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Civic hatchback boasts class-leading space

The Honda Civic was first introduced in 1972 as a two-door coupe. Now in its tenth generation, the popular Civic enters 2017 with a sleek new Euro-styled hatchback body to appeal to buyers looking for the practicality of a rear door.

The 2017 Honda Civic Hatch is available in five trims — LX, Sport, EX, EX-L Navi and a new line-topping Sport Touring version — all with Honda’s appealing combination of sporty design, fun-to-drive performance, thrifty fuel economy, interior utility, safety and premium features. Pricing starts at $19,700 for the LX with six-speed manual transmission and tops out at $25,300 for the EX-L Navi (plus an $835 destination charge).

The expressive front hood shape resembles the sedan’s, but that’s where the similarities end. The hatchback is 4.4 inches shorter than the sedan with a smaller rear overhang that makes the rear wheels look closer to the car’s back end, and it gets a bespoke roof, front/rear fascia, and rear slant-back glass. Black honeycomb plastic inserts adorn the front and rear bumpers, while the chrome grille strip has been replaced by a black version.

Under the hood is a 1.5-liter direct-injected and turbocharged four-cylinder engine with peak outputs of 174 horsepower in LX, EX and EX-L Navi trims and 180 horsepower in the Sport and Sport Touring trims. Power is transferred to the wheels by either a sporty CVT (available on all trims) or a six-speed manual transmission (offered on LX and Sport trims only); Sport Touring CVT models benefit from steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles. EPA fuel economy is rated at 31 mpg city, 40 mpg highway and

34 mpg combined (for LX, EX and EX-L Navi with CVT; other models drop slightly).

Inside, the versatile hatch delivers class-leading volume and cargo capacity, with a roomy 97.2-cubic-foot interior, 36 inches of rear-seat leg room and as much as 25.7 cubic feet of storage behind the rear seats. That number jumps to 46.2 cubic feet with the 60/40-split rear seats folded, giving it the largest available cargo carrying capacity among its competition.

Available features include Honda Display Audio with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (standard on EX and above trims), heated seats, power driver and front-passenger seats, remote engine start and other premium features.

We drove the new Civic Hatch Sport Touring and LX models on a 100-mile ride-and-drive event from San Francisco to Santa Cruz.

We were impressed with the smooth-shifting CVT and loved the manual transmission as well, finding ample power to move quickly when needed in city traffic and along bustling freeways. We also liked the steering and suspension that proved competent when on a series of tight and twisty two-lanes. Of note: the Hatch can carry a bike with the rear seat folded.

The Civic Hatchback has earned a five-star overall vehicle score from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and is anticipated to earn a Top Safety Pick+ rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety when equipped with Honda Sensing. The package adds collision mitigation braking, forward collision warning, lane-keeping assist, road departure mitigation, lane departure warning and adaptive cruise control.