The new Civic 5-door - which has just been voted the best car at the Detroit Motor Show - now has band-new upmarket styling, all models get a new 103 kW 1.8-litre engine, and prices have been brought into line with the benchmark Toyota Corolla equivalents.
It's also the safest Civic yet.
The net result is that the exciting new Civic four-door has become a very desirable package - and Honda plans to cash in by quadrupling sales over the highly capable but dreary cars they replace.
Insider sources tell me the new prices have been based on bigger volumes as Honda SA finally sets out on building significant market share in this country - and there will be more exciting models, to come, including the head-turning Civic five-door hatch in May or June this year.
"We are planning to open the floodgates and increase our market pressure in South Africa," charismatic managing director Horoaki Shibata told journalists at the launch of the new car in Knysna.
Even more exciting is news that the devastating Civic Type-R, a true VW Golf GTI competitor, will also make our shores in about 15 or 16 months time.
Three versions of the Civic sedan are included in the new Honda SA lineup, all powered by a new 1.8-litre i-VTEC engine which produces 103 kW at 6 300 r/min with 174 Nm of torque at 4 200 r/min.
All get a 5-speed manual gearbox as standard, with a 5-speed automatic available for an extra R12 000.
Differentiating features between the different versions reflects the standards of equipment and luxury, with the top model coming out with such features as hand-stitched leather, six airbags, and wide alloy wheels as standard.
On the road
For those who can remember the third generation Honda Ballade - that's the wide, flat-looking one - there's good news.
Until it became fat and bloated the Honda Ballade - which was known as a Civic outside South Africa - was a sharp-handling car with more than a touch of sporting pretensions.
Now it's back!
Yes, the new Civic has that same go-kart directness in its steering, the same point and squirt performance, the same great brakes and neutral handling.
Yet unlike its predecessor it also boasts luxury car ride qualities, coupled with superb NVH (noise, vibration, harshness) suppressions that puts it firmly into the German luxury car league.
The better ride and handling comes courtesy of a new strut suspension up front coupled with a multi-link double wishbone rear with anti-roll bars at both ends making that decisive difference.
Even its styling shows more than a touch of BMW around the rear three-quarters, while styling all round is fresh, modern, and exciting.
It is longer, wider and lower than its predecessor, with a sweeping roofline, sharply raked windscreen and short overhangs.
Of particular interest is the front end, where the big wheels - 15 or 16 inch depending on the model - almost fill the wheelarches.
There are streamlined headlamps up front flanking a brand-new grille which takes its styling cues from what appear to be a pair of Katana sword blades, while at the back the bold lights in the sharply cut-off tail illuminate in flaming discs reminiscent of many a Ferrari sports car.
The windscreen is so sharply sloping that Honda has put in a pair of fixed quarter windows right at the front - yet all-round vision is excellent.
Another upmarket feature includes built-in turn indicators in the door-mounted mirrors.
Black door handles are featured in LXi models while EXi versions are painted in body colour, and the flagship VXi gets chrome.
At the same time Honda has upped its game in the performance stakes, and the new car is very quick across country while at the same time returning excellent fuel consumption figures.
Honda claims this new model has the power of a 2-litre with the economy of a 1500. Overseas sources quote a 0-100 km/h time of 8.9 seconds and average consumption as low as 6.4 litres/100 km. - but no figures were quoted at the launch.
Inside the cars there's also a completely new look.
The dashboard is wide and sweeping, concentrating the focus onto the driver's binnacle.
And here Honda has taken a radical departure from norms.
The top has a speedometer with large digital numbers flanked by water temperature and fuel gauges, while underneath is another tier which has an analogue rev counter, odometer with trip meter, and a variety of warning lights.
The Z-shaped emergency and parking brake lever is significantly shorter than before and even the gearshift lever is more compact and sporty, while the organ-type accelerator pedal has a better linear feel.
The cars are much more spacious than before and there's lots of room for four adults; enough for five.
The easy-access boot has a 389 litres capacity, expandable by folding the 60/40 split rear seats, and all models get a 50-litre fuel tank.
The range starts with the Civic LXi, which gets an MP3 compatible front-loader CD/radio with four speakers, air conditioning, front and rear electric windows with auto up/down on the driver's side, power steering with a tilt and reach-adjustable steering column, and height-adjustable front seat belts.
Convenience features include front and rear cup holders, map lights, seat back pockets, fold-down rear armrest, childproof rear locks, a centre armrest stowage box, and a remote alarm/immobiliser.
There are dual front airbags, as well as ABS brakes with electronic brake force distribution and brake assist.
Active front headrests which help prevent whiplash, as well as seat-belt pre-tensioners, are also standard.
Ventilated disc brakes are fitted up front, solid ones at the rear. Wheels are 15 x 6JJ steel shod with 195/65 R15 tyres. A full size spare wheel is provided, and there's a rear fog light and dual tailpipes.
Moving up to the Civic EXi, additional features over the LXi include steering lock illumination, an outside temperature gauge, dual side airbags, and body colour door mirrors and door handles.
The top of the range VXi gets a whole host of additional features,
These start with 16 inch alloy wheels shod with 205/55 R16 tyres, an additional two speakers (six in total), boot lid lining, automatic air conditioning, variable intermittent windscreen wipers, a full leather interior, dual curtain airbags front and rear, and front fog lights.
Door handles and the side protection strips, as well as the exhaust pipes, are all chromed.
- Honda Civic LXi 5-speed manual R165 900.
- Honda Civic LXi 5-speed auto R177 900.
- Honda Civic EXi 5-speed manual R176 900
- Honda Civic EXi 5-speed auto R188 900
- Honda Civic VXi 5-speed manual R193 900
- Honda Civic VXi 5-speed auto R205 900
A 5-year/100 000 km service plan is standard.
No diesel versions are available at this stage. Honda says it is waiting to see if the nationwide roll-out of eco diesel is successful.