Trucks may get all the glory, but economy cars do just as much work.
Day in, day out, these famously unfussy machines shuttle tens of millions of us to work, school, stores, chores, parties, and home again with our stampeding dirty shoes and sweaty mutts. Just toss that wrapper in the back seat with the rest of the garbage, why don't you?
And still, economy cars are our go-to for commuter specials (reliable transportation), hand-me-down first cars for new drivers (safety first), and budget picks (because our money is precious too).
We say the 2017 Honda Civic nails all of the above in a way that is appliance-less and value-full. Its style and pep is managed in equal parts by its efficiency and sturdiness. The Civic is an economy car that manages to feel special without feeling fragile.
MORE: Read all about our Best Car To Buy 2017 awards
Perhaps chalk this up to a lesson learned. Want to know how to make a cheap car feel cheap? Just ask Honda. The last-generation Civic was roundly panned, and didn't feel much like the family—all eight generations before it were relatively better. Honda scrapped and pushed to make that ninth-generation model as good as it could be, then make it gone.
They did, and the 10th-generation model they brought forward nearly erased every memory we had of the last one. When it was new for 2016, the Honda Civic managed to get right everything we loved about the older cars. Those cars were bright and sharp, steered well, and shrunk around us when we climbed behind the wheel. The new Civic has the latest and greatest for infotainment and connectivity, including Apple CarPlay, which doesn't come on some cars priced much, much higher. It didn't matter that we're paying less for our Civic than some paint options on a Range Rover, we feel like we were the better shopper.
Despite being named after a high school class you wanted to skip, the Honda Civic isn't boring. A new 1.5-liter turbocharged inline-4 is our headliner, and despite being the "premium" engine, it's not much more expensive than the base engine in volume models. It's rated at 174 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque—more than enough for a kick in the pants on the way home. It doesn't sacrifice fuel economy either. Most versions of the Civic hover around 35 mpg combined, regardless of engine, while most of the other guys struggle to end with compromised "eco" models.
The Civic wraps 112.9 cubic feet of interior space with its good-looking sheet metal, which makes it one of the largest compact cars (although it's mid-sized by now) on the road. There's enough room for four adults, and even our long-legged staffers found the low seating position and adjustable wheel to be flexible enough to fit perfectly for a long day. The interior materials don't feel cheap or compromised and pass our scratch-and-thump test.
A word about the competition: Our new scoring system at The Car Connection is brutal, and not built to reward inexpensive cars with high scores. Still, five economy sedans that start less than $20,000 score above average in our overall rating. That means consumers living with a modest budget won't be penalized when buying a new car.
The Civic's overall score landed at an 8.0—good enough for the luxury ranks—but smart enough to be called our Best Economy Vehicle to Buy 2017.