In the belly of Detroit’s impoverished inner urban jungle, just north of Midtown, resides a little known structure that goes by the name of the Jam Handy Building. Originally contracted out for video shoots by General Motors during its glory days, this tile-faced, bullet-ridden, unsuspecting structure played host the other night to many members of the media, the official unveiling of the 10th generation Honda Civic, and yours truly. While it may seem like an odd place to house a crew of excited automotive writers, once inside you completely understand why this spot was utilized by GM for so long, and why Honda has opted to resurrect it for an evening of festivities.
It’s really a neat old building, with its vaulted warehouse skylights, exposed timber girders, and roughly worn walls; this awesome piece of historical architecture showcases 4,000 square feet of showroom floor, and is the perfect contrasting backdrop to a car that illuminates the future. After a brief synopsis on the history of the Civic from executive VP of sales, John Mendel, a pair of massive iron doors opened amidst dimmed lights and shutter flashes. Then, with a flash, a shiny silhouette emerged from the dark, its LED-bejeweled headlamps shining brightly, like beacons for the future, pointing the way toward progress.
Amidst a mixture of applause and automotive lens flashes, the tenth generation Civic took center stage, and for good reason. This is not just an all-new, refreshed, or facelifted automobile, but a genuine, 100% re-imagined car from Honda. It’s been designed and built to be sold in every market around the globe (a first for Honda), carries a sporty seat height that is equal to that of the Audi TT, and is roomier inside than any of its competitors in its class. When Mr. Mendel first came on stage he was quick to mention that this is the largest overhaul in the car’s long history, and that it not only will be the first 100% American-designed Civic, but that it has been engineered to be two inches wider than its predecessor in order to give it a more of a track-tuned feel.
Available with with a potent 2.0-liter powerplant that has been mated to a either a six-speed gearbox or a CVT tranny, this midrange model is the next generation of affordable transit for many younger drivers. If performance isn’t such a big deal, but efficiency numbers are, a turbocharged 1.5-liter motor will be made available for anyone wanting to go that route, and while it’s no 310 horsepower turbocharged rocket ship, at least Honda is re-familiarizing itself with forced induction systems after the premature departure of the variable-spooling first generation RDX.
But much like the all-new Prius reveal in Vegas the other week, there’s a feeling here that Honda is trying to appeal to Millennials and Generation Z buyers like never before. It exhumes a few long-dead questions that still remain unanswered to this day. Not that this is a bad thing, as both of these demographics are still ideal candidates for a Civic, but will all of this edginess and fresh R&D reignite our interest in a brand that has gotten a little soft over the years?
Just for argument’s sake, let’s imagine that this reemergence is a huge hit for Honda. What would have to be done to make it so? From an engineering standpoint, on paper, Honda could hit the biggest home-run in its long tenure here in America, as well as globally, because this car will offer so much more for around the same amount as the current model. Plus, if what Mendel says proves to be true, and both engine models get over 40 miles per gallon while flowing fuel to all four cylinders via direct injection, then this car could be the perfect replacement for the lackluster Insight hybrid without all of the battery headaches.
Tack that to a 7-inch center stack infotainment control screen, just like what we enjoyed so much in the Honda Pilot, as well as both Android and Apple connectivity to eliminate any bitching about not being able to sync some Steel Panther in for some spandex-clad glory, and tech-connected nerds everywhere will be rejoicing. But technology isn’t the only thing on these cars that people will like — those new, lower seats feel fantastic. Snug, well-bolstered, and comfy enough to be deemed road-trip worthy, this car is purpose-built for the open road, and with that much interior space to go with that fuel efficiency, you would be foolish not to load all of your friends in one for a weekend getaway. Further, the trunk on this car offers enough space for a small army supply store.
Parents are also going to love the new Civic because it has Honda Sensing safety features not just on top-tier models, but on every single model, at every single trim level, further helping secure this vehicle an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ badge. Couple that with excellent all around visibility and a plethora of pillowy airbags, and you’ve got a car that doting parental units around the word will be happy sending their kids off to college in.
But what will the kids themselves think of the reforged Civic? There are plenty of potential buyers/drivers out there who still have the ability to choose what car they drive, and while we may love our parents, going with the car that they would want us to drive doesn’t always represent who we are as Millennials. So until we actually get behind the wheel of one the jury is still out on how one might feel being seen in this machine, but knowing Honda it will probably be a blast to drive regardless of its brand new appearance.
From a PR perspective, this entire event is a well thought-out marketing move, angled at enticing a younger buyer, because that’s what Civics are made for. There’s a new breed of energy here, and while the platform may have changed quite a lot, the original mindset is still there. It’s a car that can be bought for little money, is fun to drive, safe for its size, has Honda reliability to back it up, and is about as practical as a Swiss Army knife on Crocodile Dundee-style steroids. I, for one embrace our new Civic overlords, and throw myself at their feet in the hope of one day driving a next-gen Type-R, but until then, let’s enjoy what we’ve got — because from the looks of things, Honda is quickly returning to its glory days and you better believe we’ll be there to cover it all.