Honda will offer just one grade and one body style of its next-generation Civic model when the five-door VTi-LX hatch goes on sale from December 6.
Honda Australia says the single-spec offering is a move to push the model upmarket as the business “repositions” itself to focus on private small car buyers. It’s part of a broader decision that will see the Japanese brand sell just “20,000 vehicles” annually from now on.
The eleventh-generation Civic is powered by an updated version of the familiar 1.5-litre VTEC TURBO four-cylinder petrol engine. The new range no longer incorporates the 1.8-litre normally aspirated four-pot, which previously powered the entry-grade VTi-S. The line-up will be further bolstered next year when the e:HEV hybrid and sporty Type R arrive.
Speaking to GoAuto this week, Honda Australia director Stephen Collins said the brand would target buyers of “European-type hatches” on the back of an increasing proportion of SUV model sales. The annual sales target for the new high-grade Civic is 900 units.
“We really have quite an onslaught of new product arriving over the next 18 months – and the Civic petrol model is the first. It’s a car that has an enormous history globally and, in Australia, it has been on sale for nearly 50 years,” Mr Collins said.
“Throughout that period, it has played different roles for us… and this vehicle will play a different role again. We are repositioning the Civic in Australia. On occasions, it has been our volume model and, other times, it has been more niche and more premium. This time it is very much a premium step up… a real step up in terms of the class of the hatch.
“As such, it won’t be a big-volume vehicle for us. Over the next 12 months, we expect to (sell) about 900 units. It will be a more premium vehicle, positioned at the top of the hatch market and, although it will be a lower volume (car) for us, it is still an important model,” he added.
Mr Collins said the strategy behind Civic fitted Honda’s new agency ethos of a “right-size business” that can “sell a sustainable number of vehicles to support (its) profitability”.
He said the brand would continue to focus on a premium specification and high-series grades as it moved forward; the streamlined product line-up would effectively “create space for all-new products now on the horizon”.
“We’ll be launching the Civic with the ‘one price promise’ – it will be priced $47,200 drive-away nationally. We think that’s very reflective of the level of equipment and premiumness of the vehicle… and we think the package really speaks for itself,” Mr Collins continued.
“Probably around 90 per cent of our business will be SUVs (in future). SUV growth in the market continues to be amazing and our line-up over the next few years will reflect that.”
When asked if Honda Australia considered ditching the Civic altogether, Mr Collins was resolute, saying the nameplate was “synonymous” with the brand and would continue to have a presence in the local market for the foreseeable future.
“I think the primary reason is that it’s just such a part of us – we have to bring it to market,” Mr Collins enthused.
“We have a 50-year history with Civic and I think if you ask the average person in the street about Honda models, I think the Civic would be the top two or three (they recall), despite the fact that we sell a lot more CR-Vs and HR-Vs. It’s synonymous with our brand.”
The Civic, HR-V and CR-V will be joined by another SUV in the next 12 months. The Accord – which will be refreshed before the end of 2022 – will remain in Honda Australia’s line-up.
The Odyssey will, however, be retired globally as Honda closes its people-mover production facility to focus on the manufacture of SUVs.
“The eleventh-generation Civic represents a step-change for Honda in the small-car segment, with the all-new model elevating key aspirational elements of the Honda brand such as craftsmanship, premium quality and intuitive design,” Mr Collins continued.
“On the eve of its 50th anniversary, Honda designers and engineers have taken the Civic to a whole new level, producing a car that is more advanced, more sophisticated, and more premium than ever before.
“For Australia, the all-new Civic has been specified to appeal to a new target customer, one that aligns with the move to a more premium positioning for the Civic nameplate and the Honda brand overall,” he added.
Output figures of the VTEC TURBO engine in Civic are rated at 131kW (+4kW) and 240Nm (+20Nm), the figure rising to 134kW on premium unleaded fuel. The front wheels are driven via a continuously variable transmission, which Honda “redeveloped and improved” for 2022.
Honda says the Civic VTi-LX will accelerate from 0-100km/h in 7.5 seconds and the model’s average fuel economy figure is listed at 6.3 litres per 100km (ADR Combined).
The new model places an emphasis on innovation, design leadership and outstanding driving dynamics, Honda says. Its clean modern design is paired with a high-tech, human-centred interior equipped with the latest advanced active and passive safety systems.
Honda will offer its latest Honda Sensing safety technologies on the Civic VTi-LX hatch, including blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, driver and front-seat passenger knee airbags, traffic jam assist, driver attention monitor, as well as a pop-up safety bonnet.
The Japanese-built model rides on 18-inch alloy wheels (with a puncture repair kit) and will be available in four paint colours: Crystal Red, Crystal Blue, Crystal Black and Platinum White.
Honda says it has focused on outward visibility as part of a push to create a “panoramic exterior view”. The newcomer’s A-pillars have been moved backward, the bonnet lowered and the dashboard flattened to improve the view forward. The door-mounted wing mirrors, in turn, serve to improve sightlines between the front pillar and the mirror.
Cabin volume is increased by 34 litres to a total of 2803 litres. Despite its rakish roofline, the Civic is said to still offer “ample head, leg, shoulder, and hip room for all passengers.”
The model is 12mm wider in its rear track and has a 35-mm longer wheelbase than the outgoing model; the suspension comprises a strut front- and multi-link rear arrangement. Braking is all disc (282mm front/260mm rear) and the steering electrically assisted.
The new Civic tips the scale at 1369kg.
Meanwhile, the front seats are trimmed in black perforated suede (with red accents) and are both heated and electrically adjustable, while the 9.0-inch touchscreen infotainment array supports wireless Apple CarPlay and (wired) Android Auto connectivity. A BOSE 12-speaker premium audio system, Qi wireless device charging pad, satellite navigation (with over-the-air updates) and LED ambient courtesy lighting are also fitted.
The extended rear overhang and reduced hinge intrusion sees the Honda’s claimed luggage capacity grow to 404 litres. A lower lift-over height and 60:40 split-fold rear seats join an additional under-floor tray (45 litres) to further extend the Civic’s cargo-carrying ability.
Australian sales of the Civic trail those of most of its sub-$40,000 small car competitors; at the time of writing, had Honda recorded year-to-date unit sales of just 2749.
Its sixth place standing sees the current-gen Civic place behind the Toyota Corolla (25,393), Hyundai i30 (21,080), Kia Cerato (16,183), Mazda 3 (12,566) and Subaru Impreza (3273), but ahead of the Volkswagen Golf (1527), Skoda Scala (855) and Ford Focus (662).
2022 Honda Civic hatch pricing*:
VTi-S (a) Discontinued
VTi-L (a) Discontinued
VTi-LX (a) $47,200* (+$10,600)
RS (a) Discontinued
*National drive-away price.