Without a doubt, the compact Civic sedan is the most important model in Honda Canada’s lineup. Despite a drop in sales of 8.2 per cent in 2010 compared to 2009, and an extension of its usual four-year model changeover to an extra-long six years, the Civic was still the best selling passenger car in Canada last year—for the thirteenth year in a row.
Last week, though, hours after its media presentation at this year’s Toronto auto show, Honda released some images and specs of the new, ninth-generation 2012 Civic that goes on sale this spring. And the big question is: Will the new model allow the Honda to keep its sales crown?
Unlike when the last Civic was introduced in the fall of 2005, Honda now has some serious competition from Ford (Focus), Hyundai (Elantra), Chevrolet (Cruze), Kia (Forte) and Volkswagen (Golf/Jetta) ready to knock the champ off its podium—plus the perennially best-selling compacts from Toyota (Corolla) and Mazda (3).
To wit: According to Hyundai Canada, the new 2011 Elantra sedan has already jumped ahead of the Civic. It earned the title of "best-selling passenger car as well as best-selling vehicle in the compact segment after posting sales of 2,253 units in January". With an increase of 209 percent over the same month in 2009, the Elantra sedan nearly doubled Civic sales.
I’ll need to see the 2012 Civic in the metal to judge properly. But these initial PR shots show a decidedly conservative redesign, even on the inside. And, yet again, despite Ford, Mazda, Kia, VW and eventfully Hyundai offering hatchbacks in their respective compact lineups, Honda has decreed that the market will be quite happy with Civics with trunks, seemingly saying, if you want a small, Honda hatch, go and buy the smaller Fit.
Honda is playing up the 2012 Civics’ fuel economy numbers. A new HF model scores 41 mpg in the US. But that’s still behind the Cruze Eco’s 42 mpg, and only a smidgen more than the new Focus and Elantra’s 40 mpg highway ratings.
At least there's a new Civic Hybrid on the way. Honda USA says it "will be outfitted for the first time with a lithium-ion battery and a larger 1.5-liter i-VTEC engine, is expected to achieve an EPA-estimated city/highway combined fuel economy of 45 mpg, an improvement of 4 mpg compared to the current Civic Hybrid.” But no word yet on what kind of price premium you'll pay for those extra MPGs.
About the only bright spot in the new Civic lineup is a revitalized Si model. It will get a more powerful and larger mill, a 200 hp and 170 ft-lb of torque 2.4-litre four, mated to a six-speed manual.
We’ll get a better idea how the 2012 Civic stacks up in the heated up compact car wars in April. That's when Wheels will get our hands on the new model.
But until then, do you think Honda has done enough with its golden goose to ward off the plethora of barbarians at its gates?
Or is Honda's arguably timid approach right inline with the typically conservative Civic Nation buyer?
(Sources: Honda USA, Hyundai Canada)