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First Sight: Honda Civic - North America

Fri, 02 Sep 2005 00:00:00 -0700 This is the new US market, 8th generation Honda Civic that follows on soon from the announcement of the 8th generation European Civic about to make its public debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show, and the Civic Si Coupe concept shown at Chicago earlier this year.

Although relating closely to its hatchback European sibling, the US market Civic is available as a four door sedan or two door coupe - underscoring the principal difference in market preference between Europe and America for this size of car.


The Si Coupe is available from launch with the 2.0 liter, 197bhp VTEC engine, whilst the sedan and standard coupe have a 1.8 liter, 140 bhp VTEC engine. Most interesting is the Civic Hybrid Sedan which has a 1.3 liter, 110 bhp VTEC engine (with two spark plugs per cylinder) and a 15 kilowatt (20bhp) electric motor that runs through a CVT. This Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) power-train has significantly improved energy regeneration (170% of the previous system) and more efficient electric-only operation to give fuel consumption figures that exceed the petrol-only powered Civic by approximately 50%! A natural gas powered Civic will be available in 2006.

As standard are active front head rests and class leading front, front-side and side airbags. Dual stage dual threshold front airbags that have passenger side occupant position detection system (OPDS) are available as an option. ABS and EBD are also standard equipment, but not the VSA (Vehicle Stability Assist) or double pre-tensioners for front and rear seatbelts that the European Civic has, although interestingly it does have multi-link double wishbone rear suspension where the European model has just reverted to cheaper and more compact torsion bars.

Inside the car has the same novel instrument binnacle as the European Civic called 'Dual Link', which displays important driving information including vehicle speed in the upper part near the base of the windscreen and viewed over the steering wheel, while other information is viewed conventionally in the lower part through the steering wheel. The Civic is also now available in five different levels of trim.

The Sedan's dimensions are: length 176.8in, width 69.0in, height 56.5in, wheelbase 106.3in. The Coupe's dimensions are: length 174.8in, width 68.9in, height 53.5in, wheelbase 104.3in -  generally marginally wider and longer of wheelbase than the previous generation, but much the same height and length as both its predecessor and the European Civic.


Although the sedan and coupe are '3-box' in their conceptual design, they are both almost 'one motion in profile' as Honda says; each of the 3 boxes blending seamlessly into another, although no exterior panels are shared between these two very similarly sized variants.

Other notable aspects to the design are wheel arches that are very close to the tyres with Honda claiming a class leading gap of just 1.7in between rear wheel and arch - presumably on the Si's 17in wheels, and the Coupe's windscreen angle of 21.9 degrees being a remarkable 2 degrees shallower than the NSX supercar.

Whilst seemingly sharing the bones inside and out with its European sibling, the US Civic has its own distinct form language. This is characterised by the large simple front and side surfaces that taper upwards not downward which combine with the good body to wheel relationship to give a very strong stance. Notable exterior design features also include the sedan's lower side feature strip, 'clap hands' windscreen wipers and prominent Honda logo incorporated into the grille bright-work. Inside the design is more sober than the advanced but rather busy European Civic, but otherwise similarly driver orientated and executed to an impressively high level of quality.


The new US market Civic is a less radical departure from its previous generation than its European equivalent, but is still a significant advancement that looks likely to continue to be one of the best selling cars in North America and have significant influence on subsequent domestic and Asian competitors in this sector.