Honda has recently been concentrating on bringing mass market cars to India. Cars like the Brio, Amaze and Mobillio are built to be as affordable as possible. This is a clear departure from the past when the likes of the Civic, Accord and CR-V dominated Honda’s showrooms. Of those cars, only the new CR-V remains. But all that is set to change, in the note too distant future. This is because the car maker, in an effort to keep its premium image from diluting, is refocusing its efforts on the space above the City. First up will be the new Accord Hybrid that Honda has announced will come in later this year. This car, at an expected price of around Rs. 40 lakh, will be Honda’s flagship for the next few years and will see the company return to a hybrid car after the previous generation Civic hybrid flopped, back in 2013.That still leaves a big gap down to the city and the Japanese carmakers is hoping to plug that with the new civic .The company also feels that by the time it launches the Civic, sometime in 2017, there will be a ready market for it.
Yoichiro Ueno, President and CEO, Honda Cars India, said “For a while, the current City can accommodate customers who own the previous models.”But in time, many current City customers would be ripe for an upgrade. “The Civic is one model (that will be perfect for this)”.Honda after all, did sell the eighth generation civic here from 2006 to 2013, and initially, at least, it had a very successful run. Apart from being the 2007 Autocar of the year, it was also the segment leader for most of its life cycle. The executive or D-segment, however, began shrinking and in 2013, Honda discontinued the model, and then did not replace it with its successor. Also, by the manufacturer’s own admission, the ninth generation Civic was globally deemed to below par, another reason it was never introduced here.
The tenth-generation Civic, that was unveiled last year, is now the one Honda’s likely to return with. The design of the car is a complete departure of earlier models, with a very pronounced coupe-like roofline and notchback rear section. Up front, the new Civic gets a bold chrome bar across the grille and LED accents. Like many Civics before it, this car also carries an extremely futuristic look.
The Civic has improved vastly under the skin too. Honda says the new car uses the most sophisticated chassis in the nameplate’s history. Torsional rigidity is improved by big 25 percent, due to an infusion of ultra-high strength steel, and it is likely to get the updated version of the 1.8 litre engine that now puts out 143hp.
The other option is an even spicier 1.5-litre turbo petrol with 175hp and there’s likely to be a 120hp, 1.6 diesel as well. Also, the fresh and clean design of the interior, with myriad metallic highlights, is likely to impress Indian customers. There’s likely to be a plenty of high-tech gadgetry on offer too.But don’t expect a price below Rs 15 lakh; this is likely to be an expensive car. Still, the civic could be a strong rival to the likes of the corolla, tha Octavia and the next-gen Elantra which will hit Indian showrooms this year.
Sedans aside, the carmaker also wants to cash in on Indian car buyers’ growing affinity for SUV’s and crossovers .It recently launched the BR-V, Honda’s first foray into the Rs.10-12 lakh SUV segment and it also sells the CR-V in India which starts at Rs.23 lakh. This leaves a gap in the Rs.17-22 lakh bracket, into which company wants to slot the HR-V.
Prices for the HR-V, which shares underpinnings with the Jazz and the city, could start at around Rs.16 lakh, as they do in other markets around Asia. And there will be more expensive versions too. It all depends on how Honda decides to specify and equip it. But the HR-V isn’t very big on the inside. It is space efficient and the packaging s good, which is Honda’s forte, but other cars at this price have much larger cabin; and that will be a challenge .As far as the powertrain goes, the company sells the HR-V with both petrol and diesel engines and it could get the new 1.6 diesel engine which, in many ways, similar to the 1.5 Earth dreams engine we have on sale here. Already manufactured in India for export to the UK, Honda has been reluctant to launch its (slightly) larger capacity diesels in India, worried about local fuel quality and engine costs; the 1.6 is quite a bit more sophisticated than the 1.5 we currently have here. This has severely crippled the sales of the CR-V and so, for the HR-V, Honda is evaluating the 1.6 litre i-DTEC. The engine will be tuned specifically for India and be locally assembled, which is sure to give it an advantage.
With three new models in its arsenal, Honda has a credible shot at regaining ground in the premium executive segment.