The Civic Sport Touring Hatchback is no hot-hatch.
For the first time in history, Honda has brought the Civic Type R to America. No longer forbidden fruit to be admired from afar, the Type R boasts a 306-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine to satiate your need for speed. It'll also cost over $35,000 once taxes and fees are taken into account. That's a big pill to swallow for a five-door hatchback. Thankfully, Honda has an answer for those of us on stricter financial diets but still want a little more oomph from the loud pedal: the Civic Sport Touring Hatchback.
The Sport Touring sits at the top of the hatchback's trim ladder—above LX, Sport, EX, and EX-L Navi. There isn't a long list of options at this level, though you can check the boxes for an optional wireless charging pad and a Honda Factory Performance Package, which adds cross-drilled rotors, 19-inch HFP black alloy wheels (shown on our tester), a tailgate spoiler, HFP floor mats, and some HFP badges. Honda Sensing is standard, as is in-dash navigation. Leather, too, is part of the Sport Touring trim, and it's wrapped around heated front and rear seats. A premium 12-speaker audio system, four-way adjustable passenger seat, sport pedals, and a black headliner round out the Sport Touring's interior enhancements over other trims.
But if you're reading this, you're probably less interested in speakers and seats than in what lurks under the hood of this top-trim five door. Like other Civic hatchbacks, the Sport Touring is motivated by a 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, but it and the Sport model pump out 180 horsepower instead of the 174 horses generated in LX and EX trims. Does it matter? Hardly. You're unlikely to notice a difference from 6 horsepower. And torque is completely unchanged compared to other models since the Sport Touring comes equipped with a CVT that limits it to 162 lb-ft. You'll need to opt for the lesser Sport trim in the US if you want a manual and more grunt.
The specs on paper aren't promising, hinting the Sport Touring is no Type R Jr. The 1.5-liter turbocharged engine isn't rev-happy like Honda's mills of yore. And a continuously variable transmission isn't what most would consider the enthusiast's choice. Standard Honda Sensing demands the Sport Touring come equipped with the metal-band transmission, though, and more buyers are likely to see value in its inclusion than they would in manual-transmission availability. I'm one of them, too. After driving the Sport Touring for a week along twisty roads and highway stretches, Honda Sensing proved its worth by transforming the driving experience into a completely relaxing affair. Lane centering and adaptive cruise control for the win.
Back to that engine, though, the Sport Touring isn't an apples-to-apples alternative to other hotter hatches on the market. Ford will sell you a Focus ST (for now) with 252 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque from a larger 2.0-liter engine, and that's a step before Ford's all-wheel-drive Focus RS monster with over 300 hp on tap. Hyundai will happily sell you a manual Elantra GT Sport with 201 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque from a turbocharged 1.6-liter engine, and it'll carry more cargo thanks to its more traditional hatchback shape versus the heavily raked rear of the Civic. Or, if your tastes are more German, the Volkswagen GTI is the defacto choice with its 220-hp 2.0-liter engine and standard six-speed stick.
So the Sport Touring doesn't quite split the difference between lesser Civic hatchbacks and the Type R, but it isn't meant to perform that function. That job is filled by the Civic Si, which—unfortunately—is only available as a sedan and coupe. That said, if you look at the Civic sedan and hatchback in profile, there's almost no difference between their rooflines. If you're dead-set on buying Japanese and don't want an all-wheel-drive WRX, give up on the Civic hatch and go for a spin in the Si sedan. It's worth your time. Back to the Sport Touring, it's not as if it's incompetent at being fun to drive. The chassis provides a solid, rigid base free of flex and interior squeaks.
That's allowed Honda to fit the Civic with a softer, more complaint suspension for better everyday comfort without sacrificing handling prowess. The Civic isn't small. In fact, it's classed as a midsize car in the United States these days. Yet, the Civic hatchback feels nimble on even the twistiest routes thanks to a well-tuned MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension setup. This isn't a characteristic limited to just the Sport Touring model, either, so feel free to pick from any of the hatchbacks in the range if you want the same experience. Steering is light, as are nearly all electric-assist power steering systems these days, but it's accurate and decently tuned. When hustled, the Civic will still reap a smile.
The 2019 Honda Civic Hatchback LX starts at $20,050 plus an $890 destination fee with a manual transmission, representing a $1,210 premium over the base-model Civic sedan. As tested, the Sport Touring model with CVT here rang the till at $28,995 with the optional wireless charging pad ($32,772.50 CAD) plus destination fee.