When I was young, the neighbor lady across the street had a Honda Civic. I tend to think it was a deliberate choice. It may seem weird now, but there was a time when the baby boom generation were obsessed with small, efficient cars. And there was barely a car smaller or more efficient than the Honda Civic.
The Civic, which sold for about $2,000 in its base trim in 1973, weighed a scant 1,500 pounds without a person it it. At under 12 feet long and 4.5 feet wide, it would fit in the bed of a ’22 Silverado if you lowered the liftgate. It was that small. Power came from a 50hp engine that is smaller than some of the motorcycle engines you find today. If you absolutely thrashed the clutch and its 12 inch tires, you might be able to match Car and Driver’s 0-60 time of 13 seconds. This was a small car.
But, it was incredibly reliable and worked better than most American cars of the day. Not only that, the Civic was one of the very last cars that could run on less-expensive leaded gasoline due to its efficient CVCC engine.
Quite a difference
By the early 1990s, Civics had become known as racer’s delights. Easy to customize and reliable as could be, they captured the hearts of a generation. But for every crazy Type R out there, you could still find a couple of hundred garden variety Civics out there in use by regular folks who just wanted something reliable that didn’t attract too much attention.
Flash forward: 2022 Civic
Today’s Honda Civic owes precisely nothing to that 1973 model except the name. Clocking in at $30,000 well equipped, today’s Civic is six feet longer than its grandparent, twice the weight, and 2.5 times the horsepower. For all that bulk you get to 60mph about 6 seconds more quickly, and with a lot less fuss.
What’s your favorite Civic?
I spent some time researching this article and came across this recent slideshow from Car and Driver showing all the iterations of this car. Most of them reminded me of someone I knew. I guess I’ve known a lot of Civic drivers. As odd as it sounds, my favorite Civic was the late 1980s version shown above. It was the last of the unapologetically boring Civics. Although it was a step up from the 1970s versions in specs and power, it was no thrill ride and didn’t try to be. From its stamped steel wheels to its manually extendible whip antenna, it just screamed “practicality.” I remember this being called a “Young Republican” car and I guess that’s probably true.
The late ’80s Civic was tragically low to the ground, far too low for today’s drivers. Its engine barely made it up steep hills at highway speed. But I think the design’s aged well. It’s not as jellybean-shaped as the 90s models, not as weird as the ’00s models, and not as tank-like as the newer ones. A car with this design and proportions, sized up to fit 21st century people, would probably hit the sweet spot for a lot of folks.
Or at least I think so. What do you think?