The 2020 Honda Civic is the easily the best affordable family car on the market today.
Don't get me wrong. Other manufacturers also make very good inexpensive compacts. They include the Hyundai Elantra, Kia Forte, Mazda3, Nissan Sentra, Sunaru Impreza, Toyota Corolla and Volkswagen Golf and Jetta.
But the Civic's platform is as good or better than any of them. And it is also offered in far more versions than all of them, include coupe, sedan and hatchback models available with five engines and two transmissions. They begin with the basic Civic LX and run up through more performance-oriented versions that include the Si and Type R, which one of the last genuine hot hatches today at any price.
Even the base Civic is sleek, refined, good handling and well equipped. Although the current generation was first introduced in 2016, the styling is still so fresh, the competition is only now catching up. And that includes the interior, which feels more like a sports car than a daily driver. It's hard to remember how plain some previous versions of the Civic were.
Our test version was an upper range Civic Hatch Sport Touring. It included a turbocharged 1.5-liter engine that produced 180 horsepower, two steps above the base normally aspirated 158-horsepower 2.0-liter and optional 174-horsepower 1.5-liter version. Although more powerful versions are available, maxxing out with the 306 horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter in the Type R, we enjoyed the accelaration off the line, along with the ability to easily climb hills and merge with freeway traffic.
As the name says, the Sport version looks, well, sportier than the LX. Our a more aggressive front end with a lower air dam, not one but two integrated rear spoilers, and lower side moldings and attractive 18-inch alloy wheels with all-weather tires, which were appreciated during several spring downpours. Although a six-speed manual is available, our test model included a Continuously Variable Transmission with a Sport mode and paddle shifters. While purists will prefer the manual, we found the CVT more than acceptable for day-to-day driving.
Our Civic also came with a wide range of upgrades, including a complete leather interior, an 8-way power driver's seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, and even a one-touch power moonroof. All Civics now come with the Honda Sensing bundle of driver assists, including forward collision warning with auto braking and pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning, road departure mitigation and more. We especially appreciated the LaneWatch feature that includes a rear-pointing camera in the passenger side rear view mirrow that shows what's beside and behind the right side of the car with the right turn signal is activated. It's a must for bike-crazy cities like Portland.
Our only complaint is the lack of available all-wheel-drive, which only the Subaru Impreza offers because it is standard in virtually all models.
In a week of test driving, our 2020 Honda Civic Hatch Sport Touring was always enjoyable and frequently fun. Although some might not like the angular exterior styling, we always smiled when first approaching the car. All affordable family cars should promise so much performance while still delivering a very respectable 32 miles per gallon.
2020 Honda Civic Hatch Sport Touring
Base price: $20,650 (base LX)
Price as tested: $29,780
Style: Compact hatchback
Engine: Turbocharged 1.5-liter 4 (180 hp, 162 ft-lbs)
Transmission: Continuously Variable Transmission with paddle shifters
Modes: Eco, Normal, Sport
EPA fuel economy: 29/35
Length: 177.4-182.8 inches
Weight: 2,900 pounds
Final assembly point: Swindon, Wiltshire, England
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