The new Civic sedan is a key model for Honda here. We’ve gone to the neighbour’s to take a look.
TWO choices of engine, one of body style – it’s initially a sedan only – but perhaps a variety of versions, including a surprise choice performance-flavoured pitch.
That’s how the next generation of Honda Civic presents in Australia, where it has just launched.
Though there is no guarantee that New Zealand will accept exactly the same lineup, chances are that the spread offered to our neighbour lends significant insight into what Honda here can lay hands on for its own market ambition.
There’s still time to contemplate this issue – the car is not set to come on here for another two months.
Civic is a key introduction. Honda here is on a comeback trail and the Jazz and HR-V have helped get into back into the public eye, however it still has much more to do if it is to regain the customer base it used to enjoy in the days when it enjoyed a solid reputation as 'the Japanese BMW'.
The new NSX supercar and an upcoming Type R Civic hatchback have already been promised to New Zealand, which is good news for enthusiasts.
However, neither will be volume-generating cars – that’s a role that falls onto the Civic, which has historically always been a bedrock. Can it still be?
One potential challenge is obvious: The shape. Sedans of any size are no longer the strong sellers they once were. That’s a result of the abdication to crossovers. Hatchbacks have also felt the heat, but not the same extent as booted four-door cars.
Honda has sought to alleviate this by giving the Civic sedan a sharp, sporty style. Australian media say it has a bold, somewhat edgy, look that separates it from the crowd.
The range across the Tasman also aspires to meet a broader sweep of consumer expectation. There are nine model in all, spanning in price from the equivalent of $23,710 to $35,956 in New Zealand currency.
The lineup there starts with a VTi that provides a moderate level of standard kit including a seven-inch infotainment screen with a reversing camera, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, a digital driver's instrument cluster and something rare these days - 16-inch steel wheels with hubcaps.
The next step up across the water is provided by a VTi-S that brings 16-inch alloys, smart keys, front and rear parking sensors and Honda's mirror-mounted lane watch camera system that plays live video of the car's left-side blind spot when changing lanes.
The VTi and VTi-S are powered by a 1.8-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine that carries from the previous generation. This makes 104kW and 174Nm performance and has a cited optimum overall fuel economy of 6.4 litres per 100km.
The more expensive versions that site above these derivatives take a new 1.5-litre turbo motor with 127kW/220Nm along with 6L/100km fuel use.
Both engines drive the front wheels through a continuously variable transmission automatic that is standard across the range.
The cheapest 1.5-litre Civic in Australia is the VTi-L. This provisions 17-inch alloys, climate control and a digital radio. There’s also a VTi-LX that adds satellite navigation, a premium stereo, electric sunroof and full-LED lights.
It is also the only edition available to our neighbour with the ‘Honda Sensing’ driver assistance suite with autonomous emergency braking, lane keeping assistance and active cruise control.
The surprise turn is a sports-themed Civic RS. This has many of the LX fitments, save for sat nav and driver aids, and adds a body kit that replaces chrome elements with black details on the grille and wheels. Plus a red, fist-sized RS logo on the back – even though there are no power or transmission enhancements to back up the promise.
Civic’s arrival has also given Honda opportunity to explain how it is addressing another safety issue that hangs over many of its models – the Takata airbag scandal.
Honda says it has now ditched its long-term airbag supplier and did so even before work on this latest car began.
No company has been hit by the Takata scandal as hard as Honda, but few have been left unscathed.
Car makers have recalled millions of cars with Takata parts to address a growing issue that has killed and injured drivers overseas. Faulty Takata airbags with explosive ammonium nitrate inflators have the potential to rupture, sending shrapnel flying through a car's cabin.
The new Civic does not use ammonium nitrate inflators.