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New York show: Honda unveils Mk9 Civic

Civic duty: Honda's Mk9 small sedan retains its rounded profile but features more contemporary body surfacing.

Honda’s Mk9 Civic sedan slips in to US but remains up to a year away from Oz

2 May 2011

YOU’D BE forgiven for missing the global public debut of Honda’s ninth-generation Civic sedan at the New York motor show late last month, given the all-new Japanese small car is virtually identical to the ‘concept’ that previewed it at January’s Detroit show.

Full specifications and first images of the production version were announced in the US as early as February 17 and no fewer than seven 2012 Civic model variants – including coupe, hybrid and natural gas-powered versions – are now on sale in the US.

Honda Australia has confirmed its version of the redesigned sedan will again be sourced from Thailand but will wear the new sheetmetal seen in New York, with a familiar overall profile bookended by sleek headlights that look more like the existing Civic hatch’s than the outgoing sedan’s.

Australia’s next Civic will differ only cosmetically from the North American version, including detail changes to wheels, bumpers, grilles, headlights and tail-lights, although the previous-generation Toyota Camry-style shape of the latter will remain.

Although it had been due to arrive here in the final quarter of this year, Honda says its Mk9 Civic sedan range – including the next-generation Civic Hybrid, which is also reported to have been delayed by at least six months due to the 2008 GFC – might not go on sale in Australia until early 2012.

By then the existing Civic sedan, which was launched here in February 2006, will be a full six years old and host of redesigned small cars will have been launched, including hatch and sedan versions of Ford’s MkIII Focus, Subaru’s MkIII Impreza and the upgraded Mazda3, plus Holden’s all-new Melbourne-designed Cruze.

Honda Australia has confirmed its five-door Civic hatch, which has been available only in 1.8-litre Si form since January (priced $9000 lower than before at $29,990), will be replaced here after its successor appears in Europe some time next year.

While spy shots of camouflaged new Civic hatches are already doing the rounds in Europe, a successor for our sole three-door Civic - the Type R - will also eventually come from Honda’s UK plant, but Honda Australia will continue to be without an affordable small hatch.

Worse still, Honda Australia is unlikely to offer any change to its current Civic line-up for the remainder of 2011, a year in which sales of the volume-selling small car are already 28.3 per cent down in the first quarter.

15 center imageFrom top: Honda Civic EX-L sedan interior and exterior, LX sedan, HF sedan, Hybrid sedan, Si coupe.

The bad news continues for Australian Honda fans with confirmation the CR-Z hybrid coupe has also been postponed until early next year – at least six months later than its expected local release in July – this time due to production backlogs from Japan’s crippling March earthquake.

That means Honda Australia, which fell almost 10,000 vehicles short of its 50,000 sales target last year, probably won’t have any new 2011 models with which to arrest its worrying 27.4 per cent sales slump so far this year.

Nor does Honda yet have a firm Australian launch date for the petrol-electric Jazz – one of four new hybrid models it committed to releasing here within 18 months of November 2010, when the Insight hybrid hatch was introduced.

And, just as the Civic hatch – which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, will remain directed at European markets, North America’s sleek new Civic coupe will remain a US-only model for the foreseeable future.

Nevertheless, Honda has confirmed both 1.8 and 2.0-litre versions of its new small sedan will eventually be offered here, but the US-oriented Civic sedan – which also comes with 147kW 2.4-litre petrol power - continues to be unavailable with diesel power and Australia’s lack of compressed natural gas refuelling infrastructure will also prevent North America’s upcoming CNG-powered Civic sedan being sold here.

As we’ve reported, however, the redesigned Civic Hybrid sedan, which is powered in part by a larger 1.5-litre i-VTEC petrol engine, will be the first Honda to run a lithium-ion battery pack, rather than the older nickel-hydride battery technology employed by the Insight and Toyota’s Prius.

While the new Civic Hybrid is claimed to return combined city/highway fuel consumption of 45mpg (5.2L/100km) in the US, North America’s all-new Civic HF sedan is claimed to achieve 41mpg (5.7L/100km) on the highway, thanks to a 1.8-litre i-VTEC petrol four, unique aerodynamic components and the new Honda Eco Assist system.

Mainstream US Civic sedan and coupe models are claimed to reduce highway fuel consumption by 3mpg, while the Civic CNG sedan is said to be seven per cent more economical than before.

A host of new features will also reside beneath the less conservative exterior design of Honda’s 2012 Civic, as evidenced by our first look at some of the interior technology of the all-new model at New York.

Although it is still not clear whether the new model is based on the same platform as the current Civic, which runs a MacPherson front suspension and torsion beam rear set-up, America’s Mk9 sedan will feature a new Motion Adaptive Electronic Power Steering (EPS) system that works in conjunction with Honda’s VSA electronic stability control system.

US-market Civics ditch the current model’s aged DVD-based navigation system and also adopt a new audio system interface comprising a new “intelligent” Multi-Information Display (i-MID) that connects via USB and Bluetooth with music devices.

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