Honda surprises with Civic Concept

  • 06-Apr-2015 03:27 EDT
Civic_Concept_20.jpg

The Honda Civic Concept's attractive styling runs deeper than its retina-scorching green show car paint job, with a longer hood and shorter front overhang lending a sportier appearance.

Honda’s Civic is a critically important model for the company, one that has sold 20 million units worldwide and 10 million in the U.S. since its 1972 introduction. Nine million of those have been assembled in North America.

So when the current-edition Civic stumbled out of the gate in 2011, earning bushels of criticism from reviewers, the company resolved not to make the same mistakes on its successor, which debuted in concept form at the 2015 New York International Auto Show.

The outgoing car was seen as visually unappealing, with dreary dynamics and cheap appointments. Some of these shortcomings were shored up in a hasty refresh, but the car was fundamentally inferior to quality competitors.

Not this time, swears Honda. “In every way, this will be an epic Civic,” promised John Mendel, Executive Vice President of American Honda. “The new Civic will be hands-down the most dynamic, the most technologically advanced, and the most refined and stylish Civic we’ve ever brought to market.”

Although Honda only revealed the concept version of the all-new tenth-generation Civic in New York, the company did provide some detail of the car, which will first arrive in four-door sedan form in the fall of this year, to be followed by two-door coupes and five-door hatchbacks.

The 2016 Civic is built on a new platform that the company promises is more rigid and lighter than the current car. As with all of Honda’s current North American models, the new Civic will be expected to ace tough crash tests from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, including the IIHS’s brutal small overlap frontal crash test.

(Read more about the 2016 Civic’s development program and new platform at http://articles.sae.org/14040/.)

Honda will continue its effort to democratize safety by offering what it calls the “Honda Sensing” suite of active technologies on the Civic, to include lane-departure warning, forward-collision warning, rear-view camera, adaptive cruise control, and the company’s LaneWatch blind-spot camera for the right lane.

Mendel attributed the forthcoming Civic’s combination of strength and lightweight to what he termed “an innovative approach to body construction,” though he gave no more details.

Although no specific measures were provided, the company did say that the new Civic rolls on a longer wheelbase and more overall length. Front overhang is reduced and the A-pillar moved rearward for a longer hood.

“Charismatic, connected, and athletic--our goal was to create a design that is emotion and sporty with a sense of timelessness and simplicity,” explained Guy Melville-Brown, Exterior Lead Designer for the concept.

The two-door coupe concept and the four-door sedan were designed by Honda’s California studio and will be manufactured in the company’s Alliston, Ontario, plant. The Greensburg, IN, factory will build only sedans. A differently styled five-door hatchback will come from the Swindon, England plant.

Honda confirmed that the previously announced turbocharged, direct-injected 1.5-L Earth Dreams four-cylinder engine will be the Civic’s premium engine, while a naturally aspirated DOHC VTEC engine of undisclosed displacement will be the car’s base engine.

For North American vehicles, the turbo engine will be made in the Anna, OH, plant. Two transmissions will be available, a six-speed manual and a CVT that will be built at Honda’s Russells Point, OH factory. The company says this new CVT will be sportier and more efficient than current examples.

“The last model didn’t resonate with the target audience,” noted Karl Brauer, Senior Analyst for Kelley Blue Book. “They’ve done everything they should have done to address their problems, with improved styling, a turbocharged engine, and multiple body styles."

Another key factor, he said, will be the arrival in North America of the racy Civic Type R, an ultimate performance model built on the five-door hatchback version from England. For the first time that car will come to the U.S., providing a halo car beyond the Civic Si coupe. That will let the Civic contend with rarified competitors like the Subaru WRX STI, Ford Focus RS and Volkswagen Golf R for enthusiasts’ mindshare and dollars.

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