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Honda Civic set for model boom

Eco-friendly choices, including the latest hybrid and a car that runs on compressed natural gas, swell the Honda Civic lineup.

Honda's American newcomers are the Civic sedan being previewed at the show and the production version of the Civic coupe seen at the Detroit Motor Show in January, but eco-friendly engine choices - including the latest hybrid and a car that runs on compressed natural gas - swell the lineup.

The new Civic is the ninth new model to wear the badge and Honda has high hopes for a car that's been a best seller for the brand since the 1960s.

Honda Australia will only take the four-door Civic seen in the Big Apple and is waiting on the European Civic five-door hatchback to complete its new-model plan for the final months of 2011.

The new Civic sedan is good but not great, based on back-to-back comparisons with rivals in New York including the impressive new Subaru Impreza and even the hugely improved Korean contenders from Kia and Hyundai. There is obvious cost-containment work in the cabin, with hard plastics in areas where rivals are nicely soft-touch, and little sign of any adventurous thinking in either the design or execution - even the measurements are almost identical to the current car.

Still, the hybrid has had a significant tweak with a larger 1.5-litre petrol engine and lithium-ion battery pack - the first in a Honda - for the new model.

Honda Australia will fit the new Civics into a family pattern in Australia, taking the four-door sedan from Thailand and the five-door hatch from the Swindon factory in the UK.

"At this stage the plan is still for a local launch around the end of the year," says Mark Higgins, of Honda Australia. "The coupe is very much for north America, so we will only get the sedan from New York. It will be a similar lineup to today, which is a 1.8-litre four, a 2.0-litre four and the hybrid. We will also be taking the hatch from the UK."

Pricing for the Civic currently starts at $22,490, with the hybrid from $34,490, and Higgins hints that Honda wants to keep the newcomers close to its existing price points.

"We haven't had any discussions on price yet. It's a long way out. Obviously it's a very very competitive segment and we need to make sure we're at the sharp end," he says.