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Interview: A Sit-Down With the Man Behind the All-New Honda Civic

NEWS
Arvind June 9, 2016 10:42

Carlist.my caught a rare opportunity to sit down with a pivotal figure involved in the design, development and final sign-off of the all-new Honda Civic. We had some burning questions for Assistant-Large Project Leader (A-LPL) of the All-New Honda Civic Mr Osamu Takezawa, and this is what he had to say…

Does the all-new Honda Civic’s CVT transmission system come with a dedicated transmission fluid cooler?

Honda Civics retailed for the Malaysian market are not fitted with a dedicated transmission fluid cooler. As the CVTs fitted into the all-new Civic is of a newer, more durable design, a separate cooler is not needed unless the car is being used in racing conditions. In some markets, there are higher performance variants where a dedicated oil cooler is fitted. 

Some years back, when CVT gearboxes became more popular and more widely applied in passengers cars, there were also commonplace reports of transmission overheating, given our climate conditions.

With recent innovations and developments achieved with the CVT gearbox, we are confident that the CVT system fitted in the Honda Civic will be able to cope with the driving styles and climate conditions in Malaysia.  We have learnt from past mistakes, and believe the Civic’s system is up to the task.

We’ve seen Honda move from CVT gearboxes to conventional automatic gearboxes and then back again to CVT, such as in the Honda City, can you elaborate further, the rationale behind this?

Well, in the case of the Civic, this is the first introduction of turbocharged engine, besides the obvious proponent of good fuel consumption, Honda also found it particularly effective in combating the effects of turbo-lag. While turbo-lag may never fully be eliminated, the tuning and engine modulation of the CVT helps clear out dark-spots within the car’s power delivery. The combination of the CVT and 1.5-litre turbocharged engine is a competent package.

In the case of the 1.8-litre engine, certain tweaks of the engine management’s parameters have been done to suit the marriage of the CVT gearbox and also to boost fuel economy.

Some manufacturers have adopted a stepped-ratio feature with their CVT gearboxes, this, to provide the sensation of pseudo-gears provides a more natural sensation during acceleration, does Honda plan offer a feature like this with the current Civic CVT setup or in the near future?

The all-new Honda Civic has a feature like that, it isn’t a linear response, where the engine speed is kept steady and the speedometer catches up, but it does feel more dynamic during harder acceleration, allowing for the revs to rise and fall. The response of the CVT gearbox depends on the driving situation.

In the case of the 1.8-litre Honda Civic, is it a similar powertrain like the one fitted in the Honda HR-V?

The package in both cars are identical, but there are distinct differences between the response of the CVT gearbox – largely due to the differences in the design and operating range of the Civic’s torque-converter.

Few years ago introduced a new design language called the ‘Exciting Edge’, the elements of that design philosophy are present in this new Civic – namely in the design of the front grille assembly. There is little mention of the design concept with the new Civic, is there a change in direction?

Well, the design of the Civic is inspired by the Exciting Edge concept, however, this time around the focus of Honda does not quite highlight the Exciting Edge styling philosophy.

In Japan, we know that the Civic has been discontinued for the last two generations as the market there is more inclined towards MPVs and SUVs, does that mean that the influence and responsibility of Honda’s Japan R&D operations are lesser than that of Honda R&D U.S.A, where the Civic is an important product?

The initial phase of development was conducted by Japan’s R&D operations before it is sent to Honda’s American operations to be finalised, but in the case of the initial design and powertrain development, that was all done in Japan.

We are to understand that the Malaysian operations had a hand in the development of the Honda City, is it a similar case with the Civic as well?

The process is a little bit different with the Honda Civic, the Honda City is a regional product, and hence the development input is more focussed on markets where the car will eventually be sold.

In the case of the Civic, it’s a global model hence the areas of contribution are more widespread, but the Honda Malaysia team is given freedom to tailor the final product for suitability to the Malaysian market. Traditionally, the Thailand and Malaysian markets used to have identical packages, but because now, we produce a car where it is sold, Malaysia is granted more autonomy to produce cars that best suit the market's interest.

When you combine VTEC and Turbo, this obviously stirs the soul of your average car enthusiast, and depending on the user, the Civic will have to satisfy many different types of drivers and driving situations. On the dynamics of performance and reliability, will the Civic be able to tackle the driving situations of Malaysia? And if so, does this reflect in the manufacturer warranty on offer?

I think we need to clarify, that when we mention VTEC Turbo, some may have the notion that this car resembles the monstrous Civic Type-R, but in the current era of downsized turbocharging – the main premise is to deliver power of a higher displacement engine, such as a 2.4-litre with the current Civic, yet good fuel efficiency.

The Civic is a global model, we do not introduce a model globally without adequate testing and development. We are confident that our efforts in the design, development and testing phase has created a durable and well-engineered product. The warranty for a Civic is as any other Honda on sale today.

Does the new Honda Civic VTEC Turbo have a VTEC zone such as the VTECs of past?

It’s not the VTEC in the more traditional sense. The variable valve timing system is there to optimise the engine’s performance and fuel economy. Perhaps a good way to summarise this is, in comparison to the traditional hydraulic VTEC system which used to lock the camshafts on a separate cam lobe setting, the all new Civic’s VTEC system in electronically operated to offer a much wider range of engine performance characteristics.

Think of it as a means to an end, with the technology that was available before, cam profile switching provided the best means to combine power and fuel efficiency in one engine application. But with today’s technology, it allows for a wider range of control over the engine’s response, and as such does not need to enter a zone before for the power kicks-in.

Will the all-new Civic have better performance when fuelled with RON 100 fuel?

We do believe there will be a slight gain in performance, but we cannot say for certain at this juncture.

2016 All-New Honda Civic Tech Notes Gallery

About Arvind

Arvind describes a car in the same way he would describe a woman; this is not very healthy. Unlike the eternal sunshine of a spotless mind, soulful naturally-aspirated soundtracks and trigger quick (self-applied) gearshifts are all that fill the darkest recesses of his mind. Arvind is still trying to understand women...

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