, such as extra sound deadening and a better infotainment system that includes a physical volume knob.

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What We Like

Style is always a matter of personal taste, but by most measures, the Civic sedan and hatchback rank among the more visually-appealing members of the compact car category. The sedan’s sleek fastback-like rear calls to mind sleek European four-door “coupes” like the Audi A7 and Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class, while the edgier hatchback serves up a distinctive JDM vibe that’s futuristic without being too over-the-top.

All automatic versions of the Civic now come with a continuously-variable transmission, a category of gearbox that’s been largely maligned over the years for its poor responses and tendency to cause the engine to drone under acceleration. Honda, however, has leveraged its engineering magic to deliver a CVT that does away with practically all the traditional bad traits. And if you really still don’t care for it, the Sport and Touring models offer paddle shifters that provide a simulacrum of six real gears.

Casual buyers likely will care more about the ample space found inside the Civic, however. Much like the larger Accord, this Honda offers more interior room than you’d expect; we filled it up with photo and video gear and three grown men for a recent shoot, and still had room left to spare.

And then, of course, there’s the price. Ignoring the rip-roaring Type R that’s a beast unto itself, even the most expensive Civic — the Hatchback Sport Touring CVT we tested — doesn’t crack $30,000 even with destination charge added on. The Civic Sport stick shift we drove, which packs Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on its 7-inch touch screen, keyless entry and exit, fog lamps, folding rear seats, and 18-inch wheels, among plenty of other features, checked in at $22,380 with destination.

Watch Out For

Two of the three testers we sampled over the last few months — the top-shelf Touring sedan and Sport Touring hatch — both used Honda’s 1.5-liter turbocharged four connected to a continuously-variable automatic; the Sport sedan came with the 2.0 naturally-aspirated inline-four, the only motor paired with the six-speed manual in sedans like our tester.

Enjoyable as it is to row the cogs in the Civic, it’s not worth being stuck with the lesser engine. While the 2.0’s 158-horsepower output doesn’t seem that much weaker than the turbo four’s 174–180 (the former for sedans, the latter for hatchbacks), the torque difference makes it worth the upgrade; the 2.0’s meager 138 pound-feet don’t arrive until 4,200 rpm, while the boosted engine’s 162 are all in attendance by 1,700. (Luckily, you can still get the manual with the turbo four in the Civic Hatchback, in both Sport and Sport Touring trims.)

While the Civic’s interior is roomy, it does feel a bit on the cheap side in a few places; the hard plastics feel chintzier than in some competitors, the leather on the seats and steering wheel barely a step above vinyl. This isn’t too much of a problem in the lower-trim models, but it becomes more of an issue as you climb into the models that cost close to $30K, where competition like Mazda’s Premium-trim Mazda3 and the Mini Cooper become direct competitors.

Other Options

The Toyota Corolla ($19,600+) is the obvious choice, being the Civic’s most iconic rival and also coming in both sedan and hatchback forms. The Mazda3 ($21,500+) offers the same choice of body styles, albeit with a bit more elegance inside and out. On the Korean side, the Hyundai Elantra ($18,950+) and Kia Forte ($17,790+) provide two variations on the same basic ride, while anyone looking for something European can probably grab a great deal on the outgoing VW Golf ($21,845+) or the current VW Jetta ($18,745+).

Verdict

If you’re looking for inexpensive transportation, there are plenty of vehicles out there that are more than able to ferry you about on the cheap. But if you want a car that’s not just inexpensive, but also stylish, well-made and at least a bit of fun to drive, start your search at your local Honda dealership. We’d say the $22,750 Civic Hatchback Sport is the pick of the litter, but feel free to try a few. We did.

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Honda provided this product for review.

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