Who says there aren't any low-cost fun cars anymore? Honda recently unveiled a Sport version of its new fivce-door Civic Hatch with a turbocharged 1.5-liter engine, six-speed manual transmission, bucket front seats, 18-inch alloy wheels, dual centered exhaust tips and bold paint combinations for a little over $21,300, not counting delivery charges. That's a bargain for a well designed, well built and stylish compact car that can be driven quickly while still EPA rated at 33 miles per gallon.
Despite the hatchback that lifts to reveal an impressive amount of cargo space, the little Honda isn't exactly a "hot hatch." The engine is not a high-performance version. It's the same one available in non-Sport versions of the Civic, although it generates six more horsepower on premium gas. The little engine revs freely, however, and the six-speed manual shifts easily, making Civic Hatch Sport a joy to drive.
But keeping the price that low comes at a cost. The base Sport model is not available with most of Honda's most advanced safety technologies. And the infotainment screen is just 5-inches in diameter, with no navigation system. In fact, the only option is a Continuously Variable Transmission with paddle shifters.
If you want more features, they're available in the 2017 Honda Sport Touring. It comes with push button start, a 7-inch screen, the Honda Watch package of advanced safety features, a navigation system, satellite radio, Apple CarPlay/Android Audio and more. But, of course, it also costs more, starting at $28,300.
Honda offers faster Civics. The 205 horsepower Si is available as a coupe or sedan. The 306 horsepower Type R is a hatchback, but costs considerably more.
In a week of mixed driving, we thoroughly enjoyed our base 2017 Honda Civic Hatch Sport. The ride was appropriately firm, the steering was precise, the brakes boosted our confidence and, even though it could have used more power, the turbocharged engine was always willing to test the red line. The bright red and glossy black paint combination also attracted a lot of attention. Darker colors are available if you want to be more discrete.
A number of other manufactures also offer small, relatively inexpensive cars that perform better than expected. But it's hard to beat the styling and quality of the 2017 Honda Hatch Sport in that category, especially with such a tempting base price.
2017 Honda Hatch Sport
Base price: $21,300
Price as tested: $22,135
Type: Compact hatchback sedan
Engine: Turbocharged 1.5-liter inline 4 (180 hp, 177 lb-ft) plus electric motor/generator (43 hp, 125 lb-ft)/combined 139 hp, 195 lb-ft)
Transmission: 6-speed manual
EPA estimated mileage: 30/39
Overall length: 176 inches
Curb weight: 2,864 pounds
Final assembly: Swindon, Wiltshire, England