Honda Cars India could be eyeing a comeback for the Civic sedan, albeit with diesel power in tow. The Japanese automaker has just imported a Honda Civic Diesel sedan from the United Kingdom for “Research and Development” purposes. Now, the Civic sedan enjoys a cult following in India, and the scores of enthusiasts here were not amused when Honda decided to discontinue the car from the Indian car market in 2012, on the back of sagging sales.
The Civic sold in India until 2012 featured the 1.8 liter-4 cylinder i-VTEC petrol engine mated to five speed manual and automatic gearbox options. Prior to diesel price deregulation, the gap between deregulated petrol and non-deregulated diesel prices rose to unprecedented levels, leading to buyers making a swift shift towards diesel powered cars. With a solitary petrol engine on offer, the futuristically styled, low slung Civic lost out on sales.
The advent of the Mahindra XUV500 crossover in 2011, along with other SUVs such as the Renault Duster and the Tata Safari Storme in subsequent years, further dented sales of D-Segment cars, of which the Honda Civic was a part. With the D-Segment sedan space showing sharp contraction as buyers began showing tell tale signs of favouring SUVs and crossovers, Honda promptly stopped building the Civic in India, after a near 7 year production run.
Honda’s import of the latest, 9th generation Civic Diesel sedan into India, will set pulses soaring among the enthusiast brigade. However, caution is the watchword and here’s why. In the past, Honda has tested its diesel engines on cars that never really received the said engine. For instance, the 1.5 liter i-DTEC diesel engine of the Amaze was tested in the Brio hatchback before the former’s launch in India. The Brio hatchback never got this diesel engine option in production guise though.
Extrapolating from here, there’s a fat chance that the 9th generation Civic Diesel that has been imported into India could be a test bed for cars such as the Honda Accord and CR-V Diesels. Honda is said to have plans of outfitting diesel engines to the likes of the Accord and CR-V in 2015. The Civic Diesel could therefore be a test mule, a-la-the Honda Brio, to test out the 1.6 liter, all-aluminium EarthDreams turbo diesel engine that makes 120 Bhp-300 Nm in the Civic Diesel sold in the United Kingdom.
So keeping hopes low is the key as far as the Civic’s India relaunch is concerned. Viewing the glass half full, Honda could have simply imported the 1.6 liter i-DTEC diesel engine into India or even perhaps the diesel powered Accord sedan and the CR-V crossover, instead of the Civic Diesel, for testing purposes. Since the Japanese automaker has chosen to specifically import the Civic Diesel, there’s a chance, however slim, that Honda is contemplating a relaunch of the Civic in India. Watch this space.