Despite extending development by a whole year, Honda still isn't ready to completely show off its ninth-generation Civic -- but the company is more than happy to preview the new compact range with a pair of concepts, which debuted this morning at the 2011 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
Honda officials tell us both the two- and four-door mockups on display in the Motor City are, more or less, dead ringers for the finalized production cars due later this year. That may disappoint those hoping for complete reinterpretation of the Civic's exterior form. Despite looking longer, wider, and lower than the current car, both designs are evolutions of the cab-forward profile introduced with the eighth-generation car. Much as we'd like to see Honda completely reinvent the wheel and adopt a radical new design, we can't exactly fault Honda for playing it somewhat safe -- after all, over 1.5-million eighth-generation Civics were sold over the past five years.
Designers did, however, manage to infuse both cars with a little more style than their forebears. Shoulders are a little more chiseled; rooflines bear a little more curvature; and both coupe and sedan alike generally appear less boxy than the previous car. Only one -- the red coupe -- wears Si emblems, but even the white four-door on display wears traditional Si touches, including an aggressive front fascia, tall side skirts, and smoked lamp lenses and aluminum wheels. We're interested in seeing just how much of this translates into the next base Civic, as corporate representatives suggest several of these points will change before reaching production.
Since both cars are cabin-less mockups, Honda isn't quite ready to showcase its forthcoming interior designs. One rendering, briefly shown during the company's press conference, suggests the new car will continue to use a refined form of the sweeping, dual-binnacle instrument panel found in the current Civic.
Likewise, don't look for any drastic change beneath the new Civic's skin. Honda says its range of i-VTEC four-cylinder engines with intelligent variable valve timing and lift have grown even more efficient, but declines to detail just which refinements have cut fuel consumption, and by how much. Honda notes two Si models are planned, and we hope the automaker abides by tradition and installs a rev-happy four-banger in each.
Don't expect Honda to stray far from the Civic's current model lineup. Predictably, the Civic Hybrid will once again be part of the portfolio, although the new car will be the first production Honda vehicle to be fitted with lithium-ion batteries. The CNG-powered GX will remain another eco-conscious option, although Honda plans on offering the model in all 50 states -- presently, it's only sold in four.
The new Civic may not break much new ground, but that may allow Honda to keep one tradition -- strong sales, year after year -- alive. Look for further details on the new 2012 Civic to emerge shortly, as the production car is expected to launch by the end of the year.