(CNN)Honda revealed a new version of its popular Civic compact car Tuesday night. Even as automakers, including Honda, unveil more crossover SUVs and some even drop sedan models altogether, the Civic remains crucial to Honda’s success.
The Civic, with its affordable price tag, good fuel economy and excellent safety ratings, has been the best-selling passenger car in America for the past four years, excluding corporate fleet sales, and it’s on track to be the best seller again this year, according to Kelley Blue Book. The Civic is sold in more than 170 countries but the US, alone, accounts for nearly half of its sales, said Gary Robinson, assistant vice president for product planning at American Honda Motor Company, the Japanese automaker’s US arm.The Honda Civic has a longer hood than the current model.”It’s been one of the best-selling cars in America the entire time it’s been out,” he said.The Civic was first sold in the US in 1973, shortly after the model was introduced in Japan. It met with immediate success thanks, in part, to an OPEC oil embargo that caused gasoline prices to surge, spurring demand for fuel-efficient cars.Read MoreThe term “best-selling car,” of course, does not include crossover SUVs, which sell in even higher numbers these days. That’s why Honda’s best-selling model overall in the US is the compact sport utility vehicle, the CR-V, not the Civic. Honda wants you to know it can make badass trucks and SUVs, tooBut the Civic is important for Honda because it attracts young, value-focused buyers (prices for the current Civic start at just over $20,000.) Those Civic buyers, as they get older and their incomes increase, often become loyal Honda customers, Robinson said.That’s why Honda revealed the new Civic on Twitch, a streaming and social media platform for video game players, Tuesday evening. Two-thirds of Twitch users are under the age of 35, according to Honda. Honda claims to be the only automaker with a dedicated gaming channel on the network.The design of the Civic looks more restrained and upscale than the current model. It’s intended to make the car appear larger than it is. New taillights, with a strong horizontal line, add an impression of width.Changes were also made to improve visibility for the driver. The windshield, and the entire passenger cabin, have been moved further back to give the car a longer hood while moving the windshield closer to the driver for better visibility to the sides.The new Honda Civic’s taillights are designed to give an impression of more width. Inside, the new Civic will have its first fully-digital gauge cluster as standard equipment. A honeycomb mesh accent along the dashboard hides air vents to give the interior a simpler appearance.Honda didn’t provide any details about the car’s engine or transmission except that, executives said, manual transmissions will be available in all versions, at least as an option. Executives also said the new Civic will be more powerful and more fuel-efficient than the current model. The company has offered hybrid versions in years past as well, though for the previous generation Honda moved the hybrid model that used the basic Civic design to its own nameplate, Insight.The new Civic will go on sale in the late spring starting with the sedan version. Later, the hatchback and the performance-oriented Civic Si and Civic Type R models will go on sale.