The fundamental value associated with mobility in a tool deeply ingrained within the fabric of daily life.
Key design team members reveal the thoughts and aspirations that drove the design of the New Civic.
-What are the key elements that have driven the design of the New Civic?
Sawai : To answer this question I need to go back to the roots of Honda's car design. When Honda first ventured into building automobiles, it introduced not one, but two models almost at the same time. I am talking of the T360 truck and the S500 sports car of 1963. The first represented practicality, a workhorse for daily use, while the second was a sort of dream car. From a design standpoint, the first was the epitome of functionality, while the second was the image of dynamism.
Quite a unique way of entering the automotive business, isn't it?
This combination of functionality and dynamism is what has driven Honda's design ever since—an essential element of the DNA of Honda cars. Let me illustrate.
The Civic is designed to emphasize interior space. Its surprisingly versatile rear Magic Seats is the perfect illustration of our thinking. From the standpoint of a car used as a "tool" to go from point A to point B, a spacious interior or a versatile seat arrangement may appear to be non-essential. If we look around, there are a number of cars clearly designed with only limited, if "sufficient" space in the rear. Yet, these very same cars do well in the marketplace. But, this is where we, at Honda, are different. To the fundamental values and the level of performance and design expected of a tool to go from point A to point B, we cannot help but add what might be called typically Japanese hospitality. So to come back to your question, what we have aspired to achieve in the New Civic is raising the bar as high as possible in terms of dynamism AND functionality.
Nishimoto : To a certain extent, all carmakers try to combine dynamism and functionality. The difference is in the level of commitment, how deeply dynamism and functionality are ingrained in the company's culture.
Sawai : In Europe, the accent is clearly put on the automobile as a tool to move from one place to another. This is what explains the strong emphasis on dynamic performance. By comparison, functionality is less of a priority.
Nishimoto : When visiting a large hardware store it is quite common to see buyers in sedans and coupes leaving with large items sticking out of the trunk. It is clear that having decided on a certain type of car, they are ready to accept having items sticking out of the trunk on particular occasions. But, this does not mean it would not be better if said items fitted neatly into the trunk. Imagine an attractively styled sporty car looking attractive and sporty even when carrying large items. Nobody will blame us engineers if unusually large items cannot fit into the trunk, but we believe it would be best if they did fit. This is the thinking behind the New Civic.
Toriyama : Actually, Honda is not so much in the business of selling cars as it is in the business of selling products that improve and enrich people's lives. Going back to the story about items neatly fitting into the trunk, and beyond just the visual perspective, it also provides for increased safety and driving ease. We always think of how we could help make our customer's life just that little bit easier. I believe this thinking is at the heart of Honda's vehicle design philosophy. To a certain extent, we can say a Honda really assumes its true role as each customer finds his or her way(s) of using the car's features to the full. This is how customers in turn provide us with hints for new ideas for the next model.
-Assuming its true role the more it is used … . This certainly is an intriguing way of putting things.
Nishimoto : The customer joining in our effort to develop the next model is particularly true this time around. While developing the previous model, we really ventured into new territories to make the Civic roomier in every possible way as well as stylish. At the time, we felt we had done a 120% job.
As the car went on the market in 2006, it met with good revues from press and customers alike. Yet at the same time, we discovered that quite a number of customers wanted an even more stylish design, even at the expense of some of the extra space available. This is when we discovered that more space was not an end in itself. We came to understand that what is important is the car's "personality," the "something" that makes the customer want to choose the Civic as the partner for driving over an extended period of time and distance, the invisible bond that connects the owner to his/her car.
It is with this in mind that we developed the new car's packaging. We freed ourselves from having to offer an additional 5mm here or 10mm there than the competition. We now had a good reason to sacrifice a little bit of extra—and not used—space: It allowed us to further improve styling and dynamic performance, making the New Civic an even more compelling choice.
Sawai : Keeping the previous model's rear Magic Seats is another typical example.