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Honda Civic Through The Years

Stephen Rivers

Over nearly 40 years, very few cars have offered as much as the small but mighty Honda Civic. Join the Daily Driver as we look at every generation.

Very few cars in history have managed as successful a run as the small but spritely Honda Civic. Through the decades, it’s proven that it can stay true to its roots and almost never put a foot wrong. The Honda Civic has been a giant piece of the American can market since it arrived in 1972. While it’s always been a global player, the Civic has cemented itself in American lore through consistently strong efforts to provide a dynamic, snappy, and fun daily driver.

From two-wheel-drive to all-wheel-drive models, wagons, coupes, three and five-door hatchbacks, the Civic has come in almost any flavor one could ask for and today we’ll dive into every bit of them. Over the course of nearly 40 years, this small car has grown in size, stature, and standing here in America. Let’s dive in to the Honda Civic Generations.

First Generation (1972 – 1979)

1973 Honda Civic - hondanews.com

1973 Honda Civic – hondanews.com |  Shop Honda Civic on carsforsale.com

  • Arriving as a 1973 model in 1972, the Honda Civic couldn’t have come to America at a better time if it had tried. While domestic automakers were trying to figure out how to make high-quality compact and efficient vehicles, Honda had been doing just that for decades.
  • The Civic arrived and instead of being a vehicle that was trying new things, it was a fully developed product that produced the desired results.
  • The first version could be had in three formats: a two-door coupe, a three-door hatchback, and then a five-door hatchback.
  • The wheels on the original car were just 12-inches in diameter, less than that of many modern dinner plates.
  • It sold with only 50 horsepower, would see an upgrade in 1974 to 52hp, and then again to 53hp in 1975 with the innovative CVCC engine.
1976 Honda Civic 1.4L I4 CVCC Engine - carsforsale.com
1976 Honda Civic 1.4L I4 CVCC Engine - carsforsale.com
  • This “Compound Vortex Controlled Combustion” motor was so efficient compared to domestic options, that it didn’t need a catalytic converter or to run unleaded fuel to still meet EPA standards.
  • In 1975, the Civic also received its first 5-speed manual transmission available to the public.
  • Between 1976 and 1979 very few changes were made to the car underneath the bodywork.
  • Those exterior changes were small like blacking out the grille, adding hood vents, and turn signals.
  • In 1977, the Civic was ranked as the “Most Efficient Car in America” by the EPA.

Second Generation (1980 – 1983)

1980 Honda Civic - global.honda
1980 Honda Civic - global.honda
  • Honda continues to build on the success of the CCVC engine with a third valve per cylinder which adds 2 more horsepower for a total of 55hp.
  • A second engine was offered rated at 67hp and 1.5-liters.
  • Three transmissions were available including a 2-speed automatic, a 4-speed manual and a 5-speed manual.
  • The Civic lineup grew with two new variants, the FE or Fuel Economy model and the Civic S; a sporty version with a stiffer rear sway bar and stickier tires.
  • This generation is the first Civic to ever be offered in full sedan layout.
  • These small, second gen Honda Civics are still well received at car shows and meetups with tons of aftermarket parts available to customize them to the owners’ content.

Third Generation (1984 – 1987)

1986 Honda Civic CRX Si - hondanews.com

1986 Honda Civic CRX Si – hondanews.com |  Shop Honda Civic CRX on Carsforsale.com

  • The tried and true formula continues as the third generation of Civic arrives with the best powerplant to date. Base Civics were powered by a 60hp 1.3-liter engine.
  • The top of the line motor managed to build 76hp.
  • For the very first time, a 3-speed automatic was added to the option list.
  • The famous CRX model is first launched during this generation and was fabled to offer over 50mpg in the city and nearly 70mpg on the highway.
  • In 1984, a 6-speed manual transmission was offered in concert with the first Civic to be sold with AWD.
  • This drivetrain system would power just the front wheels until the driver activated AWD via a button that would transfer power to the rear.
  • In later models, this transfer of power would become automatic whenever the front wheels were detected as slipping.
  • In 1985, it all came together as the 91hp Civic CRX Si was offered for the first time as the pinnacle of Civic performance.
  • The Si model wasn’t just powerful, it was built to handle corners through the use of lightweight plastics instead of metal and wide-for-the-time 185 section tires.

