Honda announces the new Civic at the IAA Frankfurt Motor Show. Developed specifically for the European market, the Civic will be offered exclusively as a five-door hatchback and will compete in the C-segment. It will reach European showrooms in early 2012.
The Civic team led by Mitsuru Kariya, the ‘Large Project Leader’ (LPL), were given the task to create and develop the new Civic. With the current Civic being known for its unique exterior styling and interior practicality within the C segment in Europe, Mitsuru Kariya and his team were keen to further understand the needs and desires of the European customers. The current Civic became the benchmark focus for their research to create a car that was even better.
“… when evaluating the requirements of our customers, we recognised that the European customer desires are demanding and unique in many aspects. We have focussed our development on fulfilling these expectations and through this process we have taken our development standards even further to a new level.” (Mitsuru Kariya, LPL)
With the current increase of fuel prices across Europe and the environmental targets set to achieve low emissions, it was concluded from the European customer survey that the current Civic customer not only considers modern styling and performance to be important but also advanced technologies to create a Civic that was even more cost efficient to run and eco-friendly.
The development period for the new Civic spanned over four years. Nearly all of components are new to the Civic or have been further developed with areas of focus on the suspension set-up to improve the ride and handling, the interior materials to improve the overall interior quality, the new design styling and aerodynamics for a refreshed image and improved efficiency, and the engines for improved performance and reduced CO2 emissions.
Overall the new Civic builds on the core strengths of its predecessor and takes them to an appreciably higher level. It also is one of the sector’s best in performance against low CO2 emissions – the diesel model produces just 110 g/km with 150 PS and 350 Nm of torque.
Background and Research
The current Civic originally launched in 2006 saw a change in the type of layout approach with the development of a unique platform based on a “centre tank” layout designed to offer practical benefits such as large cabin space meeting the needs of Europe’s “C” category customers.
The Civic was designed and developed for the European market receiving positive feedback in areas such as design and versatility/practicality which have helped define the current Civic as having ‘road presence’ with its ‘futuristic looks;’ and having a ‘multi-purpose’ function with the large boot space and multiple seat arrangements offered by the ‘magic seats’.
As research commenced, the development team for the new Civic considered these key milestones achieved with the current Civic and opted to maintain and even look to enhance the current Civic model qualities. The team wanted to create a new emotional design with the ability to surprise and provide the unexpected in terms of roominess and other practical features whilst also improving the visibility and widening the field of vision to enhance the overall ownership experience.
The current Civic had already achieved superior interior space with an unbeatable boot capacity among its competitors. Focus now was on maintaining this class leading interior space whilst improving the overall packaging and space efficiency in the attempt to reduce overall dimensions. This would lead to a new exterior design, improved aerodynamic performance, reducing weight that play a role in raising the car’s overall performance envelope.
Focused research was conducted to determine the latest and most important requirements for the European market. European and Japanese designers and engineers worked together closely throughout the development process. Testing was carried out first in Japan and then repeatedly in Europe to ensure suitability for the world’s most demanding C-segment customers.
“the car had to be safe and easy to handle, affordable and so on … premium in terms of having a good balance of affordable performance.” (Mitsuru Kariya, LPL)
The Civic development team turned to drivers, dealers and the media to evaluate the existing Civic and define the essential ‘must keep’ features and qualities, as well as the priorities for the new model. Drivers appreciated the distinct styling and form of the car, with its futuristic looks and practicality. However their feedback suggested that the car’s rear design could be more sophisticated and that rear view could be improved. Inside the Civic the modern and user-friendly cockpit design was appreciated, as were the spacious cabin and versatile ‘magic seats’, but users demanded an improvement in the quality of the materials used. Drivers were impressed with the driving experience, but noted that suspension noise could be reduced and ride comfort increased.
Research revealed that the typical Civic driver is attracted to unique, fresh design with sporty performance and advanced technologies. The environment was defined as a high priority, with customers demanding high fuel economy and low emissions.
Concept and development
Initial ideas for the new Civic explored the realm of the car having a ‘Lean Energetic’ design. ‘Lean’ was to emphasize the environmental-conscious world existing today, and ‘Energetic’ to express Honda’s vitality. This design direction translated into a ‘Clean-Dynamic’ design concept.
The design team often referred back to their sources of inspiration to help define ‘Clean- Dynamic’, a ‘blended body’ airplane in which fuselage and wings blend into a single body for superior aerodynamic performance, quietness and habitability. Other inspiration was swimwear and track outfits worn by the athletes which provide low resistance.
Initial sketches focused on elegantly flowing designs taken from the ‘blended body’ airplane (a concept model designed by engineers at the University of Cambridge) and low resistance swimwear with no obvious borderlines between surfaces with bumper and fender lines blending seamlessly into the body.
This concept was a clear break in a new direction, rather than relying on sheer strength and engine power to convey a sporty image, a ‘blended body’ with reduced resistance would demonstrate a smarter image for the new Civic.
The team returned to these sources over and over again during the design process, using them as a touchstone when they needed to reaffirm their direction.
The new Civic will be offered with three engine options: a 1.4 l petrol unit, a 1.8 l petrol unit and a 2.2 l diesel unit. All the engines are combined with a 6-speed manual gearbox, ECO Assist, advanced fueling control technology and Idle Stop. They are also equipped with Hill Start Assist. The 1.8 l engine can be paired with a specially designed 5-speed automatic transmission.
The chief goal in the engine and transmission development was to maintain the high performance driving experience whilst improving the overall efficiency of the engine resulting in lower running costs.