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First drive: Honda launches new Civic sedan
Sharper prices and better fuel economy for Honda’s vital ninth-gen Civic small car
28 Feb 2012
HONDA Australia has launched its crucial new ninth-generation Civic sedan with the promise of better value, sharper driving dynamics, more interior space and improved fuel economy.
The latest iteration of the Civic badge – which dates back to 1972 – will go up against the likes of the Mazda3, Holden Cruze, Toyota Corolla, Ford Focus and the newly-launched Subaru Impreza in Australia’s most popular vehicle segment.
The car is the first of three significant model launches from the brand this year – the other two being the new CR-V compact SUV and the British-made Civic hatch – that will be vital to turning around Honda’s fortunes in Australia following a drop in sales of 25.4 per cent in 2011.
As we previously reported, Honda has slashed pricing on the new Civic by as much as $4300, despite the higher cost associated with sourcing the car from Japan instead of Thailand, with which Australia shares a free-trade agreement.
The production switch comes as a result of the widespread damage sustained by Honda’s Thai production facilities in the wake of last year’s flooding, although the brand is likely to switch back to Thai sourcing later this year.
The breadth of the Civic line-up is also slimmer than before, with Honda cutting the previous entry-level VTi, leaving it with base VTi-L, more powerful Sport and eco-friendly Hybrid variants.
At $20,990, the VTi-L is now $3700 cheaper, making it $1500 less than the previous VTi base model.
Power comes from a re-engineered version of the old model’s Euro4 emissions compliant 1.8-litre SOHC i-VTEC engine with the same 174Nm of torque as before but a minor power increase of 1kW to 104kW.
This engine is the only member of the Civic range offered with a manual transmission – in this case a five-speed unit – while a five-speed ‘Grade Logic’ automatic with paddle shifters is also available as a $2300 option. Both of these transmissions are largely carried over from the old model.
Fuel consumption is 6.8L/100km for the manual (down 0.1L/100km over the old model) and 6.7L/100km for the automatic (down 0.5L/100km), resulting in emissions of 161g/km (158g/km for the auto).
The higher-spec Sport (starting at $27,990 – $4300 cheaper than the previous automatic version) also features a carried-over engine – in this case the 2.0-litre i-VTEC petrol with the same 114kW and 190Nm (up 2Nm) as the superseded model – although fuel consumption of 7.5L/100km is 0.9L/100km better than before.
This engine is matched exclusively to the same five-speed automatic transmission as in the VTi-L.
The Hybrid gets a more significant powertrain upgrade, with a larger 1.5-litre i-VTEC petrol engine (up from 1.3 in the previous model) paired to an upgraded 17kW electric motor.
The Civic’s Integrated Motor Assist ‘mild hybrid’ system uses both engine power and regenerative braking technology to recharge the new lithium-ion battery pack, which replaces the cheaper nickel-metal hydride pack used in the old model.
The powertrain is matched as standard with a fuel-conserving CVT automatic transmission, providing fuel consumption of just 4.4L/100km – 0.2L/100km less than the previous model – which equates to CO2 emissions of 104g/km.
While the combined output of the engine and motor is down over the previous-generation (82kW compared to 85kW), torque is slightly up (172Nm versus 170Nm) and the new IMA system is said to improve power delivery under hard acceleration.
Peak power arrives 500rpm earlier than before, and maximum torque is spread over a wider part of the rev band (between 1000 and 3500rpm.)As a result of its more advanced drivetrain, the Hybrid is the only Civic variant to be hit with price increases, with its $35,990 price rising $1500 over the superseded model.
This makes it $2500 more expensive than the brand’s top-spec VTi-L Insight hybrid hatchback (and $6000 more than the entry-level variant), as well as $1000 more pricey than a base Toyota Prius.
Standard features across the range include automatic climate-control, cruise control, a fuel-conserving ‘driver coaching’ program, USB/iPod integration and Bluetooth audio and phone connectivity with steering wheel controls for both.
The Sport additionally gets an electric sunroof, leather seats, automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers and bigger 17-inch alloy wheels (the VTi-L gets 16s and the Hybrid 15s).
Hybrid buyers lose the sunroof and leather trim but get a rear ducktail spoiler, LED brake lights and special blue headlight and tail-light accents.
Metallic paint costs an extra $475 across the range.
Standard safety features include six airbags – driver and front passenger, side impact and full curtains – as well as vehicle stability assist and anti-lock brakes with electronic brake distribution. The sedan range scored the maximum five-star rating when tested by safety body ANCAP earlier this year.
The new model also features five per cent more high-strength steel than before, helping body rigidity and noise insulation, while slimmer A-pillars improve frontal visibility.
New to the Civic is a fuel-saving electric power steering system (though the old hybrid model also had such an electric set-up), replacing the previous hydraulic set-up.
The system features Honda’s ‘Motion Adaptive’ program that helps to control the car in slippery conditions by braking either the inside or outside front wheels, helping to stabilise braking and counter both understeer and oversteer.
Honda says the basic architecture of the suspension is similar to the previous model – all Civics feature MacPherson struts at the front and double wishbones at the rear – albeit with tuned bushings and performance-calibrated geometry to improve ride, handling and NVH.
The VTi-L and Sport get disc brakes all round, while the Hybrid makes do with rear drums.
Boot capacity for non-hybrid variants is 440 litres, with a space-saving spare wheel (the old model had a full-size spare) and 60/40 split-fold rear seats. Thanks to its bulkier drivetrain, the Hybrid’s boot is a reduced 351 litres.
The new Civic is 100mm shorter than before at 4540mm, 5mm wider at 1755mm and has the same 1435mm height. Its 2670mm wheelbase is also 30mm shorter.
Kerb weights are up by between 15kg and 25kg, with the manual VTi-L tipping the scales at 1205kg, the Sport at 1290kg and the Hybrid at 1285kg.
All Civics come with a three-year/100,000km warranty, while the Hybrid is also covered by an eight year/unlimited kilometre battery warranty.
Honda Australia expects to sell 1000 Civics a month – made up of 70 per cent VTi-L, 25pc Sport and 5pc Hybrid.
This would represent a big improvement over last year’s heavily supply constrained 540 a month average and even the 860 average through 2009-2010, but would still be down on the 2008 high of 1400 a month.
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