A small group of designers at Honda may have the worst job in the automotive industry: updating the Civic to meet the expectations for the company and the public for the 11th-generation version of the top-selling compact.
American Honda unveiled the prototype of the 2022 Civic during an online gaming event on Honda’s Head2Head Twitch channel. The debut was hosted by Rachel Seltzer and MonsterDface, with eight top streamers who battled it out in Fortnite, a massively popular battle royale game, and a live performance by Honda Stage artist, Cordae.
How do you improve upon the brand’s second-best selling vehicle since 1973 – the first year it was sold in the U.S. – at 11.9 million units? It’s not just resting on its sales laurels either as its best-selling car at the retail level for the past five years. Not Honda’s best, simply the best.
Well, for starters, you clearly need to stay true to the car’s target audience, hence the debut of the prototype on Twitch — read: young buyers. Additionally, according to Gary Robinson, product planning head, American Honda Inc., you don’t mess up a good thing.
“It’s not meant to be a revolutionary change,” he said. “The success of the current generation of the Civic is just frankly, fantastic. It’s done so well and really dominates a segment.”
What the company wanted to do is keep the look of the exterior familiar, but also play to a constituency that may like larger utility vehicles, doesn’t have the budget to buy a new one. While the previous design gave the car a long, low look, the new model keeps that look but also makes subtle changes to elevate the eye, making it look bigger and roomier – like those much-desired SUVs and crossovers. The idea is to keep it clean and simple while giving it a premium feel.
It should be noted that the Civic on display during the event is a prototype and not necessarily the final product, although it’s unlikely there will be substantive changes between now and its arrival in the market early next year. However, the vehicle is still “raw” enough that the company didn’t show the interior during the debut event and only showed journalists a rendering of the inside during a background event earlier this week.
Not only is price and styling important in keeping first-time and young buyers coming to the Civic, value is critical. Ensuring all of the infotainment features that millennials expect, such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is balanced against making the cabin feel airy and spacious with an uncluttered display on the dashboard.
One way they’re making the inside seem larger is by using a honeycomb mesh accent, which serves not only makes the dash appear wider, but also conceals the visually busy air vents. The 11th-generation also will introduce multiple new Civic-first technologies, including an all-digital driver’s meter cluster and a new 9-inch full-HD Display Audio touchscreen mounted atop the low-set instrument panel, the company noted.
Young buyers also demand a safe vehicle, and the company is offering its Honda Sensing safety and driver-assistance technologies as well as new airbag designs. Adding to that is the company’s Advanced Compatibility Engineering, or ACE, which offers improved protection for passengers and pedestrians in the event of a crash. It also has a stiffer body structure to give the new model improved ride and handling.
The new Civic comes in four variants: sedan, hatchback, Si and Type R. That’s also the order that they be introduced in throughout next year with the Type R coming late in 2021. Pricing for the new Civic won’t be released until closer to its arrival next year.
It’s also important to note that since it is young buyers putting these vehicles in their driveways, the Si and Type R are available with manual transmissions only. While driving stick has been on the decline for some time now – last year more EVs were sold than manuals in the U.S. – the Civic bucks the trend with 8% of the vehicles coming with manual transmissions.