Look, no hands. The day of driving from Dublin to Cork without controlling the steering wheel or brakes is here. Through a combination of state-of-the art devices, the new Honda Civic brings autonomous driving ever nearer.
At the launch last week, I was able to drive on a stretch of the Wexford-Dublin motorway without controlling the steering wheel or brakes. Sensors, cameras and radar corrected the car if it veered outside the white lines, read the speed limit signs and applied the brakes automatically to avoid traffic ahead, then picked up speed again when the lane ahead cleared.
Only touching the steering at intervals to reassure the safety systems that the driver was alert was necessary. A no response from the driver brings the car to a halt. It works best at speeds of over 70km/h.
The hands-free, brake-free driving also applies to city driving where under low speeds, new super technology takes over to keep you in the correct lane and bring you to a halt without rear-ending the car in front.
Honda is putting this technology within reach of the family driver - luxury cars have had this for some time - and the all-new Civic was the vehicle chosen to launch it here. And the surprise extended to the new grown-up design for the Civic.
Playing it safe in terms of designing new models has almost become the norm with all leading manufacturers. 'If it's not broke, don't fix it' attitude seems to be the modus operandi these days.
There is some justification for the evolutionary rather than the revolutionary point of view when bringing new designs to the market.
A radical change in looks will immediately date the existing model and devalue it to the annoyance of loyal customers. And there is always the possibility that the new look may not immediately grab the imagination.
Remember the Ford Sierra?
The immediate reaction was shock and horror and Ford's fleet sales in the UK went through the floor. It took a long time before the new look was accepted.
But we all applaud a fresh look that is noticeably different and Honda has come up with the goods in its new Civic. It now sits on a lightweight, more rigid platform which gives a vastly improved drive and an opportunity for designers to show some flair. It is now longer, wider and lower, and looks like a more upmarket car, which it is, considering the amount of technology it carries under the new aerodynamic shape.
The 10th generation Civic is the most high-tech car the company has ever produced.
There were two new petrol engines on offer for the launch last week, a one-litre and a 1.5 litre. A new 1.6 litre diesel will be here by the end of the year.
The one-litre three-cylinder VTEC Turbo unit produces 127bhp with 200Nm of torque while the bigger 1.5 litre 4-cylinder VTEC turbo puts out 180bhp with 240Nm of torque on tap, more than the current 1.8 litre engine.
The punchier 1.5 litre engine was not available to drive at the launch but the one-litre gives a very lively drive and will be more than adequate to keep most drivers happy. Honda claims fuel economy figures are 4.8L/100km with 110g/km of C02 for the one-litre unit and 5.8L/100km with 133g/Km of C02 for the 1.5 litre unit.
Both engines come with a newly designed six-speed gearbox with the lever mounted high in the centre console for a very slick movement. Prices start at €23,750 for the entry-level one-litre model which is loaded with goodies.