How many New York Auto Show debuts were bona fide surprises? There were precious few by the end of press previews, but Honda made its reveal count when it unleashed the 2016 Civic Concept in neon green. For a brand known mainly a beacon of safety and reliability (thrown in efficiency), Honda genuinely flipped the script with a sporty car confirmed to go on sale in America as a 2016 model with a very potent variant.
You can forgive most Americans for considering Honda the brand of the family Accord, the compact Civic, and the useful CR-V. There is nothing wrong with that identity, especially when counting up the company’s impressive sales at the end of the month. But car people want more, and getting them excited about a brand will only increase that reach in a valuable market. Honda looks ready to take that step with the upcoming Civic as well as the announcement the Type R hot hatch will become a U.S. product.
As for the Civic Concept, Honda gave its compact a new platform, a new powertrain, better styling, a longer wheelbase, lower stance, and front fascia upgrades that include LED lights and lower air intakes. John Mendel, Honda’s executive VP, gushed about the concept as an “epic Civic” that will be “the most dynamic, the most technologically advanced, and the most refined” model the automaker has produced in 10 iterations.
Power-wise, the new gear includes a 1.5-liter VTEC turbo engine available with six-speed manual transmission or an improved CVT. According to the automaker, the focus is on making the next-generation Civic a car that will get people excited about driving the compact again. (Ask your nearest Honda driver the last time they used the word “exhilarating” to describe driving their Accord or Civic.)
In fact, this sporty Civic will come in Si, coupe, sedan, and (for the first time since 2003) a five-door hatchback variant. But that was only half the good news for Honda performance enthusiasts.
While in New York, Honda dropped a second bomb on the performance front by confirming the Civic Type R would arrive in U.S. dealerships along with the other 2016 models. Capable of 310 horsepower and 295 pounds-feet of torque using a 2.0-liter turbo engine, the Type R has tantalized American drivers who want to get their hands on a hot hatch to rival the Ford Focus ST, RS, and the Golf R. The wait will end soon enough.
As for Honda’s overall product lineup, it remains as lean and efficient as its vehicles. CR-V recently nabbed Crossover of the Year honors from Motor Trend, while Accord gained 6% on its already robust sales in 2014. Among Honda’s three top 10 sellers in the U.S., only Civic lagged at a loss of 3% last year.
Honda will look to win back those Civic customers with a redesign that looks ready to excite on the road and appeal at the curb. Whether you hunger for Type R power specs, or just a little more jump from your daily commute, Honda’s time looks well spent on the next-gen Civic.