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Honda Civic Evolution


Swansway Group take a look back over the generation of the popular Honda Civic model ahead of the release of the all-new 10th generation Civic 5 Door.

This spring the tenth generation Honda Civic will make its showroom debut in what is one of the most eagerly anticipated launches of 2017.

It will be the latest in a long line of Civics stretching back more than 40 years to the original little hatchback which came here in 1972.

Some of them have been revolutionary, all of them have been standard setting for build quality and reliability and here we take a look at the Civic’s evolution and what this new one has to live up to.

Honda Civic driving on a race track

Honda was a relative newcomer to the car market, having previously concentrated more on motorcycles but its first major design was right on target.

The original Civic was produced from 1972 and built to be a `world car, a car for all people, a car for the world.”

It was quite advanced for the time, following the trend set by the little Mini in having a transverse-mounted front engine layout. Putting the engine across the car instead of lengthways obviously creates more room inside and this was one of the Civic’s stand out features.

More than that, the Civic also showed the rest of the car world how to make use of lightweight construction without sacrificing strength and durability and this helped the car to achieve around 40 mpg.

That was good for the day and came in handy when the OPEC oil crisis suddenly made the cost of petrol a big issue…. 


In fairness the second generation Civic was not a huge leap forward, growing a little to give more room inside and its engines were even more fuel efficient.

It made way for the third gen model which took the Civic from being a small hatchback into a more MPV-like shape with an extended roofline.

1988 – 1991

It was if Honda had drawn breath a little with its previous two cars but for 1991 it ditched its traditionally conservative approach and this car was much sharper styled and going back more towards the hatchback look.

Of more significance, it gave the car independent rear suspension which transformed the ride. With the previous system if the inside rear wheel hit a bump or a dip it would affect how the other side rode.

Making them independent made the Civic so much more comfortable to drive or be a passenger in.

It also pre-dated a similar design from Ford by about ten years….  

1991 – 1995

With Civic 5 Honda was displaying more confidence and was prepared to take a risk with the option of a decidedly sportier, coupe shape in addition to the five-door hatchback.

This was a deliberate ploy because this generation introduced the VTEC engine technology which produced lots of power relative to the capacity but with excellent fuel economy and low emissions. It was technology slightly ahead of its time but with the next generation…

2001 Honda Civic Type R driving on a race track

1995 – 2000

This car is not remembered as being a stand-out car with one huge exception because this was the first time that Honda unleashed the Type-R version. With its VTEC engines it was more than capable of taking the fight to the VW Golf GTi or anything from Peugeot or Renault.

It also dipped into its long motorsport history to deliver a sparking little hatchback which instantly attracted faithful fans. This, however, was only the start of the Type R story. 

2000- 2005

Interior photo of the 2001 Honda Civic

Honda was perhaps still a little conservative with this one although it did have an interesting design tweak with a `flat floor’ design which gave the impression as well as the fact of having lots of interior space.

To give just one example of this new thinking, its gear lever sprouted from the fascia instead of the conventional place on the floor.

Moving with the times, Honda also introduced its new diesel, a radical departure for a company which had hitherto been a petrol-only manufacturer.

red Honda Civic 5 door 1.6i SE Executive 2001 model year driving on the road

2005 – 2011

Accusations of conservatism were history when this car arrived with its jaw-dropping looks and its dramatic styling concept which is still evident today and which makes the Civic such a stand-out car.

2006 model year Honda Civic parked

Further refinements in the engine and suspension made this a great car in that market at that time and thanks to its 24 carat build quality and it is still one of the nicer, more reliable cars you will find in the second hand sector.

2011 – 2017

2011 to 2017 model Honda Civic parked

A refinement of the previous model but with a much improved diesel and new, small capacity turbo engines which again were ahead of the game in turning to smaller capacity powerplants which only worked because they were so efficient in squeezing as much power with as little waste as possible from the fuel.

2017 Multiple 2017 model Honda Civic's on the production in factorySteering wheel of the 2017 Honda Civic model

And so what can we expect from the new car which will appear this spring?

The styling will be derivative, an evolution of the one we first saw back in 2005, but there will be substantial changes inside and under the bonnet thanks to this car having had the longest, most intensive development of any in Honda’s history.

As you slip behind the wheel you will notice more room inside. Its wheelbase, the distance between the front and rear axles, is longer which at a stroke gives a roomier interior. It is a fraction wider too giving a little more leg and shoulder/hip room and it has the biggest boot space in the class.

There is a distinctly `premium car’ look and feel with a digital dashboard and the latest Connect infotainment/connectivirty system with a seven inch screen.

It is one of the safest in the class with Honda’s SENSING suite of radar-based driver alerts and aids fitted as standard across the range and under the bonnet the new Civic is the first model in Europe to offer a 1.0 litre three-cylinder and 1.5 litre four-cylinder gasoline turbocharged engines

And although it won’t be here just yet, this is the 25th anniversary of the Type-R so it is reasonable to assume something special!