The right car at the right time. Launched a year before the Arab–Israeli War, the Civic was a fuel-sipping, front-wheel-drive, transverse-engine two-box sedan—the BMC Mini formula, but made good through the usual Japanese virtues of solid engineering and value. Even environmentally, Honda’s 1972 Civic was the first car to fulfil the requirements of the US Clean Air Act 1970.
Far more advanced than other Japanese econoboxes being exported to the US at the time, Honda grew its presence steadily. The original Civic remained unchanged till the end of the decade, and the second-generation model built on the original’s virtues and looked like a slightly grander version. Subsequent generations took this two-generation approach: third and fourth were different but there was a family appearance; the same with fifth and sixth.
Civics have generally been renowned as good handlers because of Honda’s insistence on advanced suspension—double-wishbone for most generations and most markets, with the eighth European generation being an exception. They have got bigger with each iteration and can now be genuinely considered mid-sized. The nameplate has retained some cachet, and the Civic can even be seen as the archetype of the quality Japanese car.