To celebrate the European launch of the all-new Honda Civic e:HEV, the car took centre stage at the Vanity Fair ‘Social Garden’ exhibition at Milan Design Week 2022.
“Vanity Fair always strives to look one step ahead with curiosity and a revolutionary spirit: this Design Week, we are delighted to welcome to our VF Social Garden creative and dynamic minds whose contributions improve the quality of our lives and make them easier, without overlooking the environmental impact of what they create,” explains Vanity Fair Co-Director, Cristina Lucchini
“We are delighted to be able to share the Civic with the Italian public for the first time. The response to the car so far has been outstanding and hosting at Milan Design Week provides an opportunity to engage with design-focused customers,” explains Italy General Manager Automobile Division, Simone Mattogno.
Honda’s all-new 11th-generation Civic has been engineered with a unique human-centred approach to dynamics and design. Following the ‘exhilarating Civic’ development ethos, Honda engineers focused on how exterior and interior packaging can work together to create a more comfortable and refreshing in-car experience that will enhance owners’ everyday lives.
First introduced in 1972 as a ‘car for people of the world’, the Civic has become the basis of Honda’s ‘Man-Maximum, Machine-Minimum’ (M/M) development principle. Now found across the Honda product portfolio, this direction follows the belief that the purpose of vehicle technology and design is to serve the needs of the driver and passengers. In the latest Civic the result is a cabin with greater comfort, visibility and spaciousness than ever before, in addition to enhanced safety and greater driver engagement.
Dynamic exterior design
Honda’s ‘exhilarating’ development approach has created a modern evolution of the Civic’s exterior design, that also echoes the noiseless, elegant design direction of other recent Honda models. The new Civic features a lower, sleeker roof line, and a lower belt line that increases the glasshouse, improving outward visibility and delivering the same sense of airiness experienced inside the original Civic.
To create the sportier, coupe-like aesthetic, the new Civic’s wheelbase is 35mm longer than the previous model, but with a 20mm shorter rear overhang, and reduced overall height. The highest point of the roof line is set further forward than the previous model, with a gentle slope to the tailgate completing its sleek look.
“The key element in this design, is the design of the rear roof end. In fact, we considered various patterns,” explains Hitomaro Asano, Civic Exterior Designer. “We considered an extra window type with two panes of glass and the so-called hatchback style. In such a situation, we thought that the design that would make people feel good or exhilarated the moment they see it. It should not have a weak form, but one that looks as if it has been drawn in a single stroke.”
The resin tailgate, developed through a new manufacturing technology, reduces the tailgate weight by 20% compared to its predecessor and is crucial for achieving the sleeker design. This approach to restrained, smooth design is also apparent around the front of the car; in comparison to the previous generation the hood and front fenders are lower by 25mm, with the A-pillars 50mm further rearward, giving the driver impressive, uninterrupted visibility. This reduced frontal mass also has the effect of making the wheels and tyres appear larger, which, combined with the wider rear track and wheel arch hemming, creates a lower, more assured stance and projects a sense of greater agility.
“The main aim was to give this new Civic a sporty and youthful appearance, which is the basis of the model,” continues Asano. “So, we tried to create a very bold face, while making the upper area look as thin as possible,” adds Asano. “This is also a story of successive generations, but as the face of the Civic has changed, I looked for something in common, and I found one thing. They all had a face where the upper grille was a bit lower and the headlights were a bit higher, so we tried to incorporate the grille and the headlights in the same position as in previous generations.”
Enhanced interior comfort and convenience
Inside the cabin, Honda’s M/M development principle is exemplified by a human-centred interior that has been designed to ensure premium levels of refinement and spaciousness. The cabin has greater visibility and airiness thanks to the low, flat dashboard, external mirror positioning and large windows all-round.
“When we all came up with the keyword 'exhilarating' for the design concept, we started thinking about how we could apply that to the interior, and we came up with the idea of what would happen if we cut it by time, for example,” says Yasunori Ogawa, Civic Interior Designer. “We thought that if we could have a refreshing morning, a pleasant morning, we would feel good all day long. It is difficult to feel good all day long, but if we focus on the morning, we can achieve this. During our research, three keywords emerged: cleanliness, rhythm and stimulation.”
What this translates to, is an interior design that embodies the same clean, modern design philosophy as the exterior; with an uncluttered, user-focused layout featuring high quality materials and tactile touchpoints that enhance the experience for drivers and passengers.
Despite the lower roofline, interior headroom and cabin space remain the same as the previous model, thanks to the clever packaging of hybrid components into the chassis and engine bay. The new Civic’s generous cargo area has the same load capacity as before – among the largest in its segment – but with a wider tailgate aperture for improved usability. The result is a vehicle with the space and functionality to make it a viable alternative to larger vehicles such as SUVs.
“The tailgate hinges are located around the back of the rear passenger’s head, and this is inevitably a hard point and a bottleneck, so it's not easy to lower the roofline,” adds Asano. “Of course, there are ways to make the design work at the expense of the package, but neither Civic nor Honda want to sacrifice the package by any means. We made this a common understanding among everyone in interior design, exterior design and packaging, and then started to work out how to do it.
We started by talking about bringing the hinge position to the outside of the pillar. As for the cutline, when we imagined a noiseless cabin, if we put a cutline in the middle of the C-pillar, for example, it would ruin it all at once. We definitely don't want to split the line that flows from the front to the back all the way through, so we proposed to go around to the quarter glass, and everyone, including the designers, decided to go for it.”
Continuing the design focus on attention to detail are the innovative air outlets positioned around the interior. They enable a wider yet less intrusive flow of air around the cabin, whilst a premium look has been achieved by applying a honeycomb mesh pattern on the full-width air vent aperture
“One of the key words for the interior design of Civic is ‘cleanliness.’ This is a personal impression, but it's something I've felt since I joined the industry that I don't like the presence of the air conditioning outlets in the instrument panel,” explains Ogawa. “In the old days in Japan, trains had fans. I can't help but see the contents of the AC outlet as just that. But if you look at home interiors, for example, all these things are hidden in plain sight. Using those key ideas for the design of Civic, I have introduced a honeycomb pattern across the dashboard to give a high-quality finish but also cleanliness throughout the interior.”
Great focus has been placed on designing an environment that requires little physical movement by occupants once seated. The infotainment system is positioned in the peripheral view of the driver, meaning that to check information they do not have to physically move their head – reducing distractions, and time not looking ahead, enhancing safety.
“We took an interesting approach to development this time, and from the early stages of development, we dynamically verified the volume framework and the height of the HMI by applying various pastes to the actual car on the Honda facility site to check the ergonomic layout and how easy it is to interact with controls as well as see what visibility would be good,” explains Ogawa.
The Civic has set new benchmarks ever since its launch fifty years ago, selling more than 27.5 million units across 170 countries. The all-new version arrives in Europe from Autumn 2022.