Honda shows off new Civic coupe in NYC show

The China Post - - WORLD BUSINESS -

If a sporty lime-green metal­lic coupe shown at the New York auto show is any in­di­ca­tion, Honda isn’t play­ing it safe with the Civic any­more.

When the com­pany last rolled out a new Civic four years ago, it took no risks. The car was panned for un­re­mark­able looks and a cheap in­te­rior, with a chintzy plas­tic dash­board and bed-sheet thin seat fab­ric.

The next-gen­er­a­tion Civic un­veiled Wed­nes­day has dra­matic creases, a longer hood, 20-inch wheels and a big rear spoiler clearly de­signed to jet­ti­son the cur­rent car’s dull ap­pear­ance and han­dling.

“This, ladies and gen­tle­men, is the re­turn of the sporty Civic,” Ex­ec­u­tive Vice Pres­i­dent John Men­del said at the car’s in­tro­duc­tion.

Honda says the new car was re­designed top to bot­tom, with U.S. en­gi­neers and de­sign­ers tak­ing the lead. It’s got sin­gle-line LED tail lights and a mean-look­ing front grille. The dis­tance be­tween the front and rear wheels is longer, and the car will get all-new en­gines and trans­mis­sions.

Honda was short on de­tails about the 10th-gen­er­a­tion Civic. Ex­ec­u­tives did say higher- end ver­sions will get a 1.5-Liter tur­bocharged en­gine, a first for Honda in the states. The Civic will de­but in the fall with a sedan, fol­lowed later by the Coupe and an R-Type high per­for­mance ver­sion. A five-door hatch­back and other un­spec­i­fied vari­a­tions are planned as well.

Men­del said Honda is con­fi­dent the new ver­sions will at­tract peo­ple of all ages world­wide. The cars also will have re­fined han­dling as well as a spa­cious quiet in­te­rior, he said.

The Civic will get new en­gines and trans­mis­sions, in­clud­ing a tur­bocharged 1.5-liter four-cylin­der mo­tor in higher-end mod­els, Honda said. It will have new six-speed man­ual or con­tin­u­ously vari­able trans­mis­sions.

Af­ter the last Civic roll-out in 2011, crit­ics said Honda cut costs to take prof­its at the wrong time — just as Ford, Chevrolet, Hyundai and oth­ers were com­ing out with im­proved com­pacts.

As a re­sult, Honda was forced to re­vamp the Civic in 2012 af­ter just 19 months on the mar­ket in an ef­fort to match the com­pe­ti­tion. The doover gave the Civic a sportier pro­file, re­placed its chintzy dash­board and seat fab­ric and made the ride qui­eter. The re­vamp came to mar­ket in about half the time it nor­mally takes.

The Civic’s sales still grew in the past five years as U.S. auto sales re­turned to pre-re­ces­sion lev­els, but the car was un­able to gain any mar­ket share against the com­pe­ti­tion. The Civic’s share has re­mained con­stant at 2.2 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to Au­to­data Corp. Sales last year fell 3 per­cent to just un­der 326,000, but the Civic was still the sec­ond-best sell­ing com­pact. Toy­ota’s Corolla was first.

Karl Brauer, se­nior an­a­lyst for Kel­ley Blue Book, said Honda had to dis­count the cur­rent Civic in or­der to keep sales go­ing. The new ver­sion ap­pears to do ev­ery­thing that Honda needs to do to re­gain lead­er­ship in the com­pact seg­ment.

“I think they def­i­nitely knew that they had kind of lost their mojo in terms of a fun-to-drive stylish com­pact car, which had re­ally been what had made the Civic so in­creas­ingly suc­cess­ful over the past 30 years,” Brauer said.

Men­del promised that the new ver­sion would be fun an ex­cit­ing, true to the Civic’s his­tory.

“Every­body’s up­ping the ante. We can up the ante too,” he said. “Tak­ing this step will keep us ahead and hope­fully drive some of that busi­ness back to Honda.”

AP

John Men­del, se­nior vice pres­i­dent, au­to­mo­bile op­er­a­tions of Amer­i­can Honda Mo­tor Co., in­tro­duce the ul­tra-sporty Civic Con­cept car at the New York In­ter­na­tional Auto Show on Wed­nes­day, April 1.

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