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Versatile hatchback, hot Si, and torrid Type R set to upgrade 2017 Honda Civic

What changes will make it different?

An additional body style and sporty new models. They’ll join the mainstay four-door sedan and two-door coupe that were redesigned for model-year 2016. They kicked off the 10th generation of this popular compact car, boasting larger dimensions for more interior space and new styling that looks borrowed from the automaker’s upscale Acura brand. Honda had announced no specific release dates in time for this report, but expect a four-door hatchback to debut during the first half of 2016 as a ’17 model, followed by the sporty Si coupe and sedan. Look for the high-performance Type R four-door hatch, with some 300 horsepower, to bow in late 2016 as a ’17 model or in early 2017 as a 2018 model.

Why should I wait for the 2017?

To audition those performance options and body-type alternatives. The four-door sedan will continue to account for the lion’s share of sales, and the coupe represents the return of a traditional Civic choice. The four-door hatch, however, expands the lineup with a compelling new rival to hatchbacks from such key competitors as the Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra, Mazda 3, Subaru Impreza, and Volkswagen Golf. Similarly, the Si with an expected 200 horsepower or so, gives enthusiasts a step up from the mainstream Civic models and a rival to the VW GTI and Jetta GTI. The Type R, meanwhile, brings to America a model highly respected overseas for its power and handling. It’ll be Honda’s first entry in the high-performance-compact category occupied by the Impreza-based WRX and STI and invigorated by introduction of the Focus RS and Golf R.

Check out our 2018 Honda Civic Preview for the latest info

Should I buy a 2016 model instead?

Yes, if you’re interested in an excellent compact that delivers good performance, high mileage, and – particularly in sedan form — terrific everyday usability. These mainstay models won’t change in any way worth waiting for, although the ‘17s probably will suffer inevitable model-year price escalation. They’ll return in base LX and better-equipped EX form and in turbocharged EX-T, EX-L and top-line Touring trim. Compared with their 2012-2015 predecessors, both the sedans and coupes are longer by as much as 2.9 inches overall, with an accompanying stretch in wheelbase ( distance between the front and rear axles) that puts them among the class leaders for passenger space.

Will the styling be different?

Yes, to the extent the hatchback presents a new take on fresh design themes introduced with the ’16 sedan and coupe. They unveiled a new, more exciting visual language for this car. Fairly staid proportions were replaced with a fluid, fastback-type profile; a more muscular stance; and eye-catching details, such as C-shaped LED taillamps. Interiors improved with better materials. And gone was their predecessors’ odd double-deck dashboard in favor of a handsomer and more ergonomically friendly instrument panel. The seating position and the base of the windshield were lowered to, respectively, enhance a feeling of integration with the car and expand forward visibility. All these themes will be apparent on the hatchback. Americans tend to shy away from hatchbacks, but the Civic’s should appeal to those with world-car sensibilities. Its extended rear roofline will contribute to the most overall passenger room in the line and will expand cargo space and versatility beyond the sedan’s already-impressive 15.1-cubic-foot trunk.

Any mechanical changes?

Yes, and they’ll come chiefly via the Si and Type R models. All ’17 Civics will have a four-cylinder engine and front-wheel drive. The mainline sedans and coupes will share with their hatchback counterparts two returning engines: a 158-horsepower 2.0-liter in LX and EX models and a turbocharged 174-horsepower 1.5-liter in EX-T, EX-L, and Touring. Specifications hadn’t been revealed in time for this report, but the Si is likely to employ a version of the 1.5-liter turbo (some sources say it could be a 1.6-liter turbo) with around 200 horsepower. Expect the Type R to have a turbocharged 2.0-liter of some 300 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. As for transmissions, a six-speed manual should again be available with the base 2.0-liter and in the Si, and be mandatory for the Type R. Available with the 2.0 and the Si, and standard with the turbo 1.5-liter, will be a continuously variable transmission. A CVT does the work of a conventional automatic but without stepped gear ratios. Overall, upgrades to body structure, steering and suspension accompanying the ’16 redesign returned Civic to the front ranks of the class for handling and, especially, for ride quality. Noise levels dropped from intrusive to inconspicuous. Along with elevating acceleration from everyday adequate to invigorating, the Si and Type R will bring sharper road manners and stiffer rides. Honda says it’s engineered the Type R to minimize torque steer, the unwanted tugging to the side during rapid acceleration that can afflict high-power, front-wheel-drive cars.

Will fuel economy improve?

Not for the returning engines, but lower ratings will probably be the tradeoff for the Si and Type R’s extra power. Models with the 2.0-liter and turbo 1.5-liter engines will remain among the highest mileage cars in the class. The 2.0-liter should again rate 27/40/31 mpg city/highway/combined with manual transmission and 31/41/35 mpg with the CVT. The 1.5-liter/CVT combo should again rate a laudable 31/42/35 mpg city/highway/combined. The automaker recommends regular-octane gas for the 2.0 and turbo 1.5. It’ll likely recommend premium-octane for the Si and Type R, which should nonetheless be relatively fuel-efficient, given their expected power outputs.

Will it have new features?

To the extent the Si and Type R models add such mission-appropriate items as front seats with special upholstery and bolstering; maybe trendy flat-bottom steering wheels; larger, lower-profile tires; and upgraded brakes. Otherwise, Civic will continue with a range of features that underscores its upscale aspirations. Even LX versions will again come with LED daytime running lamps, automatic climate control, and an electronic parking brake. EX models and above will again include pushbutton ignition and Honda’s Display Audio system with dashboard touchscreen and Android auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity. EX-Ts and above will again have heated front seats and dual-zone automatic climate control, with Touring versions featuring power driver and passenger seats and heated rear seats. The returning Honda Sensing suite of driver-assists will again include forward-collision alert and automatic braking to mitigate frontal collisions; lane-departure warning and self-correcting steering to prevent unintended lane and road departures; and adaptive cruise control to maintain a set distance from traffic ahead. The carmaker has thus far made Honda Sensing available only on CVT-equipped Civics.

How will 2017 prices be different?

They’ll climb modestly for the carryover models, but remain extremely competitive, especially considering the value-added perks of Honda-brand reliability and resale value. Expect prices to start around $20,000 for a manual-transmission LX and around $22,000 for the volume-selling EX with the CVT. Expect the 1.5-liter turbo models to be priced from roughly $24,000-$28,000. (All these prices include Honda’s destination fee, which was $835 for model-year 2016.) The 2017 Si probably will be priced slightly below the Touring-trim levels, perhaps around $27,000, with the Type R likely to be the first Civic priced at $30,000 or more.

When will it come out?

Expect the 2017 Civic sedan and coupe to be released in autumn 2016, with hatchback, Si, and Type R to follow.

Best competitors

Chevrolet Cruze, Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra, Mazda 3, Subaru Impreza, Toyota Corolla, Volkswagen Golf and Jetta

What change would make it better?

Some transmission work: we look forward to Honda following through on its promise to offer a manual transmission with the 1.5-liter turbo engine as an alternative to the relatively slow-reacting CVT. To be fair, this CVT does an admirable imitation of a conventional automatic transmission in undemanding driving. But it would furnish better throttle response if it included manual-type ratio selection, either through steering-wheel paddle shifters or via the floor-mounted lever. Finally, Display Audio would be greatly improved with addition of traditional volume and station-selector knobs. The driver can adjust those functions with steering-wheel controls, but doing so through the main Display Audio dashboard screen means interacting with finicky touch-sensitive icons.

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for HowStuffWorks.com, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]