In a time of seismic change in the car industry, Honda has decided its refreshed Civic will soldier on with a light makeover.
But Honda Australia is keen to push the refreshed Civic's hybrid credentials, spokesman Mark Higgins saying the current Civic hybrid has turned into the quiet achiever, with sales up 20 per cent this year.
It has sold 603 so far this year, up from 501 last year and interest has increased in direct correlation to the rise in fuel prices.
“In June we actually outsold the Toyota Prius in the private sector for the first time,” he says. “Toyota has done a great job of promoting hybrids, like we have, but most of their sales are to fleets rather than private buyers.
“Our sales are mostly to private buyers.”
Higgins says a positive in the Civic hybrid's favour was that it looked like the normal petrol sedan.
“The critical thing is that our car looks like a normal Civic and drives like the normal sedan.”
He says local dealers have been constrained by a lack of hybrid supply, he says.
“The bottom line is that if we could get more we could sell more,” he says. “But in the past six to nine months there has been a huge demand for that car in America and they're taking most of the production now.”
The upgraded Civic sedan will arrive in local showrooms early next year, sporting mild visual changes and the same 1.8-litre and 2.0-litre petrol engines as well as the 1.3-litre hybrid four-cylinder available now.
The biggest improvement is expected to be the fitting of electronic stability control — Honda calls it vehicle stability assist — as standard.
However, Higgins says final specifications are yet to be determined.
“VSA is already standard on the Civic Sport,” he says. “We're hoping to introduce it across the range, but that is yet to be confirmed.”
The Civic is a key car in Honda Australia's line-up and has benefited from a swing to smaller economical four-cylinder cars. Demand this year is up 15 per cent and the range is responsible for a third of total Honda sales.
Honda's other ace up its sleeve is the natural gas Civic, which is selling in record numbers in the US but is unlikely for Australia.
“It drives and rides just like a normal Civic,” Higgins says. “And it's the cleanest internal combustion engine in the world.”