Fourth Generation (1988 – 1991)

1989 Honda Civic 4WD Wagon - hondanews.com
1989 Honda Civic 4WD Wagon - hondanews.com
  • Everything about the fourth generation of Civic focused on refinement and further maturation of the Honda brand.
  • Notice the cleaner lines and the complete lack of creases that were so bold across the previous generations.
  • For the first time, the entire lineup utilized electronic fuel injected engines furthering the goals of efficient power.
  • Base models still only made 70hp, while the high-end variants made over 100hp for the first time (topping out at 105hp).
  • The 100+ horsepower engine could be had in either the Civic Si or the Civic Wagon, which again would be available with AWD.
  • While domestic manufacturers were trying to figure out how to get their underpowered overweight cars to handle well, Honda installed a double-wishbone suspension for the front and rear of the Civic, which made the handling just that much better.
  • The LX trim level arrives for the first time during the fourth generation and offers luxurious items for the time like power mirrors, power locks, and intermittent wipers.

Fifth Generation (1992 – 1995)

1993 Honda Civic Del Sol Si - hondanews.com

1993 Honda Civic Del Sol Si – hondanews.com |  Shop Honda Civic Del Sol on Carsforsale.com

  • VTEC, a landmark technology for Honda, debuted in the Civic for the first time in 1992.
  • This enthusiast favorite development allowed for further refinements in efficiency and added horsepower higher in the RPM range.
  • This generation could’ve perhaps split off from Honda, considering that combined the hatchback and sedan versions offered 7 different and unique trim levels.
  • Civic improves in every metric during this generation. Including, vital areas like safety, with the addition of driver and side airbags as well as anti-lock brakes.
  • Honda improved on efficiency with lighter build materials and some of the most efficient engine designs to date.
  • Honda also improved in terms of power with the Civic Si’s range topping 125hp 4-cylinder VTEC motor.
  • The Civic Del Sol debuted in 1993 and offered an even lighter, sportier way to go fast. It featured a targa style roof and the option of the same 125hp engine as the Si.
  • In 1994, the Del Sol VTEC arrived with a 160hp engine that didn’t find its way to any other Civic of the same generation.

Sixth Generation (1996 – 2000)

2000 Honda Civic GX - hondanews.com
2000 Honda Civic GX - hondanews.com
  • The Civic returns to its roots for the start of the sixth generation, as power and performance take a back seat to efficiency and features.
  • The sixth generation Honda Civic is so good that in 1996 it was awarded the “Automobile of the Year” award.
  • Sales become a larger focus for Honda, as they offered multiple variants to capture as much of the market as possible.
  • Included in the trim available is the Civic GX, a 100% naturally gas powered Civic specifically made for fleet customers.
  • The Del Sol VTEC engine that was absent from other Civics in 1994 returned in the Civic Si for 1998. Now though, the Si can only be had in sedan guise.
  • Redline for the Civic Si was at a wildly impressive and great sounding 8,500 RPM giving rise to the “VTEC just kicked in” saying.
  • Thanks to the power and refinement of the Si, it proves to be the fastest Honda ever sold in America.
  • It is such a potent and well-loved car that when The Fast & Furious came out in 2001, it was these sixth generation Civics that were featured prominently in the storyline.

Seventh Generation (2001 – 2005)

2003 Honda Civic Hybrid - hondanews.com
2003 Honda Civic Hybrid - hondanews.com
  • As the seventh generation arrives, the Civic received 4 main trim levels, but all lack the high-tech double-wishbone suspension found in many of the previous generations.
  • To justify the return to McPherson struts, Honda imbues the Civic with a new larger K-series engine that offers more power and more efficiency.
  • The change in suspension geometry also allows for more interior space, which in turn bumps the Civic from sub-compact to the compact class.
  • The Si model still exists, but now only as a hatchback model.
  • In 2003, the Civic Hybrid arrived for the first time combining a 13hp electric motor combined with an 85hp petrol engine.
  • The most refined version of this generation arrives in 2004 with the quietest cabin ever and then further adds style in 2005.
  • To that end, the Civic got aluminum wheels, a leather-wrapped wheel, and a high-tech radio.

