Honda’s ninth-gen hatch gets evolutionary looks, improved ride and classier cabin
12 September 2011

Honda is promising much-improved dynamics and a higher-quality interior for the new, ninth-generation Civic, which has made its debut at the Frankfurt motor show and will go on sale in the UK on October 1.

Honda says the strong identity of the current European Civic led engineers and stylists to refine the current package instead of following the usual Civic template of radically altering the concept with each new generation.

Many of the changes have come about following consultation with customers. Their approval of the previous car’s futuristic design led to the basic look and proportions being retained, but with improved aerodynamics and rear and side visibility. The result, says Honda, is the most aerodynamic car in its class, with a claimed drag coefficient of 0.27.

Chief among the changes under the bonnet will be the adoption of a crucial new 1.6-litre diesel. However, this engine will not be available from launch but is tipped to follow later in 2012. The initial engine line-up consists of revised versions of today’s 1.4-litre and 1.8-litre petrol units and the 2.2 i-DTEC diesel from the Accord, each with improved performance, economy and CO2 emissions, which are as low as 110g/km in the 2.2 diesel.

The new Civic, which will again be built at Honda’s Swindon plant, uses a platform adapted from the one used on today’s car. The as-yet-unconfirmed exterior dimensions are believed to remain largely unchanged, but the wheelbase is actually about 30mm shorter than before because extra safety equipment has been incorporated.

Despite this shorter wheelbase, Honda says interior space has remained unchanged and it describes it as “class leading”. This is partly down to the compact torsion beam rear suspension being retained and the fuel tank remaining centrally mounted. These two factors also help contribute to a claimed class-leading boot capacity of 470 litres.

Honda is promising greatly improved handling and, in particular, ride quality this time around; a below-par ride is one of the main criticisms of the current car. More than 20,000 miles of testing has been carried out on British roads to try to improve ride comfort.

The result, claims Honda, is a complete redesign for the rear beam axle so that it is much stiffer than before.

In addition, the adoption of clever new fluid-filled bushing improve stability and cornering ability, as well as boosting ride quality, according to Honda.

Prices will be revealed next month, but are expected to remain in line with those of the current Civic, despite higher levels of standard equipment and a significant boost in interior quality — again in response to customer feedback.

Honda's UK plant at Swindon will increase production at the end of September to meet demand for the new Civic. The production plant only got back to working a five-day week last week – working hours had been cut back as a knock-on effect of the tsunami that struck Japan earlier this year.

Honda estimates that the tsunami cost it one per cent of its UK market share because it could only produce cars at 50 per cent capacity after the tsunami. Honda's UK market share was three per cent in 2010.Mark Tisshaw and Jim Holder

Our Verdict

Honda Civic

The Honda Civic is an impressive achievement and a worthy rival to the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus, but it isn't quite up to class-leading standards

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