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Honda swallows Civic cost pain

Price sharpened: Most variants of the new Honda Civic sedan - due here in March - will be cheaper than before, despite being sourced from Japan rather than Thailand.

Price drop for new Honda Civic sedan, despite extra cost of Japan production

6 Feb 2012

HONDA Australia has cut most of the prices of its new-generation Civic Sedan models – by as much as $4300 – despite the higher cost of sourcing the car from Japan in the wake of Thailand’s devastating floods that crippled Honda’s car production in that country.

The number of sedan variants also has been rationalised, cut from the previous seven variants to five, with the VTi entry model being deleted from the new range that is due to be rolled into showrooms in early March.

Honda Australia concedes the new, more competitive pricing of the ninth-generation Civic will hurt its bottom line until Thai production restarts, especially as it has to absorb the five per cent import duty payable on cars from Japan.

Thai-made cars are duty free, thanks to the Australia-Thailand free-trade agreement.

Honda Australia spokesman Lindsay Smalley told GoAuto that Honda was determined to launch the new Civic at the long-term pricing that will be available when Civic production for Australia is restored in Thailand, probably in the second half of this year.

“We don’t want some customers to be disadvantaged by having the price drop later,” he said.

Mr Smalley said it was also important for Honda’s dealer network to have competitive pricing right from the launch of the Civic, to give showrooms much-needed throughput in the absence of other models such as the CR-V that are temporarily unavailable due to the floods.

The arrival of the Civic on the Australian market already has been delayed several months due to a string of disasters that have befallen Honda, starting with the global financial crisis, then the Japanese earthquake and – the icing on the cake – the Thai floods, which hurt Honda more than any other manufacturer.

Under pricing announced by Honda ahead of the Civic launch, the Civic VTi-L now becomes the gateway to the sedan range, with prices for both the manual and automatic versions chopped $3700, to $20,990 for the manual and $24,690 for the automatic (plus on-road costs), making it cheaper than the old VTi that previously started at $22,490.

The biggest price cut comes with the Civic Sport automatic, which plummets $4300, from $32,290 in the previous generation to $27,990 now. The manual version has been dropped.

The only Civic sedan to suffer a price rise is the Civic Hybrid, due to a combination of higher Japanese sourcing price and the extra cost of new technology, including the new-generation lithium-ion batteries that replace the less expensive nickel-metal hydride pack of the previous model.

The hybrid Civic price goes up $1500, to $35,990, making it second only to the UK-made $39,990 Type R hatch sports flagship as the most expensive model in the Civic range.

It is also more expensive than the other hybrid in the Honda range, the Insight hatchback, which starts at $29,990 in VTi guise and rises to $33,490 for the VTi-L.

Apart from new battery technology, the Civic Hybrid gets a bigger, 1.5-litre i-VTEC petrol engine – up from 1.3 litres – and an upgraded version of Honda’s ‘mild hybrid’ integrated motor assist (IMA) that the company says delivers more power under hard acceleration and recharges the battery through the engine as well as regenerative braking.

The engine and electric motor combine for 82kW of power and 172Nm of torque. Despite the bigger engine and new IMA system, this is 3kW less power than before, though 2Nm more torque.

However, fuel efficiency and drivability are both said to be improved, with electric motor assistances kicking in more readily than before.

The base Civic VTi-L is still powered by Honda’s 1.8-litre i-VTEC engine, with the same 174Nm of torque but a tiny power increase – up 1kW to 104kW.

The Civic Sport also carries over its 2.0-litre 114kW/190Nm engine, but Honda promises improved fuel efficiency (details are yet to be released).

Also carried over is the five-speed automatic transmission that will be optional in the VTi-L and standard in the Sport, while the Hybrid retains its CVT.

Last week, the new Civic was awarded five stars under the Australian New Car Assessment Program crash safety ratings, up from four stars of the superseded model.

Honda Australia director Stephen Collins said the all-new Civic featured advanced technology, improved handling and value for money.

“This ninth-generation Civic has undergone significant engineering development, with increased fuel efficiency, smoother handling, improved driving dynamics, a smarter cockpit and Honda’s ECO assist system,” he said.

“We are confident our customers will agree that the Civic is a brilliant package and delivers exceptional value for money.”

The Civic hatch range will continue to be sourced from the UK, with a new-generation model expected to arrive in Australia after the car’s launch in Europe this year.

Honda Civic sedanpricing (before on-roads):
VTi-L (a) $23,290
Sport (a) $27,990
Hybrid (CVT) $35,990

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