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We reveal Honda's Civic plans

2005-10-20 07:49

Radical looking Civic hatch is heading here

John Oxley

This was revealed to me exclusively on Wednesday at the Tokyo Motor Show as Honda unveiled its latest new models to the world.

However, the ceremony was hardly over before Honda SA's top men - Japanese MD Hiroaki Shibata and his South African general manager Graham Eagle - were whisked off to a meeting with top Honda executives to present their case for highly competitive pricing for the new Civic models.

I have not yet seen them since then, but they were all optimistic they would be able to convince Honda Japan to keep Civic prices down.

The move will be seen as yet another step in new SA boss Shibata's master plan to increase market share in this country.


He has already re-organised the company - a wholly-owned subsidiary of Honda Japan - to delegate more autonomy to Eagle and new head of the car division, Basil Forsstman, in a bid to increase their ability to grow sales.

The inclusion of the diesel model, expected to be approved for sale in SA once Honda Japan is happy that low-sulphur fuel is freely available throughout the country, will be a very positive step for the company, which until now has been forced to compete in an increasingly more diesel-oriented market with only petrol-driven cars.

The advanced 2.2-litre turbodiesel unit develops 101 kW and 340 Nm of torque.

The new Civic will be available in both four-door sedan and five-door hatchback guise, with the sedan the first to hit our shores, hopefully as early as December this year.

Eagle explained that four-door production was centred on the plant in Suzuka, Japan - close to Japan's Formula One circuit - while the hatchback models would be sourced from Honda's factory in Swindon, in the UK.

He said the four-door models would be first to arrive in SA as production was already being ramped up in Japan, but UK production would only start next year.

Civic sedan could be here as soon as December
Honda Civic sedan gallery

Build quality

I visited the Suzuka plant and watched as Civic sedans swept off the highly automated production line alongside the new Civic Hybrid - which will not be coming to SA - and I was impressed by the quality of the new cars and in particular the integrity of their build, fit and finish.

Although essentially the same size as the vehicles they replace, the new Civics are built on a longer wheelbase, allowing for much better interior space as well as improved ride and handling.

Initial models will be fitted with a new 1.8-litre i-VTEC engine.

Its new "intelligent" I-VTEC system switches the valve timing for maximum efficiency during pullaway and acceleration to achieve powerful performance with good torque output, and then delays intake valve closure timing during cruising and other low-load conditions for enhanced fuel economy.

Honda claims that the use of the valve timing control system gives this motor the performance of a 2-litre engine but the economy of a 1.5-litre unit.

Overall, the new engine delivers an output of 103 kW and maximum torque of 174 Nm.

After touring the factory we also visited the Suzuka circuit, where I was taken for a spin by one of the track's resident experts in one of the outgoing Civic Type R models - and told that Honda was trying to get the new version of the car for sale in South Africa when it hits production late next year.

This sizzling performance model will get wild bodywork add-ons as well as a modified engine with an expected power output of about 185 kW. It will only be available as a three-door.

A lower powered Type S model featuring 147 kW of power could also be made available.

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