First seen in September last year, the Euro-spec Honda Civic Hatchback is now all ready for its market launch. With that, the company has released a new batch of on-location images as well as info on the model that will rival the Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus, Vauxhall/Opel Astra and the Peugeot 308, among others.

The European Civic is a five-door hatchback that is made in Swindon for the world. Honda’s European production hub benefited from €270m investment in new production technologies and processes to prepare for the new model, which like the previous Civic hatch, will be exported from the UK. This time, the Civic hatch will also head to the USA.

“The creation of this tenth-generation Civic represents one of the most comprehensive and ambitious new model developments ever undertaken by Honda. As well as an unprecedented commitment of R&D resources, the process involved sales and manufacturing operations around the world, from North America and Japan, to Europe, South America and Asia,” said Mitsuru Kariya, chief engineer and global project leader.

“This car, the sportiest Civic ever, sets new benchmarks for the compact class in terms of dynamic performance, fuel efficiency, spaciousness, safety and interior quality,” he proclaimed. Not a statement to be taken lightly when competing against such entrenched stalwarts in their home continent.

Achieving class leadership – while also meeting requirements for sales price, fuel efficiency and manufacturability – demanded new thinking and new approaches to body construction, vehicle aerodynamics and chassis design, Honda said. The development team conducted real-world benchmark testing, including assessment of European luxury vehicles, in setting the targets for ride, handling, steering and NVH, as well as interior quality and overall refinement.

The new Civic hatch is 30 mm wider, 136 mm longer and 20 mm lower than the previous-gen model (the one that spawned the current Civic Type R). Larger and wider wheels and tyres emphasise the wide stance. “The athletic external appearance must allude to the dynamic attributes and technologies that lie within,” Kariya said. Like what you see? Not my cup of tea.

Honda says that the new Civic has the most comprehensive aerodynamic packaging in the compact segment, including complete underbody panelling. Other contributing parts are the lateral strakes located ahead of each wheelarch to help deflect airflow around the tyres, a special wheel design and the lower tailgate spoiler. The CdA – the combination of coefficient of drag (Cd) and frontal area (A) – is improved by 3% over the outgoing Civic to best-in-class levels, the company says.

The new Civic is 16 kg lighter while having 52% higher torsional stiffness. The improvements in rigidity and the design of the unibody contributed significant improvements to NVH characteristics, Honda says.

With class-best handling and ride comfort as targets, Honda incorporated all-new suspension, a lower centre of gravity (by 10 mm, 35 mm lower hip point for the driver) and dual pinion variable-ratio EPS tuned for Europe (faster, more direct response compared to our Civic sedan). So crucial was ‘steering feel’ in the dynamic performance department that development of the EPS started at the earliest stages seven years ago.

For the first time on any Honda model, there are hydraulic fluid-filled compliance bushings at the front and rear (for ride comfort and vibration control). Top variants feature a four-point adaptive damper system that was first seen on the 2014 Civic Tourer. The system has two settings – normal and dynamic – handled by an ECU, three-axis body sensors and a solenoid valve in each damper that regulates the oil flow.

The Civic hatch is the first model in Europe to feature Honda’s 1.0 litre three-cylinder and 1.5 litre four-cylinder VTEC Turbo engines, paired to either a re-engineered six-speed manual (stronger frame, 40% reduced gear change friction) or a CVT automatic. The Euro 6 engines boast direct injection, a compact, low-inertia mono-scroll turbocharger, electronic wastegate, i-VTEC and Dual-Variable Timing Control.

The three-pot is said to deliver significant improvement in everyday driveability and fuel efficiency over the 1.8 NA engine in the old car. It makes 129 PS and 5,500 rpm and 200 Nm of torque (from 2,250 rpm) with the 6MT. With the CVT, it’s 180 Nm from 1,700 to 4,500 rpm. Fuel economy on the NEDC combined cycle from is 4.7 litres per 100 km (21.3 km/l). The fastest 1.0 does 0-100 km/h in 10.2 seconds.

The 1.5L turbo does 182 PS at 5,500 rpm (6,000 rpm with CVT) and 240 Nm of torque from 1,900 to 5,000 rpm (220 Nm from 1,700 rpm to 5,500 rpm for the CVT). 0-100 km/h 8.2 seconds. Combined fuel economy for the manual is 5.8 litres per 100 km (17.2 km/l). Our Civic’s 1.5L turbo does 173 PS at 5,500 rpm and 220 Nm from 1,700 to 5,500 rpm.

Let’s not forget that we’re talking about a standard non-hot hatch – it has to do family duties as well. Here, front and rear occupants benefit from greater visibility and more space. Besides the above-mentioned 35 mm lower driving position, the bonnet has been lowered 65 mm, resulting in improved forward and downward visibility. 12 mm narrower A-pillars also help. The driver’s seat features 14 steps of adjustment and the front seats have 10 mm greater sliding range, plus 10 mm greater height range.

Front shoulder room is up by 10 mm, and space between the front seats has increased by 30 mm. Rear seat shoulder room is up by 20 mm, while passengers in the back will also enjoy 95 mm more legroom, and 45 mm more knee room. A tilt-and-slide panoramic sunroof is available on higher grades.

Boot space, at 478 litres, is class leading. Honda draws our attention to an innovative side-sliding tonneau cover. The retractable cover can be pulled out from a side-mounted ‘cassette’ quickly and easily; when loading tall objects, the cover can simply be unclipped to retract back into the cassette. This eliminates the need to remove and store a rigid parcel shelf when carrying larger objects. The tonneau cover cassette can be swapped from one side of the boot to the other, or removed completely.

In Europe, Civics come with the second-generation of Honda’s Connect infotainment and connectivity system, which offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. The system is powered by an Nvidia Tegra 3 quad-core processor, with results shown on a seven-inch TFT-LCD touchscreen.

Honda Connect gives access to internet-based services such as web browsing, real-time traffic info, news and weather, social media, and internet music stations. It features pre-installed apps, with others available for download from the Honda App Centre. Honda Connect can be specified with optional Garmin satellite navigation. The top sound system is a 449-watt, 11-speaker unit.

The The Honda Sensing suite of active safety tech includes Collision Mitigation Braking System, Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning, Road Departure Mitigation, Lane Keeping Assist System, Adaptive Cruise Control, Traffic Sign Recognition, Intelligent Speed Assistance and Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control. Other safety features are Blind Spot Information and Cross Traffic Monitor.