HONDA will try to position itself as a sportier, more desirable brand spearheaded by a new RS model as part of a five-level Civic range aimed at significantly boosting sales of the soon-to-arrive new small car.
To be available as a sedan and hatch, the new Civic will include affordable models priced from about $22,000, and stretch to the winged-and-wheeled RS as a luxury model above them.
By late 2017 there will also be the fiery Civic Type R hatch with a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine.
Honda lists the Mazda 3 as the “benchmark” for the Civic to fight against, but says it will not battle the top-selling Toyota Corolla or the 3 for the outright sales top spot.
“We’re not just pushing for volume; sustainable volume is very important for us, so it’s not just about being number one or knocking somebody off,” says Honda Australia director Stephen Collins.
“[Civic] for us is the most important model probably we’re ever going to launch.”
Honda concedes recent Civics have not lived up to the solid reputation of the once-loved small car. It hasn’t helped that the hatch has been sourced from the UK while the more plain-looking but keener priced sedan comes from Thailand.
Honda Australia had a strong voice in the development of the new model, having been involved in its general make-up and final details since the start of its development almost four years ago.
“What was critical for us was a stylish, sporty, technologically advanced small car that would broaden the appeal of Honda,” says Collins.
The 10th generation Civic will be produced in Thailand, with the hatch and sedan sharing the same design from the B-pillar forward.
“It was really about bringing Civic back to a benchmark small car,” says Collins, adding that Honda Australia pushed to have the sedan and hatch produced alongside each other and with common design themes. “We needed a super-competitive Civic hatch and sedan.”
The Civic will come with the choice of a 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine or a more powerful 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo, the latter teamed exclusively to a CVT auto.
The new Civic will come with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on all models. Apps in the centre touchscreen include a web browser and calculator, as well as a facility to download extra apps.
As for the RS badge being used on other Hondas, Collins says “it’s certainly possible – we want to dial it up as much as we can”.