Honda Civic 2012 unveiled with new design, new engines

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Honda has introduced the ninth generation of the Civic, the carmaker’s second most popular car, at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. It will go on sale this spring as a 2012 model.

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The new Honda will be available as a sedan and a coupe and with conventional gasoline, hybrid and natural gas drivetrains.

The new shape of the popular Civic is more windswept and aggressive. The Civic Si concept coupe has a more angular front end, mesh grille and tapered rear roofline.

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The 2012 Civic hybrid version will be Honda’s first use of lithium-ion batteries. The gasoline-powered model will feature the same Eco Assist technology Honda debuted on its CR-Z hybrid last year, which allows drivers to select between different drive modes that alter fuel economy. The natural-gas-powered GX will be the only CNG passenger car assembled in North America.

John Mendel, Honda U.S. chief sales executive, told reporters at the auto show Honda is hoping for increased sales of the Civic, which debuted in the United Sates in  1972.

“From Honda’s standpoint, it really kind of sharpens our spirit of competition,” said Mendel and as reported on Reuters. “For years we’ve been several laps ahead in a 500 mile race. Now, there’s more and more competitors approaching the same lap as we are.”

Honda’s U.S. sales rose 7 percent in 2010, four percentage points lower than the nationwide industry gain. The Civic accounts for slightly more than 20 percent of the automaker’s U.S. sales.

The Civic gasoline version will get about 40 miles per gallon, according to Honda. Its price was not announced.

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