Honda Benchmarks Germans for 10th-Gen Civic Sedan

DETROIT – With the majority of this week’s industry news occurring at the Frankfurt auto show, Honda pulls attention back to the U.S. by unwrapping the next-generation Civic sedan tonight in Los Angeles.

“In the end we feel that we delivered what is fundamentally the very best car not only in its class, it’s a Civic that sets its sights on the world’s best segments,” John Mendel, executive vice president-American Honda, tells media here in Detroit this afternoon at a pre-L.A. unveil press briefing.

Mendel is referring to the fact the Civic sedan and coupe’s North American R&D team – the first North American R&D team ever to lead a Civic redesign – benchmarked not only other vehicles in the car’s class in the U.S., but models of its size around the world.

Honda is billing the 10th-gen Civic as its first global Civic, with the compact for the first time using the same platform around the world, at least since Honda began assembly of its C-car outside Japan.

“This time our goal was to create one Civic platform that underpins every model sold globally,” he says, later telling media Honda saved “a lot” of money with the strategy.

Honda looked at wide swath of C-segment vehicles, including key benchmark the Audi A3 for its ride, ride quality, steering, handling and noise, vibration and harshness levels, to build “the world’s best C-segment vehicle,” Mendel says.

The development team wanted the Civic’s sedan’s hip point at the same level as the Audi TT sport coupe’s, which involved lowering the Honda’s floor, instrument panel and engine, and re-engineering the suspension.

A global team of engineers devised a new platform in early 2012 that is 2 ins. (5 cm) wider and 1-in. (2.5-cm) longer than the platform the current ninth-gen U.S. Civic rides on.

Engineers also gave the car a shorter front overhang and a 1-in. longer wheelbase.

New 2.0L and 1.5L Engines Due

The LX grade of the ’16 Civic sedan will receive what Honda is billing as its most powerful base engine ever for the U.S. version of the car, a 2.0L 4-cyl. with the Japanese automaker’s i-VTEC variable valve-timing and lift technology. The current ’15 Civic 4-door uses a 143-hp 1.8L 4-cyl.

Upmarket EX-T, EX-L and Touring trim levels will receive Honda’s first turbocharged engine in North America, a 1.5L 4-cyl., also with direct injection.

No specifications for either mill were released today, with Honda keeping those numbers under wraps until the car’s media drive in a couple weeks.

Buyers of grades with the 2.0L will have the choice of a 6-speed manual transmission or a CVT, which Mendel says has been completely reengineered from the current Civic.

Those selecting the 1.5L grades of the car get a CVT specially designed for a turbo application.

Mendel touts class-leading power and fuel economy for both engines, with Honda having highway fuel economy a “several ticks” above 40 mpg (5.9 L/100 km), giving the car a 5- or 6-mpg (2.1 or 2.6 km/L) advantage over its competitors.

In other technology news, the automaker will make available on every ’16 Civic trim level its Honda Sensing suite of advanced safety systems, including adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow, available for the first time on a Honda.

Interior Analysis

With the longer wheelbase, Honda is touting a more spacious interior for the car, claiming class-leading volume.

The Civic’s passenger cabin also will have higher quality, Mendel promises, thanks to more soft-touch surfaces.

And speaking of touch, there is a 7-in. (18-cm) display audio touchscreen, compatible with Android Auto or Apple CarPlay.

WardsAuto briefly checks out the interior of the premium-grade model here in Detroit and finds its fit-and-finish to be good and materials to indeed be of higher quality than those in the current Civic. (See related photo gallery).

The new car has 2-tone leather seats, light gray with a wide dark-gray stripe down the center of the top of the upper cushion and on three quarters of the bottom cushion.

White stitching also is used on the seats, as well as on interior door panels.

Door panels have soft-touch material with a leather texture at the top, and just below it two different metallic finishes, one reading more silver than the other depending on lighting.

The volume-knob-less touchscreen no doubt will prove as controversial in the Civic as it has been in Honda’s bigger Pilot CUV, which introduced the feature earlier this year.

The new screen appears to not be as slanted toward the driver as the screen in the outgoing Civic.

Heating and ventilation controls, thankfully with two large knobs for temperature control, are just below the touchscreen.

The area around the shifter errs plain, with at least two dead buttons in the model here.

Notable is an electronic parking brake in lieu of the Civic’s standard brake lever.

The gauge cluster is divided in three, with the tachometer and a speed readout in the center, as well as system notifications.

To the left of the tachometer is the oil-temperature gauge and on the right is the fuel gauge.

The steering wheel has piano-black buttons controlling cluster menus as well as cruise-control buttons.

Honda Sees Civic Global Volume Steady

The compact car has been one of Honda’s biggest-selling models in the U.S., consistently, for 30 years.

WardsAuto data shows the Civic, which launched as a subcompact in the States in ’73, first surpassed the 200,000-mark in 1985. By 1997 Honda was selling more than 300,000 units annually.

However, in the past decade, Civic sales have sunk below 300,000 a few times, notably following the recession in 2009, the second-to-last year of the eighth-gen model’s lifecycle.

U.S. Civic sales stayed below 300,000 in 2010 and 2011, with the latter year’s volume tallying 221,235, a nearly 20-year low.

Honda’s own CR-V now regularly delivers more than 300,000 annual sales in the U.S.

But contrary to popular belief, and booming CUV sales, Mendel says cars are not dead. He foresees good results for the Civic in the U.S. going forward and annual global volume holding at 800,000.

“We don’t share the same pessimism” as industry prognosticators, he says, adding  “nope” when asked if there is a long-term shift under way from cars to CUVs.

The Civic sedan will launch before Thanksgiving, while the coupe, which typically accounts for 20%-25% of the compact’s annual U.S. sales, is expected to debut in the winter.

Mendel won’t get specific on timing for the much-ballyhooed 5-door Civic and the high-performance Civic Type R, saying they may come the year after next or even later. A next-gen Civic Si also is expected.

Civic sedans sold in the U.S. will be assembled in North America, at Honda’s vehicle-assembly plants in Alliston, ON, Canada, and Greensburg, IN.

The hatchback will come from Europe, however.

The new 1.5L and 2.0L engines will both be sourced from Honda’s Anna, OH, engine plant, while transmissions will come from Russells Point, OH, and Celaya, Mexico.

Honda discontinued the hybrid and natural-gas Civic variants this year and has no plans to replace them in the near term.

Civic pricing should remain near that of the current model, Mendel says. That ’15 4-door ranges from $18,490 to $23,340, encompassing the LX, SE, EX-L and EX-L Navi grades and not including a $820 destination and handling fee.

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