It’s the single, most ubiquitous car in automotive history. A hero of the masses that never lets you down. If you don’t know someone who owns a Honda Civic, check your calendar, you might still be stuck in 1972.
And if that’s the case, power up your flux capacitor, get that Delorean to 88 mph, and jump back into the present time where the Civic is one of the most recognizable vehicles around the world. See the timeline of the vehicle that’s affordable, reliable, and fashionable, all at the same time.
Gen 1: A Bare-Bones Daily Driver – 1973
While the US was a land of V8-powered petrol-thirsty land-barges, Honda was selling the N600 and Z600, powered by 2-cylinder engines. That’s when they decided to one-up their game and came up with this.
The idea behind the very first Civic was simple: a bare-bones daily driver that was somewhat fun to drive and just couldn’t fail on you, no matter what!
Gen 1: Independent Suspension
Soichiro Honda, the founder and then president of Honda, wanted the new Civic to have a solid rear axle, but the lead engineer (Mamoru Sakada) convinced him that it was a better idea to have independent suspension.
Honda (the man, not the company), being the good engineer that he was, agreed to the configuration and the new Civic got independent suspension in all four corners.
Gen 1: Compound Vortex Control Combustion
When in 1974 the government mandated the use of catalytic converters on all cars to comply with emission standards, Honda didn’t have to do that.
That was because of Compound Vortex Control Combustion technology used on the Civic’s engine that made it run cleaner without a catalytic converter.
Gen 1: The 1978 Refresh
The first-generation Civic got a lukewarm reception in the US so five years down the road, Honda gave the car a redesign.
This included a blacked-out grille, repositioned turn signals on the front bumper, and two engine options. The standard 55 hp unit remained but the CVCC motor was now capable of producing 63 hp at the crank.
Gen 2: Bigger and More Angular – 1980
Further making the car in line with the demands of the American market, Honda made the second-generation Civic two inches longer and introduced two engine options.
A 1.3-liter motor was standard, while a 1.5-liter CVCC was offered as an optional upgrade. You could also choose from a 4-speed manual, 5-speed manual, or a two-speed automatic transmission.
Gen 2: Comfortable Trims – 1980
Inside, the second-generation Civic got a bunch of updates to make it more comfortable. The GL trim was introduced as a premium Civic in 1980.
In 1983, 1500 special edition Civic S models were made to celebrate the last year of the production of the gen-3 Civic. However, it still was a bare-bones vehicle meant just to transport you from Point A to Point B.
Gen 2: The 5-Door Wagon – 1982
Looking at the demand of the families who wanted a larger car to haul their kids and stuff around, Honda released a Wagon version of the second-generation Civic.
It basically had the same engine and transmission as the regular Civic of its time but was longer and had an extra pair of windows in the rear.
Gen 3: The Wedge-Shaped Civic – 1984
It was the era of the Terminator, and mullet and neon signs were still a novelty when Honda dropped the wedge-shaped third-generation Civic in 1984. Honda ditched two things for this model: the 1.3-liter motor and the independent rear suspension, which was replaced by a torsion beam.
Remember how Honda (the man, not the company) wanted a solid rear axle and Sakada wanted independent suspension? Well, this time Honda convinced Sakada, or just told him that he was the boss.
Gen 3: The ‘Tall Boy’ Wagon – 1985
The third-generation Civic Wagon was nicknamed ‘Tall Boy’ because of its increased height and larger rear windows.
Looking at the increasing demand for the Civic and the fact that people did want to take their extremely reliable grocery hauler to grandma’s house off the road, Honda also introduced a 4-wheel-drive version of the Civic Wagon. We all do weird things but a 4WD Civic is a bit too much. But, it’s their company and America is a free country.
Gen 3: The First Civic Si Comes Out – 1985
This is where the Civic started getting really fun to drive. The first Civic Si Hatchback was introduced in 1985.
It was lighter, had a stiffer suspension, more responsive steering, and a more powerful 1.5-liter 91 hp engine. Since then, the Si has been the sporty version of the Civic (not as sporty as the Type R though).
Gen 3: Production Starts in the US – 1986
Now that the Civic was getting a place on the best-seller list in the US market, Honda (unclear whether the man or the company) decided to shift production to the States.
They built a factory in Ohio and started building Civics in the US for the first time.
Gen 3: The Civic CRX Si – 1986
It looks like Honda was too determined to cement the Civic as a sports car alternative – the CRX Si hatchback weighed in at just 1850 lbs and had the same 91 horses.
Look, if that doesn’t sound like a lot, a certain American land-ship with a name starting in ‘Im’ and ending in ‘pala’ produced 165 horsepower from a 5.0L V8 and weighed in at 3583 lbs.
