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Honda looks to sporty future

Image building: Honda Australia director Stephen Collins said the next-generation CR-V SUV will be more dynamic than the current model (left).

Dowdy Honda image to get a rev up with NSX, Civic Type R and sportier core models

18 Mar 2016

HONDA is aiming to recapture its reputation for building sporty, fun-to-drive cars and while the forthcoming NSX and Civic Type R will help spice up the line-up, next-generation core models are set to benefit from the renewed focus.

The Japanese car-maker has been criticised for producing vehicles in the past decade that lack a sporting or dynamic edge, which was largely due to cost-cutting measures that included shutting down some future model programs in the wake of the global financial crisis.

But a recent corporate restructure announced by Honda Motor Company CEO Takahiro Hachigo has shifted the focus from recovery mode to building 'fun-to-drive' cars.

While there are some serious high-performance models on the horizon, Honda Australia general manager of customer and communications Scott McGregor told journalists that the company was focused on engineering sportiness and dynamic ability into mainstream models, starting with the new 10th-generation Civic.

“It is fair to say that fun to drive has been engineered into the base of the vehicle (Civic),” he said at a pre-launch viewing of the Civic sedan in Melbourne this week. “It is not as if we have got one variant that is the fun-to-drive variant – every variant right the way through the range is going to be fun to drive.” At the media event, Honda Australia director Stephen Collins said he supported the global decision to engineer more exciting cars, and highlighted the next-generation CR-V – likely to surface in the next two years – as an example of the shift in focus.

“The global direction is more down those lines,” he said. “And I guess allowing R&D to have a bit more freedom. And I would fully support that. It's a no brainer. You are going to see more and more of that. The next CR-V, which a few of us have seen, is certainly more dynamic.”

GoAuto also understands that the next-generation Accord mid-sizer, which is due by about 2018, will also feature a far sportier design than the existing model.

Before any of these models arrive, however, Honda's reborn NSX hybrid-powered supercar will finally hit Australian showrooms after a lengthy gestation period.

Mr Collins said he expects the NSX to arrive in Australia by November this year, ahead of the Civic Type R, but would not be drawn on pricing.

“I don't want to speculate on what the price can be. I think in the next month or so we will have all that sorted. It is clearly a halo car and it is important to our brand.”

Mr Collins rejected the suggestion that the lengthy period between the NSX concept being revealed at the 2012 Detroit motor show and the launch date could dampen interest in the 427kW646Nm sportscar.

“I think it has been a long time in development. It has been since the concept car was shown some years ago, but it is clearly not too late. No matter where we price it or how many we sell, it is a brand halo car. When you drive it you will see that the technology is amazing. We are very happy that it is coming and we are trying to get it as quickly as possible.”

As GoAuto recently reported, Honda applied for a trademark for the MSX nameplate in Australia in 2012 and rumours have circulated for some time that there could be a sub-NSX sportscar in the works, possibly as a successor to the short-lived but much-loved S2000.

Mr Collins said he knew nothing of a mid-range sportscar, but added that he would put his hand up to add another sporty offering to the Australian line-up.

“I honestly don't know anything about that car. I did hear the rumours that were interesting. If there is an opportunity for something in between (NSX and Civic Type R) or even something lower, we would definitely be interested in it.

“I think it's a simple answer and the answer is yes, but there is nothing that I am aware of in those two spaces right now. Whether there is something in the bowels of R&D somewhere, I don't know.

“I think sportiness is very important. I think it’s obvious we lost that sporty mojo. And I see it coming back, but I think we need to pick up other opportunities to really reinforce that into the future.”

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