Five signs Honda cares about enthusiasts, again

It’s a great time to be an enthusiast. From high-horsepower Hellcats to the purist BRZ, engaging automobiles are found in nearly every segment of the market. Everyone wants to join the performance parade. Everyone it seemed, but Honda.

The company that built some of Formula One’s most successful engines, helped launch the tuner market and gave the world a seminal supercar, has watched competitors of all stripes surge by it for the hearts, minds and dollars of enthusiasts. Until now.

Honda put the rest of the auto world on notice at the New York Auto Show, revealing a jaw-dropping Civic concept, confirming the Type R will come to the United States and even adding a hatchback to the 2016 Civic line. Throw in the Acura NSX and much-improved ILX for Honda’s luxury sibling, and it’s undeniable the company is regaining its swagger. Once again, Honda is serious about performance, and here’s five reasons why enthusiasts should believe.

Honda Civic Concept

The Honda Civic Concept Looks Great

We’re psyched about the Civic concept, which was a surprise reveal earlier this month at the New York Auto Show. Clad in bright neon green, the concept edged out the Lincoln Continental for first place in our Editors’ Choice awards at the show. As Editor-in-Chief Sharon Carty put it, “The color hurts so good.”

Yes, the green is blinding, but you don’t have to squint to see the 10th generation of the Civic. Honda’s concepts are the real deal, and this is the car (mostly) that will launch this fall. It’s attractive, with a long hood, curvaceous sides and a simple but sporty grille. The powertrain lineup will include a 1.5-liter VTEC turbo four-cylinder paired with a six-speed manual, which should be a treat for enthusiasts. With its fresh looks and intriguing mechanicals, the concept previews an everyday driver you can get excited about. Obviously, we are.

2005 honda civic si hatchback silver

The Hatchback Returns

Yep, the Civic is getting a five-door hatch in the United States. It’s been a while. Honda last offered a Civic hatch for a brief time in the mid-2000s, and only as the lower-volume Si model.

The new hatch will be produced at Honda’s factory in the United Kingdom and imported to the United States. That’s a win-win for Honda: it’s using excess capacity in the UK to satiate a niche market for US buyers.

The annual hatch production is reportedly expected to be 30,000 to 40,000 units, which is a drop in the bucket for the Civic lineup and its massive though declining sales. Volume for the sedan and coupe was 325,981 units last year (down 3 percent) in the US market, and Honda has sold 66,722 Civics in America this year (down 6.2 percent). Apparently, US buyers are ready for a new Civic. Adding a hatchback certainly won’t hurt. It’s also another option for hatch fans, who can cross-shop the Civic hatch against the Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus and Mazda3.

honda civic type r geneva motor show

The Type R Is Coming To America

More good news for enthusiasts, the Type R is coming here. It’s sort of like Honda thought to itself, “Hmm, why are we not bringing these things to the US?” And then just went for it. Makes sense to us.

The Type R was unveiled in March at the Geneva Motor Show, where it took third place in our Editors’ Choice voting. It packs a turbo four pumping out 306 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque, which allows this racy Civic to run the Nürburgring in 7 minutes, 50.63 seconds. Whew. Honda is calling it a “racecar for the road.” It certainly looks the part, with beefy Brembo brakes, a huge rear wing, a wide front splitter and deep side skirts. This is the Civic’s performance flagship, slotting above the Si. We can’t wait to push its limits.

honda cr-z racetrack

The CR-Z Might Ditch The Hybrid

Finally, the CR-Z might become the sporting little hatch/fastback of our dreams. Maybe. Reports from Car and Driver and others that suggest Honda could swap the hybrid unit for a more traditional and potent four-cylinder. This would finally deliver on the promise of the CR-Z as a modern successor to the CRX.

Frankly, we like the current car. It’s just underpowered. The two-seat layout is spot-on for enthusiasts, and the chassis is tight and sporty. Still, a new powertrain for the CR-Z is just a rumor, and since the reports initially surfaced, Honda has revealed plans for a refreshed Civic lineup that includes a hatch and the Type R. In our book, there’s also room for a sporty two-seater in the company’s portfolio. An S2000 is probably too much to ask.

2016 acura ilx front coutnryside

The ILX Is Much Better, And Acura‘s Getting There

Hey, we need to devote at least one of our reasons to Acura’s performance chops. Honda’s upscale sister brand is in much better shape thanks to the fortified ILX. Acura dressed up the exterior with a nicer grille and LED headlights and a new rear fascia. The engine is now the well-liked 2.4-liter I4 with 201 horsepower, a major jump from the outgoing model’s 150-hp 2.0-liter I4. It also swaps in a dual-clutch eight-speed transmission for the previous five-speed automatic. There’s upgraded electronics, a stiffer chassis and a smarter interior. As Basem Wasef wrote in our first drive, “The 2016 Acura ILX’s improvements in drivability and equipment deliver much-needed triage to this entry-level model, bringing the underdog sedan into relevancy in the face of compelling value propositions like the Audi A3 and Mercedes-Benz CLA.”

So while Acura is getting its entry-level sedan right, it’s also preparing to launch the much-anticipated NSX supercar. The Ohio-built speed demon launches Acura into rarified territory against some of the world’s exotic carmakers. Clearly, Acura is trying to get back on the radar with enthusiasts. As Dave Marek, global creative director of Acura design, noted: “We need to say that Acura’s a performance brand.”

Acura is saying that loudly. And with its recent reveals in New York and Geneva, Honda is saying the same thing. Finally.

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