Eighth Generation (2006 – 2010)

2006 Honda Civic Coupe - hondanews.com
2006 Honda Civic Coupe - hondanews.com
  • When the eighth generation Civic arrived, it was by far the most divisive Civic in history. The styling was bold, brave, and futuristic.
  • While the styling was shocking to some, the quality and execution was simply impressive.
  • The eighth generation Civic won five different Car of the Year awards.
  • When the Civic Si was released, it once again saw a massive performance upgrade. This time in the form of a 197hp 4-cylinder engine.
  • In 2008, leather seating was available for the first time in the humble little compact car.
  • Natural gas and hybrid versions are both available during this generation of the Civic, but the natural gas variant proves to be less than desirable to most customers.

Ninth Generation (2011 – 2015)

2012 Honda Civic EX Coupe - hondanews.com

2012 Honda Civic EX Coupe – hondanews.com |  Shop Honda Civic on carsforsale.com

  • The ninth generation Civic goes back to its roots with a much more refined and natural evolution of the previous version, as opposed to another shocking change in design.
  • In an effort to push the car further towards the luxury market and into a more comfortable driving style, the steering and driver feedback is dampened.
  • The changes in handling resulted in a vast majority of fans deriding the departure from a nimble and reactive car.
  • Safety takes the forefront again with advanced features like ABS, Electronic Brake Distribution, and Vehicle Stability Assistance.
  • Honda understood the need to make adjustments to improve driver feedback. They did so by adding thicker anti-roll-bars, stiffer springs and other small changes.
  • Nevertheless, Honda knew that overall the chassis would make some pretty big changes to equal the overall goal.

Tenth Generation (2015 – 2021)

2017 & 2018 Honda Civic Type R - hondanews.com
2017 & 2018 Honda Civic Type R - hondanews.com
  • Honda turns the game around in 2016 with the tenth generation of Civic. They returned the snappy driving feel of previous generations that fans had been wanting.
  • The 174hp 4-cylinder is equipped with a turbocharger that matches the dynamic chassis and brings back the enthusiast crowd.
  • Interior features capitalized on technology like Pandora internet radio, Bluetooth connectivity, and a standard rear view camera.
  • Bumping up to the Sport model, the Honda Civic pushes to 180hp and comes with a 6-speed manual.
  • The Type R came back to America in 2017 and set the FWD sports car market on fire.
  • It did this by setting the fastest lap record for at the Nurburgring in Germany for a FWD car. Posting a staggering 7:43:80 lap time, it was documented to be faster than a 2010 Nissan GT-R!

Eleventh Generation (2022 – Future)

2022 Honda Civic Prototype - hondanews.com

2022 Honda Civic Prototype – hondanews.com |  Shop new Honda Civic on carsforsale.com

  • The eleventh generation Honda Civic has just been revealed, but we know that it will ride on an entirely new platform.
  • That new platform is notably stiffer according to Honda. So, it’s expected that the Type R should be considerably faster and more nimble.
  • Styling is a wonderful blend between a natural evolution from the previous model and a more mature version of such styling.
  • A 6-speed manual transmission will be available, though we haven’t heard any specifics yet on which engines will come in the new Civic as of this writing. Be sure to keep an eye out as we learn more about the future of the Honda Civic.
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in October 2016 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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Stephen Rivers
Stephen Rivers

Stephen is a car enthusiast who loves all things built with passion. In his free time, he’s usually at a hockey rink, walking his dogs, or on a road bike. His automotive tastes lean towards cars that oftentimes seem to take a pound of flesh for the ethereal pleasure they provide: things like the Lamborghini Diablo, TVR Cerbera, and a C4 Corvette turned into a street-legal go-kart. He drives his Bugeye Subaru WRX in Autocross, Rallycross, and track day competitions throughout the year and daily drives a twin-turbo BMW 535i.

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