Honda, borrowing from the playbooks of Europe’s top luxury compacts, has overhauled the Civic from top to bottom in a bid to re-establish its small-car chops.
The redesigned Civic unveiled Wednesday in Los Angeles and Detroit offers a Christmas list of high-end features and engineering specs that are rare for its class: multilink rear suspension, hydraulic bushings, standard automatic climate control, leather seats that are heated front and rear, adaptive cruise control and more.
The changes aim to recapture Civic’s sportiness while maintaining value and creating the “world’s best compact -- setting a new benchmark in the mainstream compact class,” Honda said.
The company targeted the Audi A3 and other European models when engineering work on the 2016 Civic began in early 2012.
“This tenth-generation Civic is quite simply the most ambitious remake of Civic we’ve ever done,” said John Mendel, executive vice president of American Honda Motor.
The 2016 Civic marks the first time Honda will offer a turbocharged engine in the U.S. and the first time the company will adopt a modular platform, one that will underpin future versions of the CR-V crossover and midsize Accord.
The sweeping changes on Honda’s best-selling model worldwide, with annual volume of more than 800,000, come as a form of penance for the 2012-15 Civic.
The ninth-generation Civic landed largely with a thud when it went on sale. The car was Honda’s bet that post-recession buyers in the U.S. would prioritize cheapness over anything else. It turns out, even in a down economy, people still like nice things.
U.S. sales didn’t take a noticeable hit. But Consumer Reports stripped the Civic of its coveted “Recommended” label, critics panned it and residual values and brand image were threatened.
For 2016, Honda has hit the reset button altogether, striving to top stalwarts such as Volkswagen’s newest Golf -- the latest North American Car of the Year.
Honda claims the Civic’s all-new platform will set a new standard for “dynamic handling, steering, ride quality and cabin quietness” among compact cars. It features the most rigid, tightly sealed body and most advanced chassis in Civic history, the company says.
“They have to launch well just to counteract the impression they left with a lot of people the last time around,” Karl Brauer, senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book, told Automotive News. “Even in a recession people don’t want to feel like they’re buying a cheapie car. They needed to go the opposite way with this new model, so that’s exactly what they’re doing.”
In addition to the sedan revealed Wednesday night, Honda is planning a redesigned Civic coupe, a performance-oriented Si coupe and sedan, a five-door hatchback and -- much to the delight of the tuner crowd -- the first high-performance Type R offered in the U.S.