Gen 4: A Fresh Modern Look – 1988
Now, this looks like a Civic that you and I have seen in real life. The fourth-generation Civic was a massive step ahead both in the terms of looks and technology.
Other than looking modern, it got an electronic fuel injection, aka EFI. It was also the first Civic to make more than 100 horses, with the most powerful engine being a fuel-injected 105 hp 1.5-liter four-banger.
Gen 4: EX Sedan is the New Flagship Civic – 1990
When Honda dropped the new flagship, the EX Sedan in 1990, it gave the likes of Cavalier and Thunderbird a run for their money.
The EX Sedan had 14-inch wheels, new bumpers, a 105 hp engine pulled from the Si, and a redesigned cozy interior. It truly had it all!
Gen 4: Honda Prelude Si 4WS – 1990
Well, its name doesn’t say Civic in it but it is technically a Civic as it shares the same platform. This car deserves a mention because this was the first time Honda experimented with 4-wheel steering.
Other than looking extremely sick, this car could change the direction of its rear wheels in response to steering inputs to make turning easier.
Gen 5: VTEC Kicked in – 1991
VTEC is short for Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control. It basically changes the timing for which the inlet and exhaust valves stay open as well as the extent to which they open.
That essentially makes the car more fuel-efficient under 3500ish RPM and increases torque over that. This electromechanical sorcery was introduced in 1991 – and nothing has been the same since then!
Gen 5: Coup de Compact – 1993
This was the time when coupes were the new cool and Honda wanted in on the action so they made a coupe version of their best-seller.
Coupe de Compact shared the same chassis as the Civic Hatchback and came with the same DX and EX trims. It also had a passenger airbag and a high-output stereo system as optional extras.
Gen 5: The Legendary del Sol Si – 1993
Another remarkable sports car derived from the Civic was the del Sol Si. It had the engine from the 1992 Civic Si and was loosely based on the CRX that was discontinued before the del Sol came out.
The features of the del Sol included power windows, a power sliding rear window, four-wheel disc brakes, and power steering.
Gen 5: Civic Starts the Car Culture – 1995 (2001)
The Fast and The Furious was the movie that single-handedly started car culture and made people long for cars. The theme of this movie was using modified yet simple cars for the action.
Three 1995 model Civics were used by the main protagonists of the movie in many scenes.
Gen 6: The Civic Gets Bigger, Once Again – 1996
The 6th generation of the Civic got bigger, better, and more powerful. Redesigned for the 1996 model year, this one was 4 inches longer and had a more modern design language.
The engine also got better, now producing 106 hp from the same 1.6-liter block, with improved emissions and fuel consumption.
Gen 6: Natural Gas Engine Now an Option – 1998
Honda introduced a new GX trim for the 1998 model year that had a natural gas-powered engine, however, this one was only sold to fleet customers and not individuals.
A ‘value pack’ option was also introduced that bundled the most-picked options like CD player and A/C into one package.
Gen 6: Type R Begins – 1997
The first Type R Civic was made in 1997. Only introduced in the Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) at the time, this car roared that the Civic was not to be taken lightly.
With a power output of 182 horses, a close-ratio 5-speed manual gearbox, and a helical limited-slip differential, the Type R offered driving fun for a lower price.
Gen 6: The 8000 RPM Si Engine – 2000
While the next generation of the Civic was not yet released, Honda decided to do something exciting with the existing one.
The 2000 model Civic Si was blessed with an engine that could rev all the way up to 8,000 RPM and produced 160 horsepower. This was a real driving-focused machine.
Gen 7: A New Civic for the New Millennium – 2001
The seventh-generation Civic, introduced for the 2001 model year came with a bunch of improvements. The most obvious ones were new styling and a longer wheelbase.
Underneath the new design was a better front suspension with struts instead of control arms, a larger engine, and an increased power output of 117 horsepower.
Gen 7: CVT Makes a Comeback – 2002
The 2002 model year received some improvements that were aimed at making the Civic more comfortable and smooth to drive. The most significant was an optional CVT transmission in addition to the 4-speed auto and 5-speed manual.
Other changes included better shock absorbers and a new steering assembly for improved ride quality and handling.
Gen 7: The First Hybrid Civic – 2003
The first hybrid Civic was introduced in 2003. It was powered by an 85 hp engine and a 13 hp motor that was installed between the engine and transmission.
Just like any other hybrid, this car had many tricks for improved fuel efficiency like low rolling resistance tires, engine start-stop, and selective cylinder deactivation. The result was an EPA of 48/55 MPG.
