The Civic team led by Mitsuru Kariya, the ‘Large Project Leader’, were given the task to create and develop the new Honda 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, Large Project Leader)
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 Honda 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 Honda 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 Honda 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 110g/km with 150 PS and 350 Nm of torque.
The current Honda 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 team considered these key milestones achieved with the current Honda 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 Honda Civic had already achieved superior interior space with matching trunk capacity among its competitors. Focus now was on maintaining this class leading interior space whilst improving the overall packaging and space efficiency.
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 closely together 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, Large Project Leader)
The Civic development team turned to drivers, dealers and the media to evaluate the existing Honda 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 well received, 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 Honda 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.
The designers of the new Honda Civic wanted to keep the sporty and futuristic aspects of the car’s character but tailor them to express the new model’s even more elegant yet futuristic feel.
To embody this concept, the new car is 20mm lower and 10mm wider than the current model, with a styling that further highlights the sporty and futuristic elegance and an overall design full of practicality.
Research led the designers to consider how the new Honda Civic 5 door design could have a sporty look that could resemble the sporty characteristics often found in 3 door cars. The new Civic’s cab forward design is highlighted by a reduced amount of side glass relative to the surface of the side body in particular reducing the rear window glass area. This creates the look of having a small sleek cabin compared to more traditional looking cabins found on 5 door cars in the European C segment.
Contributing to the low and planted look is the way in which the body lines have been designed for the new Honda Civic. Typically the peak point of the side body lines run in parallel with the door handle however the new Civic’s point is lower coming just about the middle height of the door panel. The result is a low, uninterrupted line running from the front bumper, extending over the entire flank before reaching the rear bumper giving a low centre of gravity look. At the same time the upper part of the body side adopts a relatively plain design that is made to contrast with the sturdy looks of the lower part body side which, together with the side sills, serves to catch the light, emphasizing the solidly planted look.
The wheel arches have been designed to flow out more fluidly from the body surface to give the new Civic its distinctively clean and elegant look. In many designs, the wheel arch is made to bulge out from the body by about the same amount over its perimeter. In contrast, the borderline separating the body from the wheel arch in the new Honda Civic is so smooth that it is quite difficult to say where one starts and the other one ends.
The exterior design project leader is particularly proud of the seamless integration of all the surfaces, from the wheel arches to the body.
“Each single area of the exterior design is unique in itself, but they are unified into one smooth form…” (Noriyuki Ishii, Exterior Design Project Leader)
The face resembles the Honda ‘DNA’ and features new high and low beam HID projector-type lights. An automatic high-beam support system is integrated, controlled by a CMOS camera fitted to the windscreen in the area of the driver rear view mirror. The camera detects oncoming headlights or the taillights of a vehicle in front and automatically dips the headlights onto their normal setting if they are on high-beam. This allows the driver to fully concentrate on the road conditions, without having to manually control the high-beam setting.
When looking at the car, the eye traces a flowing, elegant line which extends from the low front along the sleek side profile underneath the windows. This is accentuated by the complementary line of the aerodynamic wings. At the rear, a unique rear light combination has been optimised for maximum visual impact as well as aerodynamic efficiency. As in the current Civic, the rear design identity features strong horizontal elements which enhance the car’s wide stance and strong road presence. On the new car the rear lights are placed on a higher level to ensure good visibility from following cars.
The horizontal brake light combination also works as a spoiler with an aerodynamic function, managing airflow over the top of the car. The combination lamp has an aerodynamic function too, protruding at the optimal position to cut off body-side airflow. Three distinctive lines, sculpted into the sides of the rear lights, reduce drag by minimising the amount of air turbulence at the rear of the car.
Two new wheel designs are available – a 16-inch ‘Sporty’ design and a bold 17-inch ‘Dynamic’ option. The overall exterior styling is a perfect example of design working hand-in-hand with engineering – the aerodynamics of every component have been optimised alongside the bold forms and feature lines that the designers wanted. The central fuel tank layout has been retained, allowing for more space in the cabin, and the current Civic’s much-loved ease of use and roomy interior remain uncompromised.
The current Honda Civic is known for its unique futuristic interior design and sporty exterior styling yet also with spacious and versatile interior. These core design characteristics were to be maintained in the development of the new Civic but with a focus to refine the feel for the inside of the car. Sources of inspiration came from the control panel layout from a jet fighter plane cockpit and a race car cockpit that enables natural and intuitive operation of all controls. The feeling of sitting in the driver’s seat reflects a driver focused space with a comfortable feeling of relaxation and control. The feeling is of a car designed around the driver – the ultimate expression of Honda’s ‘man maximum, machine minimum’ principle.
This new functional cockpit has two control zones which separate the control areas known as the Information Interface zone and the Driver Interface zone.
The Driving Interface zone gathers essential information at the natural point of focus; and an Information Interface zone positioned closer to the centre of the dash. The area directly in front of the driver’s eyes is deep and spacious, mirroring the sleek exterior design, while the Information Interface zone offers the easiness of operation by placing information devices such as audio and navigation system, heater and A/C controls within the reach of both the driver and the passenger.
These areas are clearly defined by a low and smooth upper visor and a sweeping side visor that together define the driver’s space, giving something of the focused feel of a jet fighter cockpit or a single-seat racing car.
The new Civic will be offered with three engine options: a 1.4 l i-VTEC petrol unit, a 1.8 l i-VTEC petrol unit and a 2.2 l i-DTEC diesel unit. All the engines are combined with a 6-speed manual gearbox, ECO Assist, and Idle Stop. They are also equipped with Hill Start Assist. The1.8 l engine can be paired with a specially designed 5-speed automatic transmission.
While enhancing the performance, the 2.2 l i-DTEC unit achieved nearly 20% better fuel economy and the 1.8 i-VTEC 10% in comparison with their predecessors.
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.