The name remains the same, but everything else has changed. For the first time Honda presents a Civic that challenges the top end of the compact class – a premium sports compact for this growing sector in the C segment.

Honda has dared to be different with a bold, must-have design that makes other competitors look last generation. The result is a car with a sporty drive, distinctive futuristic looks, and advanced packaging that makes it exceedingly practical to live with.

Key to the design are the forward cabin, low overall vehicle height, big wheels and a unique “face” where the headlamps blend seamlessly with a glazed panel. A wide stance creates a feeling of great stability and sturdiness, while the super-wedged side profile emphasises the exciting look and hints at an equally adventurous interior.

The dashboard showcases a dual zone cockpit whereby all the needed information and commands are rationally placed. All the important controls and instruments all located within an inner zone, which is surrounded by a secondary zone housing radio, heating and ventilation controls and trip information. The result is a modern, sophisticated look with the use of different materials and textures creating a particularly high class finish.

At a time when each new car tends to be bigger than its predecessor, it may come as a surprise that new Civic is smaller and lower than the current model. Overall length is now 4,250 mm (35 mm less) and overall height 1,460 mm (also 35 mm less). But in order to create a more dynamic silhouette and a better handling car, Honda has increased the overall width to 1,760 mm (65 mm more) and the front and rear tracks to 1,504 mm (34 mm more) and 1,510 mm (45 mm more), respectively.

Although new Civic is more compact outside, superior packaging makes the cabin just as roomy as its impressive predecessor. Like Jazz (which was designed under the same project leader, Matsumoto), it features the fuel tank centrally mounted along with the cross member below the front seats. This unique configuration makes way for the useful flat floor rear passenger and cargo area, and for a class leading luggage compartment volume. The Civic too offers ‘Magic’ seats, with their unique one motion fold down and ‘flip up’ functions.

All versions of new Civic will be generously equipped, with the top models featuring a number of unexpected items. Standard across the range will be climate control air conditioning, Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA), trip computer, front, side and curtain airbags, rake and reach adjustable steering column and rear ‘Magic’ seats. High grade models will feature equipment such as automatic lights and wiper functions, HID headlamps, Dual Zone Climate Control and retractable door mirrors, in addition to expected items like alloy wheels, DVD satellite navigation and leather trim.

New Civic will be one of the safest cars in its class. With its new body structure and subframes, recessed pedals, double pretensioners on the front seatbelts and side curtain airbags, it is expected to achieve a Euro NCAP 5 star result for front and side impact safety, 3 stars for pedestrian safety and 4 stars for child protection safety.

There is a range of three different engines to choose from: a 1.4-litre 61kW/83 PS petrol unit, a 1.8-litre 103kW/140 PS petrol unit or a 2.2-litre 103kW/140 PS diesel unit. All of them are combined with a 6-speed manual gearbox making the new Honda Civic the first car in the C-segment to be equipped with 6-speed gearboxes across all of its range. The petrol units can also be equipped with a 6-speed automated manual transmission. Both 1.8 petrol and 2.2 diesel will be assembled at the UK (Swindon plant), while the 1.4 engine is built in Japan (at the Suzuka plant).

Honda was determined that new Civic would drive as well as it looks, and has sought to make the car easy to drive for the novice yet fun for the enthusiast. The challenge was to provide responsive handling, while preserving a supple but well-damped ride. An extended wheelbase that ‘pushes’ the wheels further out towards the body extremities is just part of the story. Both steering and suspension systems have been completely redesigned (with a quick EPS Electric Power Steering rack, MacPherson struts up front and a compact torsion beam arrangement behind), while all Civic models get the benefit of Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) designed to assist the driver in maintaining control during cornering.

Currently, Civic is produced in 11 countries and sold in approximately 160 countries. The new eighth generation model will be built at Honda’s European car plant, in Swindon, Wiltshire – with the 5-door exclusive to Europe. Civic currently accounts for roughly one-third of all Honda sales worldwide.