A tale of two Civics: Honda's Global Compact Platform is not what you think it is because the European and American versions of the Civic are similar, but definitely not the same.
According to Toshiro Morita, Large Project Leader (LPL), Civic Sedan, Europe's four-door Civic hatchback is "closer in size to the Honda Fit"--a compact car sold in Japan and coming to the U.S. soon--"than the American car, but uses the same mechanical pieces in most instances. Overall, the commonality--where one part can replace another directly--on the two cars is under 10%." Most of that commonality, he says, is fasteners. As Morita explains, the plants building the car--Honda UK Manufacturing in Swindon, England, for the hatchback; Honda Canada Manufacturing in Alliston, Ontario, for the Coupe/Si and some sedans; Honda of American Manufacturing in Marysville, Ohio for most North American sedans; and Honda Motor Co. Ltd., Suzuka, Japan for the hybrid model and Asian market sedans--are essentially sole global sources for their vehicle. "Sedans are sold in Asia and North America, the Coupe and Si are North America only, and the five-door is for Europe," he says. "This allows us to tailor the vehicle to the region." It also gives Honda plants in each region that run close to capacity, but don't have to carry the financial and logistical burdens of being able to build every variant possible.
An example of this tailoring is readily seen in the design of the instrument panel. All Civics split the instrumentation into upper and lower gauge packages that place the speedometer, fuel and temperature gauges in a band above the steering wheel, and the tachometer and other gauges (the choice of which depends upon drivetrain--hybrid or normal--and transmission--manual or automatic) directly in front of the driver and visible through the wheel center. The design is based on visibility studies conducted by Honda that looked at viewing patterns, ease of recognition, and which optimized driver movement when accessing controls. For all this similarity, however, the European and American instrument panels look quite different, as does the rest of the interior.
As an example, American Civics (sedan and coupe) have fold-down rear seats, with split-fold seatbacks standard on higher line models. The European car has split-folding seatbacks standard, and the bottom cushion can be raised when the seatback is upright to create a flat storage area within the passenger compartment. The front seats have been re-contoured to provide greater lateral support, and the depth increased so you sit in the seat, not on it. Front seat design is one area the two cars are most similar.
The biggest surprise comes with the suspension. Purists cried when Honda dumped its double-wishbone front suspension for a supposedly inferior MacPherson strut design, and they'll no doubt complain that Honda has continued down that road with the new Civic. This is despite the switch to a high-caster/high-trail setup. Caster increases from 2.6[degrees] to 7.4[degrees], while trail increases 20 mm. Scrub offset declines by 20% and center offset by 23%. This minimizes toe change under braking, increases cornering stability, and does so in a compact package.
The real shock--no pun intended--is in the rear. European Civics use a simple torsion beam design with coil springs, and gas-charged dampers. Americans get a trailing arm double-wishbone independent rear suspension with longer upper arms, an improved damper lever ratio (1.7 [right arrow] 1.1) with a reduced spring rate for greater ride comfort, and a more linear rear camber curve. This is combined with a 5% quicker steering ratio, and a steering system with 30% greater column rigidity, 20% greater aligning toe rigidity, and reduced friction. In the case of the Civic coupe, the front/rear spring rates are 20%/28% firmer, the front/rear anti-roll bars are 29%/46% stiffer, and the dampers are biased toward handling. The Si version increases total roll stiffness another 30% with front/rear damper force increasing by 45%/40%, the front/rear anti-roll bar rates up by 104%/465%, the front hubs have larger bearings and are designed to accept 18-in. wheels, and the front and rear lower arms are stronger. As if this wasn't enough, Honda engineers--who got an earful from customers and tuners about the previous, 7th generation, Civic--rein-forced the suspension mounting points to handle aftermarket modifications. The Si also has vented 11.8-in. front/solid 10.2-in. rear disc brakes. (The sedans and non-Si coupes have 10.3-in. vented front/10.2-in. solid rear disc brakes in EX trim. Rear drum brakes are used on the Hybrid, Lx, and DX models.) All versions are equipped with 4-channel ABS with electronic brake force distribution on either side of the Atlantic, though Europeans get something Americans can't--Electronic Stability Control.
The European version falls somewhat short in the engine compartment as well. A 1.4-liter SOHC inline four is standard, and diesel lovers can order Honda's 2.2-liter DOHC i-CTDi engine. The optional (in Europe) 1.8-liter SOHC four and hybrid powertrains have been described in detail previously (http://autofieldguide.com/articles/wip/0805wip04.html), and--like the smaller gasoline engine--can be mated to a choice of either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automated manual i-Shift gearbox. Americans start with the 138-hp, 1.8-liter motor (the Hybrid starts with the 1.4-liter engine, but adds a 20-hp electric motor and CVT to the mix) mated to either a five-speed manual or automatic transmission. Si buyers forgo the automatic, and replace the 1.8-liter engine with a K20Z3 2.0-liter i-VTEC engine producing 197 hp @ 7,800 and 139 lb-ft @ 6,200. This balance-shafted engine has less vibration than the previous Si motor, a higher compression ratio (11.0:1 versus 9.8:1), stronger valve springs and internals, and mates to a compact six-speed manual gearbox with an integral helical limited-slip differential. "We tuned this car on both the road and at the race track," says Mark Pafumi, assistant LPL, Civic Si. "This time around, the Europeans might want to take a look at our Si.
By Christopher A. Sawyer, Executive Editor
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|Title Annotation:||The INDUSTRY|
|Author:||Sawyer, Christopher A.|
|Publication:||Automotive Design & Production|
|Date:||Nov 1, 2005|
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