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2017 All-Stars Contender: Honda Civic Hatchback Sport

Simple smile-generator aims to charm its way into a trophy

We're fond of the tenth-generation Honda Civic in both sedan and coupe flavors, but it's the practical hatchback body style that piqued our enthusiast interest.

Given the driving-oriented nature of the All-Stars competition, Honda made sure to send us a manual transmission-equipped 2017 Civic Hatchback Sport. Somewhat sadly, the six-speed unit isn't offered on any of the higher trim levels, but the 2,900-pound, basic Sport (no active safety features or fancy navigation screens here, just a four-speaker stereo with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto) is the enthusiast's choice anyway — at least until the Civic Si and Type R arrive.

Priced at a mere $22,135, the Honda Civic Hatch is motivated by a version of Honda's 1.5-liter turbo-four good for 180 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque in Sport trim. It also has an easy-on-the-wallet EPA rating of 30/39 mpg city/highway.

That was enough to get the All-Star judges smiling.

"The Civic's handling is hugely entertaining," noted associate editor Jonathon Klein.

"Nice steering and overall chassis. Fun but still refined," said contributor Marc Noordeloos.

"Lively chassis, smooth manual gearbox, solid engine, connected steering, minimal distractions," summarized senior editor Kirill Ougarov.

But does the Civic's fun character offset its technological shortage enough to make stand out enough to be an AUTOMOBILE All-Star in this field of heavily armed contenders? Come back on March 11 to find out!

2017 Honda Civic Hatchback Sport Specifications

PRICE $21,300/$22,135 (base/as tested)
ENGINE 1.5L turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4
180 hp @ 5,500 rpm, 177 lb-ft @ 1,900-5,500 rpm
TRANSMISSION 6-speed manual
LAYOUT 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, FWD hatchback
EPA MILEAGE 30/39 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H 177.9 x 70.8 x 56.5 in
WHEELBASE 106.3 in
WEIGHT 2,871 lb
0-60 MPH 7.0 sec (est)
TOP SPEED 126 mph (est)