The all-new 2017 Honda Civic sedan will arrive in Australia before the middle of this year, while the hatchback version is set to hit showrooms early in 2017.
It has been revealed that the Japanese company’s vital new small car offering will be offered in five specification levels across both the regular sedan and hatchback ranges, and that the new-generation Civic Type R will also arrive before the end of next year.
And in a step that will see some buyers choose to get the sporty look without the full sporting intent, Honda has confirmed it will offer a specification level known as RS, which sees the addition of sporty alloy wheels with low-profile tyres, an integrated body kit with rear spoiler, and RS badges.
This Civic RS model will sit as the second-from-the-top model in the standard model range, with a more luxury-focused variant to be offered as the flagship version. The RS is the model you see here, which has items such as LED headlights, LED front fog-lights, and a sunroof.
Under the bonnet there will be the choice of two drivetrains – a 1.8-litre naturally-aspirated four-cylinder petrol engine, and the first-ever turbocharged EarthDreams motor from the H brand, a 1.5-litre four-cylinder unit.
The standard engine is likely to be offered in the lower specification models, and should continue on with about 110kW and 180Nm. It’s not clear yet if a six-speed manual will be offered, but a CVT is likely to be the transmission of choice.
The EarthDreams engine is oomphier, with 127kW of power and 220Nm of torque. It will be offered solely with a CVT automatic gearbox.
Pricing is yet to be confirmed by the company, but it is clear that with both Civic models being built in Thailand, the small car pairing will be attractively priced and will take full advantage of the Australia's Free Trade Agreement with that country. At present, the existing entry-level Civic Si sedan is the most affordable mainstream model available, at $18,490 plus on-road costs.
Unlike the current small car offerings from the brand, the versions of the new-generation Civic will both be sourced out of Thailand (currently only the sedan comes from there; the hatch is built in the UK), and the new models will look a lot more similar than the current hatchback and sedan.
In fact, virtually everything from the B-pillar – the pillar that intersects the front and rear doors – will be mirrored between the sedan and hatch models.
Honda Australia director Stephen Collins told CarAdvice at a media conference this week that the local arm of the Japanese brand has had a part to play behind the scenes of the new, tenth-generation Civic.
“Honda Australia has been very, very involved in the development of this new Civic,” he said. “This is the tenth-generation Civic. Globally it has sold about 23 million units, so it’s an iconic brand for Honda around the world.
“For us, we actually started work on this new Civic three months after the launch of what is now the current car. So this has been a four-year project not just for Honda Motor and R&D, but for Honda Australia, which I guess reflects the importance. We are the lead market for Asia and Oceania for this car, and really from day one the objective was to have a one Civic strategy,” he said.
“The same body type, from the same factory, with the same spec, with a hatch and a sedan. So that’s what we’ll bring to market.
“From the very, very start – I actually attended the kick-off meeting in Bangkok in our Asian office – and what was critical for us was a stylish, sporty, technologically-advanced small car that would broaden the appeal of Honda.
“So, it would appeal to our traditional older demographic, but at the same time bring in to the brand new people, and younger people,” he said. “Really at the very top of the pyramid that’s what we were after. And very much around styling, it’s critical, and also bringing the new technologies.”
Collins wasn’t downplaying the critical nature of getting the positioning and pricing of the Civic right, either.
“For us, it’s the most important model, probably, that we’re ever going to launch. To get us back to that position we needed a competitive sedan and hatch, and Type R,” he said.
“This is the next phase in our rebuilding. The small car market is the biggest market there is in the country, 300,000 units, so if you get reasonable share of that segment you’re going to sell plenty of cars. Mazda are a good example of that.
“It was really about bringing Civic back to a benchmark small car. I guess, clearly in Australia, the small car segment is 300,000 units. Around 100,000 of that is sedan, around 200,000 roughly speaking is hatch.
“So we needed a super-competitive hatch and sedan to get back to a reasonably dominant force in that segment,” he said.
Collins noted the slow sales of the current Civic, which have dipped dramatically.
In 2013 the Civic sold in decent numbers – 14,261 units – but 2014 saw a dip of nearly 45 per cent, to 7878 units. That number almost halved again in 2015, with just 4326 examples sold. Civic sales peaked in 2007, with 17,643 units sold.
“It’s clearly been challenging selling a UK-sourced different looking car in hatch versus a Thai-made, different spec car in sedan. It’s been very challenging, it’s been somewhat confusing to the market.
“From day one we said we want one car, one strategy for Civic, and it all feeds in to that,” he said.
“It’s a one Civic strategy that happens over three phases, if you like. I guess the obvious question is ‘why can’t you launch them all at the same time?’ Well, they all had different development teams – so, every market is launching in a staggered way,” he said.
Part of the staggered launch is the later arrival of the high-performance Type R, which will be offered with a manual gearbox – it is unclear if an auto will also be sold – and as a hatchback only.
“I think Type R plays a massive role,” Collins said. “We lost a fair bit of the sportiness, and with NSX coming this year, and with Type R coming next year, I think that’s a clear signal that we’re getting that sporty mojo back.”
Scott McGregor, Honda Australia general manager of customer and comms, said that fun hasn’t been a byword for Honda in recent times, but the new Civic should change that.
“Fun to drive is something we know that we’ve been lacking a little bit. What you’ll see in the Civic range is that the fun-to-drive nature has been engineered into the core of the vehicle,” he said.
“We’re not just going to rest on just one variant to deliver that. It’s going to be across all variants. Obviously the 1.5-litre turbo will bring that to life most strongly,” McGregor said.
“I think the Type R will absolutely tick the sporty box, if you like, of the Civic brand. It sits at the pinnacle of performance in that car,” Collins said.
“That’s another reason why we’ve been at the front of the queue to get that car – we held off on the ninth generation because we thought it would be confusing selling the ninth-generation Type R and the tenth-generation sedan all at the same time would lead to mass confusion,” he said.
“There is a bit of a wait, but it will be well and truly worth it.”
McGregor went on to discuss how Honda has battled in recent years in the eyes of consumers.
“It’s fair to say that from a primary brand perspective that Honda is not where we would like it to be. We remember the heydays of Honda, it was certainly the strength we had in the small car category. And so from a priority perspective that’s what we want to head back towards.
“The way I would look at Civic is that it used to be one of the kings of small cars. It has been not there for the last few years, but the intention is certainly to take it back in to that place,” he said.
So, can the Civic overthrow the current monarchy – the Toyota Corolla, Australia’s biggest-selling small car line, or the Mazda 3, the challenger to the throne?
Not necessarily, according to McGregor – but he claimed that’s not the aim.
“We’re not going to chase Corolla or Mazda 3 on volume, but we are going to chase them on brand. We would like consumers to see Civic, once again, as one of the kings of the small car segment,” he said.