14 March 2005

Honda sent a shockwave through the Geneva Motor Show with the first public outing of this Civic concept car, which will form the basis of the all-new model due to go on sale early next year. Although billed as a concept car, company insiders reckon this styling study is a ‘99 per cent’ guide to how next year’s production model will look.

The radical-looking five-door shows that Honda is determined to shake off its fuddy-duddy image with sharp styling and the promise of class-leading performance, vastly improved dynamics and higher perceived quality.

‘If this doesn’t improve the image of Honda, I give in,’ said Honda UK’s marketing director Simon Thompson. ‘We’ll be moving into the premium segment,’ he added, hinting that Honda is targeting the BMW 1-series and Audi A3, as well as traditional rivals such as the Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra and VW Golf.

Designed in-house by Toshiyuki Okumoto, the new model will be built on an all-new platform and will keep many of the concept car’s details – including the egg-crate front and rear valance, Perspex-covered grille, triangular exhaust pipes and Alfa Romeo-style hidden rear door handles.

Unlike the current model, the three-door version will maintain the same profile and dimensions as the five-door.

‘We wanted a futuristic and sporty image,’ Okumoto told Autocar, ‘combining taut European design with Japanese influence and a good stance.’

The interior of the concept wasn’t on display at the Geneva show, but the design team is said to have given it a cockpit-style, driver-focused cabin that’s every bit as radical as the exterior. Attention will also be given to the look and feel of the cabin materials.

One downside to the lower-slung roofline, however, is that it won’t have the vast interior space of the current model, although seating versatility and practicality is said to have taken a step forward.

Technical details are still scarce, but the engine range is likely to include a revised 1.4-litre petrol engine from the Jazz, a newly developed 1.8-litre petrol and Honda’s impressive 2.2-litre turbodiesel.

Use of lightweight materials mean the kerbweight will also be reduced and safety boosted, with all models getting curtain airbags as standard.

The final production version is tipped to be unveiled at the Frankfurt show in September.

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