Fifty years ago in the month of July, Honda held the global introduction of a fun and fuel-efficient three-door hatchback that would go on to change the automotive landscape forever. Half a century later, with sales approaching 30 million units globally and now in its 11th generation, Civic is the longest-running automotive nameplate in Honda’s history and the best-selling Honda automobile of all-time.
Related: The History of Honda Civic
The reason behind the success of every generation of Honda Civic in more than 170 markets across the world, is class-leading quality and reliability, outstanding fuel efficiency and low emissions, refined and responsive driving dynamics and top-class safety equipment when compared to the competition. According to Honda:
“Civic embodies Honda’s commitment to delivering clean, safe and fun products of the highest quality for each generation of car buyers. That’s been the magic of Civic and the key to its success for 50 years.”
Before the launch of Civic in 1972, Honda was thinking of pulling out of car manufacturing altogether. The first generation Civic was their first big hit in the automobile market and kept Honda in the car making business. Since then, Civic kept improving after each successive generation and today it is considered as a concrete choice in its class.
It was also the first vehicle to comply with the 1970 Clean Air Act. More than 1 million units were produced in the first 4 years of the car’s life. One of the reasons why the first-gen Honda Civic became successful was that it debuted during the oil crisis of early 1970s. Consumer demand for fuel efficient vehicles was high, and because of the Civic’s state-of-the-art CVCC (Combined Vortex Controlled Combustion) engine that was able to run on either leaded or unleaded fuel, it gave drivers fuel choice flexibility over other vehicles.
Related: Honda and Facelifts- Then & Now
The second-generation model arrived in 1979. Compared to the first generation, it was larger, had a longer wheelbase, more angular shape, and came with increased engine power. The CVCC engines were upgraded with a third valve per cylinder; introducing lean burn swirl technology. It was available in sedan as well as hatchback forms.
Just four years later, the third-gen model was launched as Honda’s answer to the changing customer preferences. It was built on ‘Man-Maximum-Machine Minimum’ principle, which was a human-centric approach to vehicle designs that went on to redefine all new Honda models back then. 3rd gen was also the first Civic to win the ‘Car of the Year’ award in Japan in year 1983.
Honda released new 4th generation for the Civic in 1987. Visually as well as mechanically it remained connected to the 3rd gen model but with sleeker design, increased dimensions, lower hood line, increased glass area and lower wind drag. More importantly it was blessed with an advanced fully independent rear suspension (better known as double-wishbone) across the entire model range. Inspired by Formula One race cars, the Civic design promoted nimble handling and a pleasant ride by precisely controlling wheel travel and retaining the tire’s contact bit square to the road surface.
In 1991, 5th gen Honda Civic was introduced which adapted a more aerodynamic, smooth & curvier styling leaving behind the wedge-shaped design fad of the 80s. The 5th gen Honda Civic also grabbed the coveted ‘Japan Car of the Year’ award, the second Civic to win this title. This generation also marked the era of the beginning of local assembled Civic in Pakistan. In November 1992, Honda Atlas Cars Pakistan Limited, a joint venture between Honda Motor Company Limited Japan, and the Atlas Group of Companies Pakistan was incorporated and their first vehicle, the 5th gen Civic with a 1500cc carburetor engine & 5-speed manual transmission rolled off the assembly line in May 1994.
The 6th gen Civic debuted in September 1995 as a 1996 model year car and immediately went on to win the ‘Japan Car of the Year’ award- the third for a Honda Civic model. It was launched Pakistan in January 1996, and was known as the greatest head turners of the market with its bold crystal headlamps and aggressive & sporty styling. It was the first locally assembled car (in Pakistan) to boast variable valve timing engine, as it came with a choice of 1.6L VTi engine and 1.5L conventional fuel injected unit with both manual and automatic transmission variants on offer.
In 2001, the 7th gen Civic arrived featuring a complete redesign with improved interior space thanks to a flat rear floor. In order to lower costs, the front suspension was also changed from Double Wishbone to typical MacPherson strut. The 7th gen was said to have lost the true Civic DNA and wasn’t that popular among avid Civic lovers due to lesser room for performance modifications. However it was a genuine family sedan which provided decent level of comfort and a sophisticated drive.
The 8th generation Civic made its global debut in September 2005, as a 2006 model year car & arrived in Pakistan in mid 2006. It was bigger than the previous Civics in almost every aspect and carried a 1.8L engine for the first time in a local assembled model. Known as one of the greatest head-turners of its time, the 8th gen Honda Civic came with unique features such as “two-tier” instrument panel, digital speedometer, twin-tip exhausts & opposite moving wipers etc. Honda used the word “Reborn” for their marketing campaign of the vehicle and it became so popular that the word got permanently associated with this generation of Civic.
Launched in April 2011 the ninth generation is often regarded as the most unsuccessful Civic ever. According to CEO of Honda Takanobu Ito, the model was developed during the height of the global financial crisis, which led Honda to believe that consumers specifically in North America would be willing to forego upscale content and quality in new vehicles so long as they were fuel efficient and affordable. Following criticisms regarding quality and refinement, Honda had to update the Civic with new exterior and interior improvements for the facelift that was thrown out just after 1 year of release of this generation. And it was replaced by the 10th gen model two years ahead of its schedule. Although the 10th gen Civic made its production debut in October 2015, its development had already started back in 2013.
The 10th generation Honda Civic debuted in September 2015 featuring a new fastback exterior styling with the C-pillar flowing into the tailgate and distinguished split-type boomerang shaped LED tail lamps. Often referred to as Civic X, the 10th gen helped Honda win the lost game back. It was launched in Pakistan in July 2016 and was available in two engine configurations- a 1.5L turbo and 1.8L naturally aspirated unit. Civic X marked record-breaking sales in our country during the first year of its launch from July 2016 to June 2017 witnessing 20,400 units sold which was an increase of 434% in comparison with preceding year when 9th gen model was on sale.
11th generation Honda Civic in sedan form debuted in April 2021 followed by the hatchback version in June 2021. This the largest Civic ever built with increased length & width, larger wheelbase a re-designed exterior which looks reminiscent to the current-gen Accord while boasting fully redesigned interior, upgraded powertrain, refined chassis, and new safety technologies. It was launched in Pakistan in March 2022 and has a waiting time exceeding 11 months should you opt to book the vehicle today.
The Civic also happens to be Honda’s model to have won the most number of automotive awards across the globe. The latest generation of Civic has also been well received by the consumers in markets around the world primarily due to its comfort and superior driving characteristics. The 11th gen Civic offer surprisingly premium features for the price, and continues to be known as one of the more affordable compact sedans on the market– not in Pakistan though, as its the priciest Civic ever to be launched in our country. In just a matter of days, the world will be presented with the all-new Civic Type R, which will be the perfect way to celebrate 50 years of Honda Civic.
A 3d animation professional with over 20 years of industry experience having served in leading organizations & production facilities of Pakistan, an avid car enthusiast and petrolhead with an affection to deliver writings to help shape opinions. Formerly written for PakWheels as well as major publications including Dawn. Founder of CarSpiritPK.com