There was widespread speculation Honda would serve up some surprises during its New York Auto Show news conference, but the Japanese maker handily outdid expectations.
Perhaps the biggest news – and the biggest surprise – was the announcement that Honda would launch an all-new version of its long-popular Civic model later this year, with its American design and engineering team taking the lead in the project. The new model also will be the first U.S. product line to offer a new turbocharged engine developed as part of Honda’s Earth Dreams powertrain program.
Honda also confirmed widespread rumors that it would introduce the European-made Civic Type-R, a five-door “hot hatchback” that, only a few months ago had indicated was not coming to the American market.
“We’re adding an exclamation point” to the news, said the maker’s top U.S. executive, John Mendel, during a media briefing at the Jacob Javits convention center.
The launch of the tenth-generation Civic for the 2016 model-year will come just four years after the debut of the current platform. The gen-nine Civic was initially greeted by an unusual level of criticism for its timid design and other perceived flaws, prompting Honda to rush an “emergency refresh” into production for the 2013 model-year.
The new 2016 Honda Civic is expected to address the remaining issues, with a more aggressive, retro-forward design based on an all-new “architecture” or vehicle platform that may eventually be used for other Honda models, company officials hinted.
“The new design looks into the future,” said lead designer Guy Melville-Brown, but it has “properties that harken back to the original Civic.”
One of the most immediately obvious changes with the Honda Civic Coupe shown at the New York event was the long hood, a distinct move away from the more cab-forward design language Honda has opted for with recent versions of the Civic.
The Coupe Concept is extremely close to the production 2-door model, down to the new multi-element LED headlamps. A senior official told TheDetroitBureau.com that higher trim levels of the next-gen Civic will come with LED headlamps, something typical found on much more expensive model lines.
“This is a car that pushes well above its weight,” Melville-Brown suggested.
Civic has long been one of the most popular vehicles in the U.S., and along with the bigger Accord, one of Honda’s traditional top-sellers. That led to a decision to put American designers and engineers in charge of the development of the two key versions of the new Civic line, the sedan and coupe models.
Honda officials were reticent to discuss many hard details about the new 2016 Civic, planning to release more closer to the launch, but they indicated base models of the compact mainstay will be powered by a naturally aspirated V-6, while more upscale versions will get the new VTEC 1.5-liter turbo engine. There will be both a 6-speed manual and a “refined” version of the current Honda CVT offered.
The launch will be staggered, according to Mendel, with the new Civic debuting – 43 years after the debut of the original – in sedan form. The coupe will be rolled out next. Then, at some point, the Civic Type-R hatchback will follow.
Mendel stressed that he had just given final approval for a U.S. version of the 5-door, which could push it back a year or more.
Fans say there are plenty of reasons to bring it the States, starting with its sporty more European styling. In Euro configuration, the Type R, with its turbocharged 2.0-liter four, makes a solid 300-hp, and would go up against such competitors as the Volkswagen Golf-R and the upcoming Ford Focus RS.
In a follow-up interview, Mendel said it is not quite clear what sort of demand the Civic Type-R might generate, “But I would hope we could see a couple 1,000 a month.” Demand, he suggested, will likely be closely linked to pricing. And that will depend on exchange rate forecasts based on the British pound, the Type-R coming from an underutilized factory in England.