Honda going to launch its upgraded Honda Civic Model in 2011

Though it might be difficult to tell with just a casual glance, this Civic is brand-new, sharing practically nothing but its moniker with the previous generation. As much as we may have liked some additional visual flair, it seems Honda is being conservative and aiming right for the heart of the market with five separate and distinct flavors of its compact offering, each of which offers a notable improvement in fuel efficiency.

We'll start with the all-new HF model, which, as you may have guessed, is the most fuel efficient of the non-hybridized Civics that will be available in the United States. Honda expects the HF, with its 1.8-liter i-VTEC engine, to earn EPA-estimated fuel economy of 41 miles per gallon on the highway. The HF will share its aerodynamics package with the returing Civic Hybrid, which manages a combined rating of 45 mpg (a four-mpg improvement over the outgoing Civic Hybrid) thanks to its lithium-ion battery – a Honda-first – and 1.5-liter i-VTEC engine and CVT transmission. There's also a natural gas-powered Civic GX.

While those two models aim for the ultimate in fuel efficiency, we imagine that the standard Sedan and Coupe models will make up the bulk of sales. Buyers will find a 1.8-liter i-VTEC 4-cylinder engine underhood with 140 horsepower that scores an EPA-estimated 39 mpg on the highway (a three-mpg improvement over the last Civic). The Civic soldiers on with a five-speed automatic at a time when most of its competitors are packing six ratios.

And then, of course, there's the sporty Si model. As the Civic that's meant to steal the hearts of performance lovers, it's nice to see a new 2.4-liter powerplant with 200 horsepower mated to a six-speed manual gearbox. Perhaps more importantly, the larger mill pumps out 170 pound-feet of torque, a 22-percent increase over the outgoing twist-starved Si. All that and an additional two mpg on the highway (31 mpg estimated) ought to make for a reasonably fun everyday commuter.

And now to the styling. We'll start off on a positive note: the 2012 Honda Civic is not ugly. Problem is, it's also not hugely attractive. In fact, *yawn* it's not really anything. Both inside and out, this latest Civic is barely distinguishable from the previous generation, and as competitors continue pushing their design envelope forward, well... we really expect more these days. Let's hope the driving dynamics live up to our lofty expectations, and let's also hope that Honda accidentally left the shipping blocks in the cars it used for photography – particularly the Si models – or the new model looks a bit high-riding.