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Frankfurt show: Honda ready to hatch next Civic

Five-door version of Honda’s vital new Civic emerges in UK ahead of Frankfurt debut

Honda logo1 Aug 2011

By MARTON PETTENDY

SEDAN and coupe versions of the ninth-generation Civic made their global debuts at the New York motor show in April, and now Honda has released an official video and ‘spy’ images of the hatchback version that will also go on sale in Australia next year, following its premiere at next month’s Frankfurt show.

Due on sale from early 2012 in the UK, where the next Civic hatch will again be built exclusively, Honda says the latest iteration of the car that put the Japanese brand on the map in Australia in March 1973 will deliver class-leading occupant and cargo space, and dramatic increases in comfort and quality.

As well as showing its redesigned small five-door undergoing development testing in heavy disguise, Honda has confirmed the 2012 Civic hatch will retain a torsion-beam rear suspension system.

This is despite criticism of the Civic’s ride quality since the current model’s European launch in January 2006 and the fact most of its small-car rivals employ independent multi-link rear-ends.

However, in the first of five teaser videos to be issued in the lead-up to the vital new model’s Frankfurt debut in September and its European media launch in November, Honda says its new Civic hatch will employ liquid-filled compliance bushings to improve ride comfort.

“Honda engineers concentrated a huge amount of time and effort improving ride quality and handling of the Civic, and through significant changes to the suspension set-up they have enhanced both comfort and body control,” said the company.

“To give customers the biggest cabin and boot space in the C-sector, the Civic retains a rear torsion beam suspension system – but the latest set-up uses clever fluid-filled compliance bushes to improve overall ride performance and handling. It has also been strengthened to give better stability, particularly at high speeds.”

15 center imageHonda said the Civic hatch, which appears to feature a more elongated sedan-like hatch design than the current model, was designed exclusively for Europe, where it has been extensively tested on public roads.

It said reliability and low ownership costs will continue to be part of the Civic offering.

Although the new Civic sedan will again be built in Thailand, production of the hatch only in the UK is likely to again prevent Honda Australia from offering a direct competitor for affordable small hatchbacks like the dominant Mazda3 and Toyota’s Corolla.

Just two versions of Honda’s current UK-built Civic hatch are currently available in Australia – the three-door Civic Type R hot-hatch ($39,990) and the five-door 1.8-litre Si, the starting price of which was reduced in March by some $9000 to $29,990, the same entry price as the Insight hybrid hatch.

While the new Civic Coupe will only be sold in the US, Honda Australia has confirmed the new Thai-built Civic sedan will be released here later than expected in the first half of 2012, when conventional 1.8 and 2.0-litre petrol and hybrid models will go on sale.

Honda is also reported to be developing a 1.6-litre turbo-diesel engine for the Civic.

Honda Australia has also committed to selling the new British-built Si hatch next year, but European markets including the UK will receive the Civic five-door first, meaning the new Si could be more than a year away from local showrooms.

At this stage there is no confirmation of a Civic Type R replacement, but joining the Mk9 Civic sedan on sale in the first half of 2012 will be the CR-Z hybrid coupe that went on sale in Europe last year.

Before either new Civic model arrives here, however, Australian buyers will get access to a raft of new small cars, including this month’s new Ford Focus hatch and sedan, Holden’s Australian-designed Cruze hatch later this year and Subaru’s new Impreza sedan and hatch in the first quarter of 2012.

Honda has sold more than 20 million Civics since the original was launched in Japan and Europe in 1972.

In 1994, Civic production commenced in the UK, where more than 650,000 have been sold, and Honda’s global small-car mainstay is now produced in 14 countries for about 160 markets worldwide.

Honda also announced on July 29 that it will produce the next-generation CR-V compact SUV – which was first revealed last week and is expected on sale here later next year – alongside the Civic hatch at the Honda UK Manufacturing plant in Swindon next year.

Production will return to normal levels at Swindon in early September, following interruptions to parts supplies after Japan’s March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Honda’s Australian sales have plummeted this year, with the Civic down 34.6 per cent and overall sales more than a quarter below 2010 levels.

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