The best selling car ever?
In the late 60’s to early 70’s, Honda was selling their N and Z600 passenger cars in the US, but they weren’t moving a ton of inventory. These cars were powered by small two cylinder motorcycle engines. And in the land of V8 powered land barges, nobody really wanted one. Fortunately, Honda was already hard at work designing a replacement for their tiny, K car.
Their new car called the Civic, would use a transverse front engine layout similar to the Mini over in England. Turning the engine sideways to turn the front wheels, meant no running gear going to the back of the car, and that meant more room for passengers and stuff. The design phase was going great, but the suspension was a point of contention. Honda’s founder, Soichiro Honda, wanted the Civic to have a solid rear axle. The Civic would have independent suspension at all four corners, and that was about as far as the features go. Honda wanted the Civic to be a bare bones, daily driver that was still engaging behind the wheel.
The Civic’s 71 cubic inch, 50 horsepower engine really liked to be driven at high revs, meaning you could make a lot of noise and feel like you were going fast without breaking 35 mph. Honda sent the Civic to America shores in 1973. A few years go by and it’s 1980, time for the Civic’s first refresh. Honda was aiming for staying power that would outlast the now fading gas crisis. To appeal to a wider market, Honda introduced two more trim levels to make the car more livable. The DX with a more efficient 5-speed and the GL with a tachometer, a clock and cushier seats. By 1981, Honda sold just over a million of their little cars. The GL would last three years before being killed to make room for the first sporty Civic, the Civic S. It has a rear sway bar, stiffer suspension and better tires. It was Honda’s first entry into the fast growing hot-hatch war, but it didn’t exactly captivate the world like Golf GTI did, so they killed it after just one year.
In 1984 ushered in a new trim that would help define the Civic as a true fun-haver, the Si. It was only available in Japan, and had a little bulge in it to make more room for the new dual overhead cam engine. The Si stood for sport injection. Previous Civic’s were carbureted which cut down power, but this one made 118 horses and could do 122 mph. Around the same time, Honda introduced the CR-X in America. It was basically a Civic with a different body. Honda saw what the oil prices would keep rising, and they wanted a car that get 50 miles per gallon and still be fun to drive. So they made the Civic more aerodynamic and ripped out the back seats. In 1985, the Si arrives in the US and it was on a CR-X. The CR-X got a huge upgrade in 1988, with new double wishbone suspension inspired by Honda’s Formula One. The new suspension design made the CR-X even more fun. The next year, the Civic was hooked up with a new B16A VTEC engine. The Si was a for real sports car, a serious option for buyers who didn’t have a ton of cash, but still loved driving.
Another decade began, and another Civic refresh was due. 1992 was a smoother, more inviting Civic. The Si version now made a punchy 125 horsepower and had rear disc brakes. If you wanted a sporty looking Honda with a target top, something that looked mid-engine but wasn’t, and that was also front wheel drive. Well, there’s a new Civic for you. The Del Sol was the CR-X replacement and Honda’s answer to the Mazda Miata, but unlike Mazda’s roadster, the Del Sol was killed three years later, in 1997. It was that year that Honda unveiled the sportiest Civic yet. The Civic Type-R or EK9, was the first Civic meant for the track. It had a bare bones interior with bolstered seats to keep you in place, and a MOMO steering wheel like an F1 car. Altogether the Type-R was 66 pounds lighter than the regular Civic, and made more power too. The Type-R was only available in Japan, which meant Honda fanboys over here, were going insane that they couldn’t get it.
The turn of a new millennium meant another new Civic. Now on it’s seventh generation, the 2001 Civic had new styling and a simplified suspension. The seventh gen also had it’s own Type-R, but this time around at was very egg shaped. The EP3 Type-R was a hatch like the first one, and made 212 horses from it’s K20A engine. It was a little more bulbous than it’s predecessor, but people still loved how it drove.
The gen eight Civic showed up in 2006, and was a big departure from previous models. But there was an Si, which had the usual Si flare of stiffer springs and sway bar, and a limited slip differential to get out of the turns quicker. We still didn’t get the Type-R over here, but there were now two versions for the rest of the world. Japan got the FD2, four door version, with a 222 horsepower, K20, and Europe got the super funky looking FN2, three door hatch, which made about 200 horsepower from a different K20, the K20Z.
The ninth gen was more of the same Civic we’ve come to expect, with improved everything. The tenth generation Civic arrived in 2015, and in 2017 the Type-R finally appears in the US. It makes over 300 horsepower, and has a top speed of 170 miles an hour. The FK8 is the best Civic ever.