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Honda City Thai built, timely brought?

The Honda Civic hatch was one of the most popular small fours in Australia, so the decision in 2006 to bring out the Thai-built sedan, and not the Euro-styled hatch (with the exception of the top-shelf Type R) was something of a mystery.

Honda Australia has finally filled in the gap – not with the Civic hatch, but a different Thai-sourced small car called the City.

Today saw the world premiere of the Honda City Concept, which is the final signed-off design car before the model begins production in early 2009.

The futuristic concept is practically production. It runs an 88kW/146Nm 1.5-litre SOHC four-cylinder Euro4-compliant engine, and matched to either a five-speed manual or automatic transmission.

The City sits on a stretched version of the Jazz platform with a 50mm longer wheelbase, and has a huge 500-litre boot.

“We call it a smart new way – it will change the way people think about light sedans,” said Honda’s National Public Relations Manager Mark Higgins.

“While it sits on a Jazz platform, its not a chopped hatch with a boot – it is an all new design for the platform, and it’s longer and lower than Jazz.”

The production version will feature six airbags, electric power steering, drive by wire throttle, and should start below $20,000 when it launches here in the first quarter of 2009.

But this does not preclude the Civic hatch – Honda is still considering the Euro Civic hatch for a mid-2009 release.

Honda also announced a new safety initiative on the Civic range - standard vehicle stability assist from the base model upwards.

And finally, one more premiere for Honda: a mini virtual car showroom in the palm of your hand.

“The iShowroom is possibly the first virtual automotive showroom for the iPod and iPhone,” said Higgins.

“It can be downloaded onto your iPhone and iTouch via iTunes. You can view specs, do 360 spins around the car, pick any colour, and find the location of nearest dealer, and on the iPhone, you can ring the dealer direct.”