Honda chose to spend an extra year working on its next-generation Civic, but after looking at the conceptual sneak preview shown here in Detroit, we have to ask: was it worth the extra time?
Although bystanders may try to answer that question, it's far too early to craft a conclusion at this point. While both the coupe and sedan concepts shown here in the Motor City are quite close to the final products, neither show us the ninth-generation Civic in its entirety. Heck, both showpieces are essentially gigantic scale models, devoid of chassis, driveline, and even interiors.
From what we can see -- and from the sparse details Honda reps provided during today's press conference -- the ninth-generation Civic is largely an evolution of the eighth-gen model, which debuted back in 2006. We're not shocked by Honda decision to take a conservative approach to the Civic's development; after all, the last car managed to sell 1.5 million units over the past five years. Designers have, however, infused both two- and four-door models with a little more personality -- both designs are a little longer, lower, and wider than the current car, and are infused with some curves to help avoid the boxy, slab-sided form of the outgoing model.
Honda won't talk specifics on the cars, other than noting the company's line of i-VTEC four-cylinder engines have allegedly been tweaked to improve fuel efficiency. Those interested in eco-conscious options will be happy to know the Civic Hybrid and CNG-fueled Civic GX are slated to return, albeit with a few modifications. The Hybrid, fitted with a revised form of the company's Integrated Motor Assist system, will utilize lithium-ion battery packs (a first for Honda), while the GX -- previously restricted to four states -- will now be sold nation-wide.
Considering the success Honda had with the eighth-gen Civic, we're not surprised that automaker wants to refine -- not reinvent -- the formula, but will it be enough to compete in an increasingly competitive compact car segment? Time will tell, but we're happy to hear your predictions in the comments section below. Expect more details on the final production car to emerge in the months to come, as the 2012 Civic is expected to debut by the end of the year.