Gen 8: The Civic is ‘Reborn’ – 2006
The 8th generation Civic, nicknamed the Reborn, was introduced in 2006. It had a significantly different design language with a shorter hood and a more expansive windscreen.
Public reception of the 8th generation was mixed. Some considered it a radical new design while others just thought of it as one step backward.
Gen 8: The First Si Sedan – 2007
Introduced in 2007, the first-ever Si Sedan had the body of a 7th generation Civic Sedan and the engine from a Si Coupe.
In addition to the top-of-the-line specs of the sedan, this one had a 197 horsepower engine, larger wheels, stickier tires, and more aggressive suspension.
Gen 8: The Crazy Civic Si Mugen – 2008
While the regular Si Sedan was made for people who wanted a low-key performance car, the Mugen Edition was meant to be a more in-your-face type.
It came with special Mugen wheels, an extensive body kit, a free-flowing exhaust, and, yes, a really big rear wing that served more of a cosmetic function than an aerodynamic one.
Gen 9: The Worst Civic Ever – 2011
Released in 2012, the 9th generation Civic was the one to get the coldest response from the market. It didn’t live up to the looks or performance of the previous generation.
There were even some engine troubles in the North American market and Honda had to recall 96,000 of these cars.
Gen 9: Much Needed Improvements – 2013
Eager to make the 9th generation Civic the best in the compact car market, Honda improved a lot for the 2013 model year.
This included a refreshed interior with better materials, improved suspension with thicker anti-roll bars and stiffer springs, and a rebuilt steering assembly for better response and handling.
Gen 9: The Si Coupe is Back – 2013
After a gap of one generation, the Si Coupe was reintroduced with a few minor improvements over the last model. It was the best performing Civic of this generation.
The Si came with a 201 horsepower engine that had a 7000 RPM redline and 170 lb-ft of torque, the most in any Civic till that time.
Gen X: Atoning for the Sins of Gen 9 – 2016
All the things that were wrong with the 9th generation Civic were fixed this time. The 10th generation, or Civic X, became the best-selling Civic ever and for all the right reasons.
This car came with a 158 hp 2.0-liter engine as standard, with a 174 hp turbocharged 1.5-liter optional upgrade. The only transmission option was a CVT, even on the turbocharged models. It seemed an odd choice but Honda executed it well.
Gen X – The Si Coupe is in on the Action – 2017
The Si Coupe was introduced in 2017. It had the same 1.5-liter turbo motor from the standard Civic, but it was tuned up to deliver 205 horsepower.
The best thing about this car was that despite being turbocharged, it could deliver the peak horsepower and torque way lower in the powerband.
Gen X: Type R is Back with a Blast – 2017
It is often called ‘the most perfectly balanced front-wheel-drive car,’ and it does deserve the title. The X Type R competes with the heavy hitters and even beats them.
Honda went all in with a 306 horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, a precisely balanced chassis, and a 6-speed manual transmission on this car.
Gen X: Type R Crowned Fastest FWD Car at the Ring – 2017
In April 2017 Honda took out the rear seats of a Type R and raced it on the Nürburgring. It lapped the ring in 7:43.80 minutes, becoming the fastest car at the ring, beating the record holder VW Golf GTI by a full 4 seconds.
Not only is the Type R performance-oriented, but it is also the most practical hot hatch on the market even now.
Gen X: Honda Produces the Last 2-Door Civic – 2020
The Gen X Si Coupe was not only the end of naturally-aspirated engines in the Si, but it was also the end of 2-door Civics. In 2020 Honda announced that this Civic Si Coupe will be the last 2-door Civic.
It was also announced that the Si badge will be paused for a short time before the 11th generation Si comes about.
Gen 11: Less Sporty More Executive – 2021
For the latest generation, Honda decided to make the Civic more of an executive car than a sporty family sedan. It has design cues from the Accord and is longer and wider than the last generation.
Under the hood of the 11th generation Civic are the same engines as the last one, a 158 hp and a 180 hp 4-cylinder, the latter being turbocharged.
Gen 11: The Si is Back – 2022
The Si made its promised come-back in 2022, with the same formula. It has a single powertrain option, a 200 hp turbo 4-cylinder with a 6-speed manual transmission.
This one will only be available as a sedan. Compared to the regular Civic, the Si has a stiffer suspension, larger brake rotors, and no adaptive dampers.
Gen 11: Honda’s Testing the Type R – 2022
The latest development in the Civic story is a prototype of the Type R that was recently spotted. The exact specifications of the car are yet unknown.
It is speculated to have the same 306 horsepower motor as the last generation with most of the changes being cosmetic. It will come out in 2023.