While the current-generation Civic might be getting old, it still represents fantastic value for money in terms of practicality, driving enjoyment and style, and no model embodies this more than the Civic ‘Sport Line’.
New for 2020, the Sport Line is based around the standard 1.0-litre VTEC turbo engine, but adds Type R-inspired styling, such as a wider front bumper, oversized grille inserts, side skirts, and most notably, a low-level rear wing.
It’s certainly fair to say the styling on the Sport Line is a significant step up from the standard Civic, but sadly the gloss black wheels felt lost against the obsidian blue of the test car – a minor issue with what is otherwise a fantastic looking car.
While the Civic certainly shocked critics upon its initial release, it has matured well – like a fine wine or good cheese, and I feel it is one of the best-looking hatches on the road today. However, there are still plenty that feel ‘offended’ by the current-generation Civic family’s striking design.
Inside also feels like it’s stepped up a notch, but sadly the outdated and frustrating infotainment system remains unchanged. Barring that, however, the interior is a fantastic place to be, and there’s undoubtedly no quarrels from myself or any passengers about undertaking a long road trip in the Civic.
Wide yet supportive leather ‘sports’ seats, good headroom all round, and impressive rear legroom, along with well laid-out controls and impressive forward vision all lend themselves to a positive driving experience while keeping rear seat occupants happy with their environment too.
One of my absolute favourite parts of the Civic Sport Line is the gear shift. Gone is the typical ‘leatherette’ gear lever often seen in modern manual cars, and in its place a traditional metal ball, fitting nicely in the hand. The gear shift action is sublime – satisfyingly notchy without being difficult and selecting a gear results in an incredibly satisfying clunk, akin to what you’d expect from a car of a much more vintage era.
It’s a good job the gear shift is so satisfying, as – like in a lot of Honda’s range – all the power in the Civic Sport Line is at the top end of its rev range. The 1.0-litre three-cylinder isn’t fast by any means but has far more character than any other ‘triple’ that I’ve experienced. While on a twisting back road, working through the gears is an absolute pleasure, though around town and in slow-moving traffic it’s not the most ideal of engines, since it lacks bottom-end power.
Speaking of backroads, the Civic Sport Line is especially good here, thanks to one of its ‘standard’ options – adaptive dampers. When switched off, the Civic behaves much like any other hatch, if a little bit on the firm side, but turned on and you can feel the whole car stiffen up, like a cat that’s caught wind of its prey. Gone is the body roll, and in its place is a surprisingly flat-cornering, very responsive suspension setup – something I made sure to exploit during my time with the car.
Find a nice sweeping third or fourth-gear corner, and you can power through without lifting, and the Sportline will remain impressively well-poised. It is here that you really feel the difference between this and a ‘standard’ hatch – the well-made gearshift, the flat cornering and the characterful engine all come together to give one of the best all-round ‘family’ hatchback driving experiences I’ve had on a local B-road this year.
Storage is also impressive with the Civic – since it’s based upon the standard model, there’s no trade-off here. Boot space is still an impressive 550 litres, which can be extended to 1267 litres with the rear seats down, should you wish.
It’s not all rosy with the Sport Line, however. The previously-mentioned infotainment system makes me want to scream every time I use it until Apple CarPlay eventually connects and it becomes usable. The rearward visibility is also pretty poor, so be sure to spec a reversing camera.
It also feels quite large on the road, with the driving position making the car feel far bigger than it actually is. This isn’t necessarily a good thing in a sporty hatch, where you typically want to feel as connected to the road as possible, and often have the illusion of being able to ‘thread’ your way through gaps – not so with the Civic, sadly.
All things told, the Civic Sport Line is a fantastic car, but it is starting to show the age of the current Civic platform. While I’ve certainly enjoyed my time with the Sport Line, I definitely think the 1.5-litre would’ve been a better fit for this car’s sporting looks over the 1.0-litre. Unfortunately, several small, petty issues make themselves known – Overall, still a very good car indeed.
Kieran Bicknell offers his fresh take on car reviews by making the most of his dynamic, yet detailed approach to writing. Having graduated from university with a BA (Hons) in Photography and spending a number of years as a freelance automotive photographer. Kieran is now putting his knowledge and writing skills to use, with the ability to supply both written articles and imagery. Kieran feels at home in anything from small superminis to the latest SUVs, and relishes the opportunity to drive, photograph and write about anything with four wheels.
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