Honda Civic hatchback returns with ‘striking’ flair

Civic hatchback highlights include substantial cladding, dual spoilers at the rear and twin center-mounted exhaust tips.Photo credit: NEWSPRESS

GENEVA — It’s back to the future for Honda’s Civic hatchback.

The automaker used the Geneva auto show today to introduce a prototype of the Civic hatchback that is set to return to the U.S. market after an 11-year hiatus.

Though Honda has dubbed the car a prototype, the production Civic hatchback that’s scheduled to go on sale in the U.S. later this year as a 2017 model is expected to be nearly identical.

It will be aimed at other compact hatchbacks such as the Mazda3, Ford Focus, Subaru Impreza and Chevrolet Cruze.

Honda is looking to bolster its performance cred without stepping into the Type R territory (that comes later), so the Civic hatchback will come only with Honda’s new 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine.

Power and performance figures haven’t been disclosed, but they’re not expected to change much from the 174 hp and 162 pounds-feet of torque in the Civic coupe and sedan. The production hatchback will come with either a continuously variable transmission or a six-speed manual transmission.

Photo credit: HONDA

The hatchback’s sporty inclinations are also laid out in its aggressive styling. Highlights include substantial cladding around the car, with dual spoilers at the rear and twin center-mounted exhaust tips.

“We knew that we needed to create a striking and stand-out exterior design that challenged conventional European compact styling while staying true to the original Civic’s core values,” Daisuke Tsutamori, project leader for the prototype’s style, said in a statement.

Honda hasn’t set a firm on-sale date for the 2017 Civic hatchback in the U.S. but has said it’s due later this year. It will be launched in Europe in early 2017.

The last time Honda sold a Civic hatchback in the U.S. was 2005, when the three-door Civic was discontinued.

Though the hatchback will be a relatively low-volume model compared with the sedan, Honda is hoping that adding the hatchback to its Civic lineup in the U.S. attracts new buyers to the nameplate and the brand.

The hatchback “gives us an entree to a group of people that we haven’t been able to reach, haven’t been able to serve in the past,” Jeff Conrad, general manager of Honda Division, told Automotive News at the Civic sedan launch last September. “They’re all going to be plus buyers.”

The Civic hatchback will be built at Honda’s plant in Swindon, England, for export globally, including to the U.S.

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