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Honda Concept Aims to Restore Civic pride

10 Avril 2015 - Automotive News

Honda Concept Aims to Restore Civic pride

With the sleek, athletic Civic design unveiled at the New York auto show last week, Honda is trying not only to regain some of its sales momentum but also reclaim a piece of its heritage.

The concept car will be the inspiration behind a new Civic sedan that will arrive in showrooms this fall. That will be followed by a coupe. A five-door hatchback, imported from Honda's plant in Swindon, England, will make a return to the U.S. market, likely in 2016. And within two years, a Type-R performance hatch will add a halo to its Civic lineup.

"We are going back to our roots," said John Mendel, executive vice president of American Honda.

The latest compact is based on a new global platform developed by Honda over the past three years, and it has a distinctly American pedigree. Honda's technical center in Ohio led the car's engineering and the company's design studio in California oversaw styling, said Guy Melville-Brown, a Honda designer who worked on the exterior styling.

"This is the first time the Civic has been born in America," he said.

News that a new Civic is poised to arrive for 2016 stoked Honda dealers' enthusiasm. Because the new Civic will arrive just three years after a quick midcycle makeover for the 2013 model year, "the feeling is we are getting a new car in half the time," said Art Wright, owner of Lehigh Valley Honda in Emmaus, Pa.

Honda has been working hard in recent years to return the Civic to the top of its class. The last full redesign, for the 2012 model year, proved disappointing and notably failed to make Consumer Reports' "recommended" list. That car "wasn't as sporty as we once were," Mendel said.

This coming Civic is part of a broader effort to reinvigorate Honda, which has slipped behind Hyundai and some other competitors in the global vehicle sales race and been hurt by some un-Honda-like missteps in quality, safety and manufacturing.

Meanwhile, as with midsize sedans, what was once a two-man race in compact cars between Honda and Toyota has become far more competitive, with rivals such as Ford, Subaru, Chevy, Mazda and Dodge fielding far improved vehicles and adopting more daring styling. U.S. deliveries of the Civic slipped 3 percent last year in a compact segment that expanded 2.4 percent, though the Civic retained its No. 2 position last year behind the Toyota Corolla.

"Nobody is ceding any segment to anybody else anymore," Mendel said.

The Civic will be available with an updated, naturally aspirated DOHC VTEC engine. Upper trim levels will get a 1.5-liter turbocharged VTEC. Customers will choose either a six-speed manual gearbox or a CVT.

The concept shown in New York is a coupe that displays various design elements that will show up in certain production versions of the car. One possibility is a taillight design that stretches from corner to corner across the back of the car.

"When you're following this car on the highway," Melville-Brown said, "you're going to know it's a Civic."

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