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Honda unveils 2012 Civic Add to ...

Just as the Honda Civic Coupe "concept" was making its Canadian premiere at the Canadian International Auto Show last week, the company released details and photos of the actual production coupe, sedan and hybrid versions, scheduled to arrive this spring in Canada.

The 2012 Civic is to start rolling off assembly lines in Alliston, Ont., and Greensburg, Indiana, in April, and it's obvious that fuel economy will remain a calling card of this Civic, even in non-hybrid versions. Its base 1.8-litre engine will produce 140 hp, as well as fuel efficiency ratings of 7.2 litres/100 km city/5.0 highway, a 12 per cent improvement over the miserly current Civic four-door.

But Honda is also dropping a notably larger 2.4-litre engine into the Si versions of the Civic, both sedan and coupe (no hatchback yet, unfortunately). Top-end power is not much changed, at 200 hp versus 197, though the driver is most likely to feel the added torque, which is bumped up to a peak of 170 lb-ft versus the current model's 139 lb-ft.

So the top-line performance Civic will not require as much redline-screaming for quick passing, although a new six-speed transmission for Si models may still encourage such shenanigans for fun. Even with the increased displacement and torque, fuel economy is said to be increased by 2 per cent.

For those enamoured with the rakish Ford Focus sedan or hatchback, or the similarly eye-catching Hyundai Elantra, the Civic is not going to come close to generating the style points of those two, or of the current-generation Mazda3. Redesigned for 2010, the Mazda3 was the vehicle that came closest to knocking the Civic off of its 13-year perch at the top of the Canadian car sales charts. In the long tradition of the Civic and Toyota Corolla, it's steady as she goes on the design front, lest some wayward curve offend any particular aesthetic sense anywhere in the world.

Granted, this is no major surprise, since the "concept" versions of the Civic coupe and sedans shown at the Detroit, Montreal and Toronto auto shows were clearly very near production models. Still, some may lament the loss of the concept's striking centre-mounted exhaust, smoked grey wheels and LED fog lights didn't make it to production.

During a visit to the Alliston plant last fall, Honda executives said the delay in rolling out a new Civic was because spiking fuel prices in 2008 convinced the company that the '12 Civic had grown too heavy, and that it had to focus on fuel economy and stop the perpetual enlargements that have come with every new Civic generation. But other accounts say the delay was a result of a spending freeze prompted by the global financial crisis, while some reports say Honda execs saw what was coming down the pipe from other auto makers, Ford and Hyundai especially, and simply knew they had to do better.

No fuel economy estimates were released for the Civic hybrid sedan, but it will be powered by a 110 hp 1.5-litre four and a CVT, similar to the CR-Z, though with no manual option.



Audi to unveil monster A3 four-door coupe

A super powerful four-door coupe concept version of the Audi A3 hatchback will be unveiled at the Geneva auto show next week, but the German luxury brand has already released details about what could become one of the most practical, yet affordable, performance machines the brand has offered - "affordable" being a relative term, of course.

The generically named A3 concept is based on the next-generation version of the A3 hatchback, which in itself is based on Volkswagen Golf mechanicals. The concept features a 408-hp, five-cylinder engine, similar to the one offered in the much less practical TT-RS that's coming to Canada this fall. This concept is about six inches longer than the five-door A3 hatchback, and comes with all-wheel-drive connected to a seven-speed dual clutch paddle shift transmission.

There is no official confirmation yet that this car will make it to market, although Audi says "the four-seater notchback sedan offers a glimpse of the future expansion of the A3 family."

VIDEO: Peter Cheney checks out the hottest exotic cars that could cost you your license if you discover their true potential

Mini offers free scheduled maintenance program

Mini Canada has announced a free scheduled maintenance program for all 2011 Mini models for three years or 50,000 km.

The program covers oil and filter changes, brake fluid change every two years and a variety of tire, battery and airbag inspections, though not necessarily repairs.

Wear and tear items such as brake pads and wiper blades also aren't included, but a full list of included items is listed on the Mini Canada website at mini.ca.

It's not a very extensive list of free service, but for a vehicle that starts at about 20 large, it's more than anyone else offers.

BMW names electric brand its i cars

They haven't yet appeared, in photos or in person, but BMW has confirmed that its environmentally-friendly line of plug-in vehicles will be called its "i" line of vehicles.

The i3 will be the small all-electric Megacity runabout, and the i8 the production version of the Vision Dynamics concept that's starring in BMW ads.

The brand will arrive in dealers in 2013, although its Canadian launch date has not yet been confirmed.

The line is for all sustainable mobility vehicles, and could therefore encompass non-plug-in vehicles such as fuel-cell vehicles in the future, though BMW has officially shelved its liquid hydrogen program that powered its Hydrogen 7-Series sedan.

BMW is also forming an i Ventures division that will invest in clean energy businesses that are not directly building clean cars, but related businesses, such as maximizing the use of existing parking spaces, intelligent navigation systems with local information/real-time traffic updates, intermodal route planning, and premium car-sharing that would expose the iBrand to new potential car buyers.

READ MORE: Click here for full coverage of the Canadian International Auto Show

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