One Week With the 2020 Honda Civic Sport Touring Hatchback
A fun, spacious, practical car for troubling times.
There was no audacious rear wing on this 2020 Honda Civic Sport Touring hatchback, nor the 306-horsepower, 23.2-psi turbocharged 2.0-liter engine, the snick-snicky six-speed manual, nor the 20-inch wheels and red "R" badging of the Civic's sportiest variant. My first experience with the mid-cycle refresh of the best compact car on the market, the best compact Honda has ever built, was to be this $30,000-ish Sport Touring hatchback.
Its price is a good 10 times the original sticker price of my first Civic, a '78 yellow CVCC five-speed that was decidedly less expensive than $3,000 when I bought it nearly eight years old (and was disappointed because the shady used car dealer probably built it out of two or three Civics, and had closed up his corner lot by the time my car blew its head gasket two weeks into ownership).
That CVCC hatchback didn't keep me from buying a red 1987 Honda Civic CRX five-speed as my first brand-new car, and 26 years since I last drove it, this new Civic Sport-not-Type R hatch really appealed to me, in part because I had the "middle" CRX DX-the enthusiast's Si was a bit out of my financial reach, considering dealers in SoCal were still marking them up, and who knows how much a late-20s single guy would have paid for insurance on one of those.
I took possession of this new 2020 Civic on my last day at the office before becoming a work-at-home employee and doggie daddy. Having just replaced a Lincoln Corsair compact crossover, not really that much larger than this car, the Civic Sport hatchback might be all I'd need to get through The End of the World as We Know It.
The 2020 Honda Civic Sport Touring hatchback got a facelift for this model year, to catch up with the '19 facelift for Civic sedans and coupes. It has a new lower front and rear fascia, new black trim around the improved, wider and larger LED headlamps, new black or gray wheel options, new interior trim with a brushed black treatment for Sport Touring and EX-L and added sound insulation in the floor, trunk, and front- and rear-fenders.
The 10th-generation Honda Civic, all-new for the 2016 model year, already was perhaps the smoothest and quietest in the compact segment, a big advance for a model that always seemed to sacrifice sound insulation in favor of lower weight. This 2020 Civic Touring, though as large as the Accord from a few generations ago, manages to maintain weight of roughly 3,000 pounds.
Most importantly, this year's Civic Sport Touring is available with the six-speed manual option for the first time, though unfortunately my tester came with the CVT. The six-speed manual shaves $800 from the sticker and 67 pounds from the curb weight, adds 2 mpg to the EPA highway fuel mileage number and gains 17 pound-feet, with horsepower peaking 500 rpm lower. Why would anybody go for the CVT, assuming you can find the manual at your local dealership?
The manual would have made this car the perfectly optioned non-Type R in my mind; a more comfortable daily driver, and one you don't feel the need to keep cooking near the redline. The all-black interior with the new brushed black trim looks modern and purposeful. All four leather-covered outboard seats with monotone center vertical accents, front and rear, are heated, earning the Civic Touring the kind of "Teutonic" luxury adjective auto magazines used to apply to cars like the BMW 2002.
Driving (mostly) for necessary trips in this time of coronavirus means limited fun in the already curve-averse Metro Detroit region. The first thing one notices is the superb (especially for a front-wheel-drive car) steering. It's sharp and quick, and made that much more obvious when getting out of a relaxed compact crossover.
My handling test was relegated to a couple of on-/off-ramp sweepers. The '20 Civic Sport Touring leans in with a bit of understeer and obvious tire flex from the Continental Conti Pro Contact all-season rubber, but they bite nicely, and you can usher the hatchback through corners with confidence and urgency. More aggressive summer or three-season tires no doubt would narrow the gap to Type R handling prowess.
Honda's CVT is one of the better ones in the business, but you still get that shiftless windup under heavy acceleration. It's not as satisfying as a Honda manual. The 1.5-liter turbo offers more than adequate power and thrust. It doesn't beg for racetrack time like the 2.0-turbo Type R, of course, but it wouldn't be unsatisfying, either, around a tight road racing circuit. But then, this isn't the Type R, and it's not supposed to be. So how about practicality in the new normal?
The Civic hatchback has 46 cubic-feet of cargo space, versus 52 cu-ft in my 2018 Subaru Crosstrek. Much of that is probably the fast hatchback rake versus the Crosstrek's more wagon-like profile over the cargo area. While the 2020 Honda Civic Sport Touring hatchback certainly is not the ideal good three-dog hauler, it does offer lots of space for a nominally compact hatchback.
The Civic's large cargo space, with the rear seat down, seems especially right for these times, when you never know what you may need to transport. One test for me is whether the Civic Sport hatchback can accommodate my new city bike, which has pretty much the same paint scheme as this Sonic Gray Pearl car, without detaching the front wheel. If you haven't bought a new bike lately, quick-release wheels are out of favor, having been replaced with better-aligned through-axles in front that require a hex wrench to detach. I'm happy to report it has just enough space to swallow a 27.5-size wheel city commuter bike.
|2020 Honda Civic Sport Touring Specifications|
|ENGINE||1.5L DOHC 16-valve turbocharged inline-4; 180 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 162 lb-ft. @ 1,700-5,500 rpm|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, FWD hatchback|
|EPA MILEAGE||27/35 mpg|
|L x W x H||177.9 x 70.8 x 56.3 in.|
|WHEELBASE||106. 3 in.|