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Driven: Civic orders herald brighter Honda future

Best boot forward: Hatchback and feisty Type R versions of Honda’s new Civic will arrive next year, following the sedan that rolls into Australian showrooms in June.

Honda declares a return of its ‘mojo' with up to 350 Civic sedan pre-orders

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Honda logo17 May 2016

By DANIEL GARDNER

HONDA has declared that the tough times are over with a reassuringly healthy order list for its new-generation Civic sedan, which follows a similarly warm reception for the HR-V compact crossover last year.

With 200 customers already putting down cash on a Civic and that number forecast to top 350 by the end of May, the Japanese car-maker says it has finally “got its mojo back” after years of ailing sales and a number of struggling model lines.

The smash-hit HR-V has become the company’s strongest-performing model, racking up just shy of 15,000 sales since its launch in February last year, and Honda Australia director Stephen Collins told GoAuto this week that the new Civic looks set to pull a similar stunt.

“I think by the end of this month we will have 350 pre-orders and that’s more than any other model we’ve ever had before,” Mr Collins said in an interview on the sidelines of the national Civic launch in Albury.

“The last time we had such strong interest from prospective customers was when we were launching the HR-V and it has now become one of the strongest competitors in the small SUV segment.

“With the arrival of the Civic, it’s becoming clearer by the day that Honda has got its mojo back.” Mr Collins went on to explain that the company is targeting similar volumes with its Civic sedan and hatchback range in a bid to climb the various segment ladders and return Honda to a position of stature.

The hatchback is due to arrive early next year, sourced from the same factory in Thailand as the sedan, while the vicious Type R version that did not make it Down Under in the current shape is expected to follow the mainstream hatch range during 2017.

“Our aim is to sell a minimum of 800 Civic sedans a month so that would give us about 13 to 14 per cent market share, which is not that far off where we are with HR-V,” Mr Collins said.

“Civic used to be a leader and we lost our way a little bit, but we are confident this car will get it back for us, and I think for the first time ever we will have a competitive sedan and hatch at the same time.” In its previous ninth-generation, the Honda Civic sedan was available in five different variants starting with a manual Vi priced from $18,490 plus on-road costs, but for the 10th-generation model Honda has dropped the manual and introduced an entry-level auto VTi for $22,390.

With a continuously variable transmission (CVT) Honda says the new base model is a more attractive proposition than the outgoing cheaper variant, but Mr Collins explained that a majority of early customer interest had been in the better-equipped, pricier versions such as the newly introduced VTi-LX and RS.

“Early adopters generally like cars that have a strong standard equipment list and the features in RS and VTi-LX are particularly competitive in the segment,” he said.

When the initial rush of excitement and demand for higher-end vehicles has cleared, Mr Collins anticipates an even split between the 1.8-litre and turbocharged variants.

“We would expect close to 50:50 between the turbo and non-turbo engine,” he said.

Between the VTi-LX and RS flagships and the VTi range starter sit the only survivors from the previous line-up with the mid-range VTi-S from $24,490 and the VTi-L, which starts at $27,790.

Like the outgoing generation, the two new entry-level VTi and VTi-S Civics are powered by a 1.8-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol engine with 104kW and 174Nm, but the remainder of the line-up is now powered by a new 1.5-litre turbocharged VTEC four-cylinder with a heartier 127kW and 220Nm.

The previous 114kW/190Nm 2.0-litre Sport version has been replaced by the $31,790 RS, which shares the new 1.5-litre engine as well. Transmissions across the board are front-wheel drive, via Honda’s CVT.

As is typical for the Japanese brand, performance figures are not readily available, but combined-cycle fuel consumption is rated at 6.4 litres per 100km for the VTi and VTi-S, while the smaller-engined versions manage 6.0L/100km.

The new engine uses all-alloy construction and a single turbocharger with single-scroll turbine housing and electronic wastegate actuator for minimal lag. The company’s widely used VTEC variable cam-timing system is driven by oil-immersed chain and employs sodium-filled valves for improved heat transfer.

