Honda Debuts ‘Street Fighter’ Civic Concept Car

The automaker played it safe with earlier Civic designs. This time is different.

Steve Finlay, Senior Editor

April 1, 2015

3 Min Read
Honda gets dramatic with Civic concept car
Honda gets dramatic with Civic concept car.

NEW YORK – Honda debuts a sporty Civic concept car here, and the impending production vehicle will look a lot like it, says John Mendel, executive vice president of American Honda’s auto division.

“It will be very close,” he tells journalists on the sidelines of the unveiling of a bright-green concept coupe at the New York International Auto Show. “We don’t do concept cars that are too far from production.”

Honda played it safe with earlier Civic designs. This time is different for a compact car that began 43 years ago as a basic form of transportation.

“There’s a lot of talk of competitiveness in the market, and everybody’s upping the ante,” Mendel says. “We can up the ante, too. We know a lot about cars. Taking this step will keep us ahead.” 

The low and wide concept car features a shorter overhang and rear deck, longer hood, pronounced fender arches and pulled-back A-pillars.

The car’s lead exterior designer, Guy Melville-Brown, seems in a fighting mood when talking it up.

“This car punches above its weight,” he says, although Honda defers  on releasing curb weights and similar specifications until later. “This car is evocative of a street fighter.” 

Although lower pump prices of late have hurt small-car sales in the U.S., the Civic remains an important vehicle in Honda’s lineup, Mendel says.

“Look, the market continues to fluctuate,” he says. “It wasn’t that long ago that we were paying $5 a gallon for gas. We may be again. Compact cars are around to stay.” 

The Civic appeals to a broad range of consumers, perhaps the broadest in the industry, from first-time buyers to performance buyers, he says, predicting the addition of a 5-door hatchback to the lineup will widen the brand’s appeal.

The 10th-generation Civic sedan will come out in the fall, followed by the coupe and the returning 5-door version. Also in the works is a Type-R performance model from Europe and long wished-for in the U.S. by Honda enthusiasts. 

“The Honda Civic is a hugely important car for the automaker, though small cars, thanks to lower gas prices and consumer preference for utilities, have declined in sales,” says Michelle Krebs, Autotrader’s senior analyst.

Honda sold 325,891 Civics in the U.S. last year, according to WardsAuto data. That’s fewer than the 336,180 sold in 2013 but more than 2012’s 317,908.

The peak year for Civic sales in the last decade was 2008 with 339,289 deliveries.

In total, Honda has sold 20 million Civics, half of them in North America.

William Bradshaw, a North Carolina dealer with several franchises, including Honda, attends the concept car’s debut. He likes what he sees.

“The Civic is a phenomenal vehicle and the No.1 car bought by people under age 35,” he tells WardsAuto. “And it has really strong residuals.”

The upcoming Civic will come with a new platform and the first U.S. application of Honda’s VTEC 1.5L turbo engine with direct injection.

Transmission choices will include a short-shifting 6-speed manual and a new CVT.

The new Civic marks the first time global development of both the sedan and coupe is led by the Japanese automaker’s North American R&D team in Ohio.

The design comes from Honda’s Los Angeles studio. Civics for the North American market will come from factories in Greensburg, IN, and Alliston, ON, Canada. A plant in Anna, OH, will make the turbo engine, an option upgrade.

The Civic once was the smallest car in Honda’s U.S. lineup. Now, the Fit fills that role.

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