One of the common laments among modern-day car enthusiasts is that the companies that still offer manual transmissions on cars only put them on the stripped-out versions or otherwise compromised performance cars. For example, the current-generation Honda Civic Hatchback was only offered with a manual in either the meagerly equipped Sport hatchback or the pricey and powerful Type R. The 2020 Honda Civic rectifies this by adding a manual transmission option to the decked-out Sport Touring hatchback. Finally, you can have every comfort feature offered on the Civic while still shifting for yourself. But it’s important to note that it’s not the best value in the lineup – more on that in a minute.
Let’s quickly go over the manual Civic hatchback experience before getting deep into trim specifics. Under the hood is a turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder making 180 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque. It pulls strongly, and still has a smooth, Honda hum, but the turbo can be sluggish to spool up. It can provide a fun, old-school rush of power when the boost fully hits, but can also be frustrating when you want the power the second you hit the throttle.
The six-speed manual coupled to it has a light, tight feel, that’s second only to the super snickety Si and Type R gearboxes. The Civic hatchback has quick, accurate steering that’s light. Body roll and understeer are mild, and the chassis feels solid and composed with a smooth, gentle ride. Honda should consider adding more sound insulation, though, since the Civic has more road and wind noise than many of its competitors. Making up for the noisy cabin is its cavernous size; tall and large people will be very comfortable whether they’re up front or in the back. Firward visibility is great with the thin pillars and low dash, but thick rear pillars hamper the rear view. Though some cars may outperform the Civic in one specific area, none of them do as many things well as the Civic hatchback.
Starting with such a strong base, the Sport Touring enhances the experience with its list of comfort and convenience features. Both front seats are power adjustable, while both rows get leather upholstery and heating, the latter of which is uncommon for back seats in the segment. Climate control is upgraded from single-zone to automatic dual-zone, and the infotainment now includes satellite navigation in addition to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Plus, there’s a sunroof, automatic headlights, heated side mirrors, LaneWatch right-side blind-spot camera, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, rain-sensing wipers and a 12-speaker, 540-watt sound system. All this comes standard for $28,980, making it the most expensive hatchback trim this side of the Type R.
This is all well and good, but there are a couple of issues. First is that none of these features really make the Civic Sport Touring feel $5,300 more expensive than the regular Sport. From the outside, the two are identical except for the Sport Touring’s LED headlights and mirrors with turn signals. It’s not a bad look, as both trims are athletic and aggressive looking, but the Sport Touring doesn’t improve the looks significantly over the Sport.
It’s the same case inside. The Sport Touring does have leather and some nice features, but the entire dashboard, instruments and infotainment are again carryover from the much cheaper models. It’s a plasticky, but stylish enough and well-built, which would be fine at the low- to mid-$20,000 price point. But this is a nearly $30,000 car, and it’s certainly not as nice as the plusher, slightly cheaper (but also slightly more cramped) Mazda3 Premium Hatchback. Some splashes of metal or leather – even leatherette – trim somewhere on the dash would have made a significant difference. The infotainment in particular used to be a distinguishing factor, since the regular Sport lacked the touchscreen and, more importantly, its Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Considering that the Sport now has the touchscreen and even the same instrument panel screen, the Sport Touring is less special.
The Sport Touring also has a number of features you can’t get on any other manual-transmission Civic, such as navigation, leather upholstery, power seat adjustment, rain-sensing wipers, mirror-mounted turn signals and an auto-dimming rear view mirror. And it’s certainly the way to go if you want a well-equipped manual Civic hatch.
But if you don’t need the hatch, the Si makes for a better deal. It includes other key features from the Sport Touring, such as an upgraded sound system (10 speakers and 480 watts), a sunroof, heated front seats, automatic LED headlights, heated mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control and LaneWatch. It adds some Si exclusive features such as a more powerful engine with 205 horsepower and 192 pound-feet of torque, electronically adjustable shocks, a mechanical limited-slip differential, and nicely bolstered sport seats. And you get all this for $3,050 less than the Sport Touring.
On the whole, we’re glad that the Civic Sport Touring hatchback now offers a manual. There are people who want an extremely well-rounded machine that’s, practical, economical, comfortable and doesn’t scrimp on amenities, while still being fun to drive and offering a manual transmission. But if you don’t have to have all the comfort features, or can make do without the hatchback shape, the Sport and Si are better values.