The Honda Civic once defined the 'hot hatch' market in North America. Now, the only available semblance of the high-performance compact the brand represented is the Si Coupe. The rest of the Civic lineup is as bland as a Corolla.
But that situation may be about to change. According to the Japanese newspaper Nikkei, Honda may begin shipping Civic hatchbacks from its plant in England to North America in 2016.
Honda's motivation is to increase utilization of the Swindon, U.K. assembly plant, which is currently running well below capacity. The Nikkeii report suggests that 40,000 to 50,000 Civic hatchbacks could be allotted to North America.
Beyond just the return of the hatchback, a highly popular body style in Canada, those cars could include the awesome Civic Type R introduced earlier this month at the Geneva Motor Show.
Billed as a ‘race car for the road’, the Type R is powered by an all-new, direct-injected, turbocharged 2.0 litre VTEC Turbo gasoline engine from Honda's Earth Dreams engine family.
Its peak power output of 306 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and peak torque os 295 lb-ft at 2,500 rpm, in European trim, are said to be unmatched in the front-wheel drive hot hatch segment. Mated to a standard six-speed manual transmission, it will accelerate the Type R from 0-to-100 km/h in just 5.7 seconds according to Honda.
When a new R mode control is activated, engine responsiveness is heightened, with torque-mapping changed to a more aggressive and performance-focused setting.
In addition, steering gets reduced power assistance making it more responsive to driver inputs, and basic damping force from the new four-point Adaptive Damper System are increased by 30%, making the firmer and more agile for high-performance handling.
To help the driver manage the Type R’s prodigious power, it is equipped with a high performance Brembo brake package, developed specifically for the car. At the front, four-piston calipers apply braking force to 350 mm drilled discs.
The factory hot rod has looks to match its performance but its appendages are not just decorative, they're functional – the result of extensive aerodynamic development through computer-based CFD modelling and wind tunnel testing, according to the company.
A new, almost completely flat underside aids airflow under the vehicle and combines with a rear diffuser to optimize downforce – effectively ‘sucking’ the car onto the road.
The rear wing's airfoil angle, height and shape, as well as its vertical end plates, were engineered to optimize downforce without causing a significant increase in drag at higher speeds.
A wide front splitter and deep side skirts also manage airflow and reduce lift, while the front bumper has been shaped to inhibit air turbulence around the front wheels, enhancing high-speed stability and reducing lift forces.
This development work was validated through extensive prototype testing both on the road and on track, including at the Suzuka Formula One circuit, the Nürburgring Nordschleife and at the company’s Takasu test facility.
Inside, a range of aesthetic and functional upgrades reinforce the Type R’s sporting character. High-backed sports seats, trimmed in suede-effect black fabric with red double stitching, provide driver and front-seat passenger with lateral support during harder cornering.
Matching red double stitching also appears on the black leather-clad steering wheel and black gear-lever shroud. The roof-lining is trimmed in black fabric.
The new Civic Type R will go on sale across Europe this summer. With a little luck, and perhaps some urging from Honda's dedicated buyer base, we just might see it here by next summer.
If that happens, be prepared to pay for the privilege, however. If the current exchange rate trend continues, anything coming to Canada from the U.K. is going to be very expensive!