Japanese automakers Toyota Motors (NYSE:TM) and Honda Motor Co. (NYSE:HMC) have long caught a rap for highly reliable cars at a very reasonable price tag. What Toyota and Honda have never been known for is for producing the sportiest or flashiest rides.
Seriously, about a decade ago, Civics were about as entertaining to drive as it was to watch water boil, paint dry, or grass grow -- unless you're into that sort of thing.
That didn't stop a cult following of The Fast and the Furious fans or street racing enthusiasts from adding thousands of dollars of aftermarket parts to their Civics to spice things up. And more than a decade after the first Fast and the Furious film hit the movie screens, Honda seems to have finally taken notice, and is delivering a really flashy ride that won't need aftermarket parts to make it worthy.
Concept vs production
Just recently, Honda showed off its Civic compact concept car at the New York Auto Show, and made it clear that a redesigned Civic sedan and coupe will hit the showrooms this fall.
"It shifts away from the car-forward design," said Melville-Brown, a Honda designer who worked on the new Civic's exterior styling, according to Automotive News. "This vehicle puts a huge focus back on the fun of driving. It's the most epic, sportiest, most high-tech Civic ever made."
Honda's concept version of the Civic, which may have features that don't make the final production model, is a stark contrast to the Civic Honda rolled out four years ago. The 2016 Civic took some aggressive design risks, and Honda clearly isn't playing it overly cautious – something the automaker needs to do to break away from the stigma of its typically bland car designs.
The redesigned 2016 Civic also comes at a good time because what has historically been a segment easily dominated by Toyota's Corolla and Honda's Civic is now more competitive than ever. While the Civic remains the segment's second best seller, its sales slipped 3% last year compared to the segment's overall 2.4% gain -- suggesting that competitors are slowly gaining ground. As you can see below, 2010 models from Ford, Chevrolet, and Hyundai are hot on the Japanese automakers' heels.
The 2016 Civic will be the 10th generation and will include a new 1.5-liter VTEC® Turbo engine with direct injection and a short-shifting 6-speed manual transmission as well as a new continuously variable transmission, or CVT, option. Further, the Civic is aiming for class-leading fuel economy ratings and reduced cabin noise -- because nobody wants a car that sounds cheap when being driven on the highway.
Honda plans for the redesigned Civic sedan to hit the showrooms this fall, followed by a coupe soon after. Then later in 2016, a five-door hatchback will be imported from Honda's plant in England, and within two years, a Type-R performance hatch will represent the top end of the Civic line-up.
So, what does it all mean?
Adjectives used to describe the 2016 Civic concept in New York included athletic, aggressive, flashy, and game-changer – typically words reserved for automakers not named Honda.
Ultimately, what Honda hopes to accomplish is to product a sportier ride that will continue to attract a younger buyer. In fact, according to IHS Automotive, the Civic took top honors in retail sales to under-35 buyers between 2007 and 2013, and that's something the automaker wants to reclaim.
Not only is Honda aiming to reclaim its top spot among younger buyers, if the concept vehicle keeps its more aggressive and flashy styling for the production vehicle, it shouldn't surprise anybody to see the Civic replace the Toyota Corolla atop the segment sales next year -- and in arguably the second most competitive segment in the U.S., that's big time for market share and bragging rights.
If only Honda had paid closer attention to all the people tricking out their Honda Civics with aftermarket parts more than a decade ago, when "The Fast and the Furious" originally hit the movie theaters, the automaker might have been way ahead of the game already.