The eleventh generation Civic lineup will be comprised of four distinct models: Sedan, Hatchback, SI Sport models and high performance Type-R. This week, we have number two in this programmed roll-out, the recently released hatchback in top Sport Touring trim with the optional 1.5-liter turbocharged engine.

Our fall review of the Civic sedan highlighted the new design’s inherent styling improvements — mature, modern, sleek. This larger “compact” car also exhibits excellent ride and drive dynamics — the athletic feel and rewarding feedback Civic buyers have long treasured, and is readily evident in a long-wheelbase small car that capably handles Maine’s tortured rural roads.

This hatchback model provides all of that, plus the ample flexibility of a large rear liftgate that features double the sedan’s storage capacity — before you fold the split-rear seatbacks. A low liftover height, flat deck, and even a removable cargo shade aid the hauling attitude of this car. Include the largest rear seating area of any Civic ever and this car will suit more adventurous lifestyles than previously realized.

Base power is a 2.0-liter 158-horsepower four-cylinder mated to a CVT automatic transmission. Optional power, like our sample, is supplied by a 180-hp turbocharged 1.5-liter engine, also harnessed to a CVT — but with Sport programming assist to mimic manual gear manipulation. A 6-speed manual is on the options list for this engine in the hatchback — the same gearbox that will accompany the SI models and a 200-hp version of this engine. The lineal power delivery of the turbo-motor is accessed at will, with realized fuel economy right on top of the Environmental Protection Agency estimates of 31/38/34-mpg, roughly 3-mpg better than with the manual gearbox. Drive like there are eggs under the go-pedal, and you’ll get 400 miles per tank.

Honda Civic Sport Touring Hatchback interior. Photo by Tim Plouff.

Pricing for the hatchback body is $1,000 more than the sedan. LX models start at $23,915, EX-L is $27,615, while our Sport Touring stickered for $30,415 with heated leather seating, sunroof, front and rear parking sensors, upgraded Bose audio, wireless phone charger, rear seat reminder, rear cross-traffic sensors, as well as upgraded Honda Sensing driving aids like lane watch, advanced cruise control, and forward braking assist. Keyless access and ignition is also included.

The SI model sedan will begin at $28,710 with the 6-speed three pedal arrangement and many of these same features. Hatchback Civic’s are built in Greensburg, Ind.

Honda has chosen to remain with the front drive layout for these latest cars — both Civic and Accord — while some automakers are offering all-wheel-drive versions of their bread and butter 4-door cars. AWD certainly does impact fuel economy on some levels, however, the added traction benefits in foul weather often outweigh that penalty for a growing segment of the driving population as they shift to crossovers.

Honda Civic Sport Touring Hatchback interior. Photo by Tim Plouff.

The buttoned-down driving personality of this latest Civic hatchback is undeniable. Smooth, composed, compliant, and responsive (if not super-fast), it is hard to argue with the engineering balance displayed during every drive. The cabin is expansive and comfortable, with good sight lines all around. The controls are enhanced from the 10th gen model, but two knobs on the audio screen are still necessary. As stated before, this Civic could still benefit from greater sound suppression at highway speeds, where the road noise is sometimes excessive.

A softer interface between right knee and the side of the console would be on the wish list, as well as more powerful seat heaters — six miles pass before a hint of warming action appears and then it doesn’t get very strong. The audio system suffers similar delays — almost a mile passes before the entertainment system comes to life.

Civic sales have moved up this past year, despite construction issues across the industry. Honda, Toyota, Kia, Hyundai, and Subaru are going to battle it out for the remaining car-centric driving population as the list of typical cars from Chevy, Ford, Dodge, Buick, and others rapidly dwindles.

The new Civic earned a spot on my annual “Ten Favorites List” because it works so well for its intended mission. At almost fifty years old, the Civic (and Honda) obviously have a handle on what consumers seek in small cars.

Tim Plouff has been reviewing automobiles for more than 20 years.