SPREAD before you is perhaps the biggest change to hit the Honda Civic in nearly 43 years of its existence, with Australia looming large as a target for the Type R prototype snapped here.
Due to be unveiled within 12 months, the 10th-generation Honda Civic Hatch will be a clean-sheet redesign, growing in size, wheelbase, track width, cabin space, and performance.
Its aim is to take on more effectively Europe’s most respectable C-segment mainstreamers – namely the Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus, Renault Megane, Opel/Holden Astra, and Peugeot 308.
To that end, the torsion beam rear suspension on the existing British-built five-door Civic Hatch looks like it might be junked – in Type R guise at least, as seen here – for what appears to be an independent multi-link or double wishbone arrangement, promising more sophisticated and refined dynamics.
Undergoing hot-weather testing in Spain, this Mk10 Civic Type R prototype is also brandishing the usual hot-hatch accoutrements – big wheels, low-profile tyres, Brembo brakes, and visible air intakes for the intercooler – but no crazy oversized hatch-spoiler, indicating newfound maturity for 2017.
Also unexpected is the unusual triple exhaust layout, which is something else entirely. Whether it’s a ruse or for real, it promises a memorable mechanical symphony to go with an anticipated increase in performance from the 2015 car’s 224kW/400Nm outputs (K20C1 2.0-litre i-VTEC turbo). After all, if you’re going to challenge the Renault Megane RS 275, Volkswagen Golf R, and Ford Focus RS, you’ll need every advantage. And as with the latter two opponents, all-wheel drive might eventually be on the Civic Type R agenda too.
Forced induction is also mooted for the more mainstream Civic range, with a 1.5-litre four-cylinder unit set to step in for the long-lived 1.8 petrol in Australia. On these cars at least, the front wheels will be driven via a six-speed manual or CVT auto transmission. Look out for the next-gen hybrid system as found in the recently released Accord Sport Hybrid too.
Whether the Civic Sedan (to be unveiled next week in the United States, much earlier than the Mk10 Civic Hatch), and Civic Coupe two-door (unlikely for Oz) also gain the more upmarket rear end is not yet known. The small-car segment Stateside is extremely price-sensitive, the three-box Honda slogging it out against the Toyota Corolla, Volkswagen Jetta, Hyundai Elantra, Kia Cerato/Forte, and Chevrolet-nee-Holden Cruze. What has been confirmed is that, unlike Civics since 2005, all bodystyles will be built on Honda’s box-fresh, common small-vehicle architecture.
Intriguingly, the next Civic’s dimensional increases have an even greater purpose than merely matching rival alternatives. Up-spec versions may rise up as the belated replacement for the lamented Accord Euro, backed up by a palpable interior quality uplift to help lure in the hordes of disenfranchised owners searching for a replacement.
Despite offbeat styling and some very keen pricing, the existing Civic has not been a success for Honda, falling under the shadow of larger yet sharper and more innovative rivals such as the Golf. Honda boss Stephen Collins has declared to Wheels that the next one will be completely different and “absolutely worth the wait”.
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