It was introduced in July 1972 as a two-door model, followed by a three-door hatchback that September. With the transverse engine mounting of its 1169 cc engine and front-wheel drive like the British Mini, the car provided good interior space despite overall small dimensions. Early models of the Civic typically included a basic AM radio, heater, foam-cushioned plastic trim, two-speed wipers, and painted steel rims with a chromed wheel nut cap. As the years went by, it has become much more upscale with options such as air conditioning, power locks, power windows, leather upholstery, satellite-linked navigation, and a six-speed manual transmission. Initially gaining a reputation for being fuel-efficient, reliable, and environmentally friendly, later iterations have become known for performance and sportiness, especially the Civic Type-R, Civic GTi and Civic SiR.
The Civic has been rebadged for international markets with such models as the Honda Ballade and Honda Domani/Acura EL. The Civic platform also served as the basis for the CR-X sport compact, the CR-X del Sol targa convertible, the Honda Concerto, the first generation Honda Prelude, the Honda Civic Shuttle (later to become the Honda Orthia), and the CR-V compact SUV. Starting in 1985 until 2006, the Civic was dedicated to Japanese dealership Honda Primo, with Civic variants sold at Honda Clio, and Honda Verno locations.
As of 2006, a total of 16.5 million Civics had been sold worldwide, with 7.3 million of them in the United States. By 2012, Civic has been the top-selling car in Canada for 14 years. With high gas prices and a weak economy in June 2008, the Civic supplanted the Ford F-Series to become the top-selling vehicle in the United States for that month.
In Japan, production of non-hybrid Civic for domestic market ended in August 2010 and production of Civic hybrid for home market ended in December 2010. In recent years, customers shifted to minivans and compact cars like Honda Fit. Honda launched Fit hybrid in October in Japan. However, production of Civic and Civic hybrid for export markets will continue.
First generation (1973–1979)
The first generation Honda Civic was introduced in 1972, but sold as a 1973 model. It was equipped with a 1,169 cc (71.3 cu in) four-cylinder water-cooled engine and featured front power disc brakes, reclining vinyl bucket seats, simulated wood trim on the dashboard, as well as optional air conditioning and an AM/FM radio. The Civic was available as a coupe, both a three- and a five-door hatchback, as well as a five-door station wagon. Due to the 1973 oil crisis, consumer demand for fuel efficient vehicles was high, and due to the engine being able to run on either leaded or unleaded fuel, it gave drivers fuel choice flexibility over other vehicles. The CVCC engine debuted in 1975 and had a head design that allowed for more efficient combustion, and as a benefit the CVCC system did not require a catalytic converter or unleaded fuel to meet 1972 North American emissions standards. The Civic was joined by a platform expansion of the three-door hatchback, called the Honda Accord in 1976.
Second generation (1980–1983)
The second generation Honda Civic was introduced in 1980. It was larger, had a more angular shape, and came with increased engine power. All Civic engines now used the CVCC design, which added a 3rd valve per cylinder; this introduced lean burn swirl technology. The base 1335 cc ("1300") engine made 55 hp (41 kW; 56 PS), with an optional 1488 cc ("1500") engine producing 67 hp (50 kW; 68 PS). Three transmissions were offered: a four-speed manual (on base models), a five-speed manual, and a two-speed semi-automatic Honda had previously called the "Hondamatic".
A four door version called the Ballade was built, under agreement, by Mercedes Benz South Africa.
Third generation (1984–1987)
The third generation was released in 1984. The separate five-door hatchback and wagon models were merged into a four-door "shuttle wagon" or "wagovan" sometimes referred to colloquially as a "breadbox" due to its appearance, called the Honda Civic Shuttle. An additional two-seat coupe style—labeled CRX—was introduced, noted for its compact dimensions and light weight. The third generation Civic saw the introduction of the long running four-cylinder D series engine including a new 1.5 L (91.5 cu in) CVCC engine. 1984 also saw the release of a high-performance Si model for the Japanese market, featuring upgraded suspension and the 1.6 L (97.6 cu in) DOHC ZC engine which was rated at 130 PS. Si models were offered in the US as a 3-door Civic Si hatchback and the CRX Si variant with a 91 horsepower (68 kW) fuel-injected SOHC 12-valve engine. A 4WD engine with different transmission mounts was introduced for the first time in 1984, and later upgraded in 1987. It delivered a fuel economy commensurate with today's compact 4-cylinder 4WD/AWD SUVs of around 28 mpg highway. The AWD system was push-button operated and called "realtime" because it could be engaged and disengaged while driving. The manual transmission featured a synchronized 6th gear, called "SL", which was used for very low speeds. Starting with 1985, Japanese Civics were now exclusive to Honda Primo, with variants sold at Honda Verno and Honda Clio. A four door version called the Ballade was built, under agreement, by Mercedes Benz South Africa, models were 130,150, 150i, and 160i DOHC.