A new twin-damper torque-converter CVT feature reportedly reduces perceived lag while reducing the “rubber band” feel of some other transmissions of the same type, says Honda, while the G-Design shift is said to allow the car to be driven more naturally and offers better response to acceleration than some conventional autos.

At the core of the new Civic’s construction is “the most sophisticated chassis design in the history of Civic”, according to Honda. An “ultra-rigid and lightweight body structure” has MacPherson suspension bolted into the front end and a new multi-link set up at the back for “performance and feel”.

For the first time, the Civic adopts hydraulic bushes for improved compliance and reduced noise vibration and harshness (NVH) – a feature normally reserved for larger and more expensive cars, Honda claims.

NVH is also further reduced with a more tightly sealed body that cuts wind noise, along with acoustic separators in the roof and pillars. Improved sealing materials extend to the bonnet and engine compartment to isolate drivetrain noise and heat.

Careful bodyshell design has also improved aerodynamics and reduced drag by 22 per cent, which has boosted fuel efficiency at cruising speeds.

Standard equipment levels vary across the five-car range, but entry-level VTi versions open the bidding with 16-inch steel wheels, LED daytime running lamps with halogen headlights and electrically adjustable wing mirrors.

Interiors get black fabric upholstery, LCD instrument cluster with colour multi-function display, two-way adjustable steering column, 60:40 split-fold rear seats and an eight-speaker sound system.

All versions have a 7.0-inch Advanced Display touchscreen at the centre of the information and entertainment system, which uses an Android operating system to offer access to the various systems with tap, swipe and pinch-type actions.

All Civics get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, two USB ports and Bluetooth connectivity that supports music streaming.

Moving up to the VTi-S upgrades the wheels to alloy construction, indicator repeaters in the door mirrors, foglights and parking sensors all-round, while equipment gets a boost with lane-keep assistance, leather steering wheel and keyless entry that automatically locks when leaving the car.

VTi-L versions add to that with 17-inch wheels, electrically folding mirrors, dusk-sensing headlights, rain-sensing wipers and tinted privacy glass, while interiors are upgraded with digital radio, dual-zone air-conditioning and one-touch electric windows all-round.

Honda says its new RS Civic is the sportiest in the new range with a “sports” 17-inch wheel design, LED headlights and foglights, electric sunroof, gloss-black grille and pillar trims, boot spoiler and dark chrome-effect doorhandles.

The racier theme is continued in the inside with part-leather seats with heating for the front pair and power adjustment for the driver, drilled sports pedals and a 452W sound system with 10 speakers.

At the top of the pack, the VTi-LX brings the most kit with navigation, auto-dimming rearview mirror, forward collision warning with automatic braking, lane departure warning, lane keep assistance and adaptive cruise control.

Customers wanting to add an extra level of individualisation to their Civic can opt for the Black Pack, which can be added to any variant in the new sedan line-up.

In all but the RS, the optional $2998 package adds black 17-inch alloy wheels, front splitter, side skirts, door mirror caps, grille and ducktail spoiler.

As the RS already has a number of sportier embellishments, the kit adds a more affordable $2298 and excludes the spoiler and grille.

The Lanewatch system first introduced to Honda’s Accord has now found its way over to the Civic, allowing a view of the blind-spot via a camera in the passenger side mirror each time the left indicator is activated.

Standard safety systems for all versions also includes hill-hold assistance, ABS, stability control, reversing camera, Isofix child seat anchors and a full suite of airbags including curtain type for both rows of seating.

Measuring 4644mm from end to end, the new Civic sedan is 104mm longer than the outgoing model, while width is up 44mm to 1799mm and height has been reduced by 19mm to 1416mm.

2016 Honda Civic pricing*
1.8 VTi (a) $22,390
1.8 VTi-S (a) $24,490
1.5 VTi-L (a) $27,790
1.5 RS (a) $31,790
1.5 VTi-LX (a) $33,590
*Excludes on-road costs

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