The small car segment, once exclusively dominated by Toyota and Honda, has lately become more competitive than ever. Chevrolet has been busy with the launch of the new Cruze, and Hyundai has fielded a strong entry with the redesigned Elantra. Ford is also preparing a fresh salvo this year with its new Focus.
This means industry stalwarts like the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic have to step up their game. At the North American International Auto Show last month, Honda released two preview “concepts” of the new Civic. Now, over a month later the production cars are getting a full reveal.
Study carefully – we know, the sedan’s changes are hard to spot. While the new Civic might appear like a mid-cycle enhancement (and a small one at that), it is being billed as an all-new ninth-generation model. To the majority of the car buying public, the new Civic will look remarkably similar.
The look also is toned down from the concept, and we hoped more of the details would make it through. The coupe’s front end design remains similar, but the car more noticeable redesign out back. There is a now a prominent side shoulder line and new, more mature taillights in the vein of the Accord Coupe.
The minimal changes might be overlooked if the interior, which has been falling behind, received a significant update. The standard for compact interiors has been set very high. The new Civic soldiers on with tweaked details, such as reshaped interior vents, now angular in appearance. Change for change’s sake?
The biggest thing Honda will tout that matters with consumers is is increased fuel economy across the board. The new Civic Sedan and Civic Coupe achieve 39 mpg on the highway, up three from the previous generation model. In addition, a new HF high-efficiency model gets 41 mpg. The most fuel-efficient of all is the Civic Hybrid, garnering 45 mpg, up from 41.
The Civic Si’s engine is upgraded to provide more power, with a larger 2.4-liter four-cylinder making 200 horsepower and 170 pound feet of torque. The Civic Si remains the bright spot for enthusiasts, but overall the effort is lacking here.
As an evolutionary change, we wouldn’t expect any big sales increases for the Civic out of the gate. Thankfully for Honda, the Civic’s shape and design still looks modern, but with stiff competition like the Cruze, Elantra and Focus we aren’t sure this was the best move.
The competition can rest easy knowing the bar in the compact segment hasn’t been raised. The bottom line is that the new Civic will still sell well, but we would have liked to see more effort.