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Driven: 2018 Honda Civic Hatchback Sport Touring is a machine of few weaknesses

Our 2018 Honda Civic tester was powered by a 1.5-litre, four-cylinder, 180-horsepower, turbocharged engine.
Our 2018 Honda Civic tester was powered by a 1.5-litre, four-cylinder, 180-horsepower, turbocharged engine. - Justin Pritchard

The Honda Civic is a machine many shoppers buy for reasons that have little to do with how it drives.

Resale value, safety, reliability, sensibility and the likelihood that owning a Civic won’t cause you any grief, are key among them.

My tester was a Sport Touring Hatchback, brimming with features at a fully-loaded price of about $31,000.

The looks are distinctive, making Civic easy to identify instantly, even from a distance. Great big LED tail lamps and centre-mounted exhausts help generate some uniqueness.

The interior is nicely trimmed, among the segment’s most modern looking, and as unique as the exterior in terms of styling, thanks to a fully-digital instrument cluster, unique centre-mounted touch-screen interface and a driving position that seats occupants low in the cabin for a coupe-like-but-not-cramped feel.

I noted no issues with entry or exit, front seats are adult friendly and rear seats can comfortably accommodate two average grownups, though the area near rear-seat occupant heads can feel a little congested thanks to the shape of the rear door openings.

Materials are mostly upscale and convey a sense of quality, though some of the plastic panelling seems too easily scratched. Notably, the touchscreen interface is a bit clutzy and the graphics are good, not great, though the system is easy to figure out after a few minutes.

At-hand storage and charging provisions are generous, with no fewer than three deep bins within reach of the driver, numerous USB charging ports, and a wireless charging pad for compatible smartphones. No issue keeping your items stored away, organized and juiced on the go.

Android Auto and Apple Car play were also included, for on-screen, voice-activated access to a multitude of advanced Smartphone functions.

In back, the cargo hold is wide, square, easy to load and has a load floor at a height easily accessible to most family canines.

Feature content for the money hits hard. On board were radar cruise, a lane-change assist camera to keep an eye on the hard-to-see right-hand side of the car when you signal, a backup camera, automatic climate control, a sunroof and heated leather seats.

With a plethora of advanced safety systems and numerous automatic and self-activating features, the Civic Sport Touring Hatchback is nicely equipped for confident, set-it-and-forget-it driving.

Powerful LED lights and a decent stereo help round out the package and support the ‘Touring’ designation applied to my tester. But the ride does not.

Simply, the “Touring” designation seems to better reflect the connectivity, safety systems and feature content on offer to long-distance drivers, more so than the ride.

It’s not an uncomfortable ride, but the suspension is more on the sporty side, firmer than some shoppers will like, and seems more focused on feeling athletic, not floating-on-a-cloud comfortable.

Further, from highway speeds and beyond, tire noise becomes more intrusive than I expect for the money. I’d like my touring car to be a little softer and quieter and you might, too.

No gripes about the “Sport” side of the Sport Touring nomenclature, though.

The 1.5-litre turbo engine delivers solid and pleasing performance since it’s rich with torque and performs well in virtually all conditions. Given the eagerness and output, it’s also surprisingly easy on fuel — you could easily put this much gas through any number of less powerful engines in the segment.

The tester included a gear-free CVT automatic transmission which feels, mostly, like a regular automatic and improves performance while keeping fuel use down. You can order this car with a proper six-speed stick.

Pushed, the little engine provides a nice shove into your seat and sounds meatier than its small displacement leads on.

Further, steering and brakes are both a touch more precise and athletic in terms of their feel at your hands and feet than the norm. Both systems demonstrate an all-purpose feel with a little extra responsiveness dialed in.

All said, it’s Sport Touring, heavy on the “sport.”

Two other notes: the LED headlamps are powerful and potent and proved a welcome companion for after-dark drives, and the suspension, despite being a little stiff, has a soft edge to the travel of the shocks, which helps mitigate the most jarring parts of heavy pothole impacts.

The result is a solid and durable feel, even when striking craters that see your soul temporarily leave your body.

Gripes included the lack of a conventional volume control knob (you have to tap the touch screen) and low-resolution camera displays. Here’s an instantly-recognizable compact that’s generously equipped, sensible, easy on the eyes, easy on the fuel funds and one brimming with thoughtful touches and design implements that make it easy to live with.

It may be a little too stiff or loud for some shoppers after a true touring car, but aside from a few gripes, it’s a machine with many strengths and few weaknesses.

The specs

  • Model: 2018 Honda Civic Hatchback Sport Touring
  • Engine: 1.5-litre four-cylinder, turbocharged, 180 horsepower
  • Drivetrain: front-wheel drive
  • Transmission: CVT with paddle shift
  • Features: sunroof, Bluetooth, navigation, Android Auto, wireless smartphone charging, backup camera, Lane Watch camera, radar cruise, lane keeping assist system, push-button start, heated leather seats, automatic climate control
  • What’s hot: excellent feature content for the price, good looks, thoughtful interior, flexible and accommodating, smooth and punchy driveline, great fuel mileage, good headlights
  • What’s not: tire noise at speed, low-resolution camera displays, some easily-scratched plastics
  • Price as tested: $31,000

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