Honda Civic (first generation)

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Main article: Honda Civic
Honda Civic
First generation (SB1/SG/SE/VB)
1973-1978 Honda Civic 5-door hatchback 01.jpg
1973-78 Honda Civic 5-door Hatchback
Manufacturer Honda
Production 1973–1979
Body and chassis
Body style
Layout FF layout
  • 2,200 mm (86.6 in)
  • Wagon: 2,283 mm (89.9 in)
  • 3,551 mm (139.8 in) (1973)
  • 3,731 mm (146.9 in) (1974–1979)
  • 4,064 mm (160 in) (wagon)
Width 1,505 mm (59.25 in) (saloon)
Height 1,327 mm (52.25 in) (saloon)
Curb weight 680 kg (1,500 lb)
Successor Honda Civic (second generation)

The first generation Honda Civic is an automobile which was produced by Honda in Japan from 1973 to 1979.

Model year changes[edit]

Honda began selling the 1169 cc (70 in³) transversely mounted inline-four engine Civic for about US$2,200. The Civic was largely developed as a new platform, and was the result of taking the previous Honda N600 and increasing the length, width, height, and wheelbase. The engine displacement was almost double the previous N600 (599 cc) at 1,170 cc, with two more cylinders added. The car produced roughly 50 hp (37 kW) and included power front disc brakes, vinyl seating, reclining bucket seats, and a woodgrain-accented dashboard which has many similarities to the later Rover SD1. The hatchback version added a fold-down rear seat, an AM radio, and cloth upholstery. The car had front and rear independent suspension. A four-speed manual transmission was standard. Options for the Civic were kept to a minimum, consisting of air conditioning, an automatic transmission called the Hondamatic, radial tires, and a rear wiper for the hatchback. The car could achieve 40 mpg-US (5.9 L/100 km; 48 mpg-imp) on the highway, and with a small 86.6-inch (2,200 mm) wheelbase and 139.8-inch (3,550 mm) overall length, the vehicle weighed 1,500 pounds (680 kg).

The four-door sedan version of this bodystyle was not available in the USA and the five-door hatchback did not appear until 1978, just before the introduction of the second generation. In the USA, the advertising campaign used to introduce the Civic was, "Honda, we make it simple." The tagline was later used with other Honda motor vehicles until the 1984 model year when the company revamped its product lineup.

The Civic's smaller size allowed it to outperform American competitors such as the Chevrolet Vega and Ford Pinto. When the 1973 oil crisis struck, automobile buyers turned to economy cars. Good fuel mileage benefited the standing of the Honda Civic in the lucrative U.S. market.

For 1974, the Civic's engine size grew slightly, to 1237 cc and power went up to 52 hp (39 kW). In order to meet the new North American 5 mph (8 km/h) bumper impact standard, the Civic's bumpers grew 7.1 inches (18 cm), increasing overall length to 146.9 inches (373 cm).[2] The CVCC (Compound Vortex Controlled Combustion) engine debuted in 1975 and was offered alongside the standard Civic engine. The optional 53 hp (40 kW) CVCC engine displaced 1488 cc and had a head design that promoted cleaner, more efficient combustion. The CVCC design eliminated the need for catalytic converters or unleaded fuel to meet changing emissions standards, unlike nearly every other U.S. market car. Due to California's stricter emissions standards, only the CVCC powered Civic was available in that state. This created a sales advantage in Honda's favor in that CVCC equipped Honda products afforded the buyer the ability to choose any type of fuel the buyer wanted, and due to emissions equipment not being damaged by using leaded fuel, the buyer could use any gasoline products available. This was also an advantage due to some regions of North America having to ration available gasoline supplies due to periodic shortages at the time.

A five-speed manual transmission became available in 1974, as did a Civic station wagon (only with the 1500 CVCC engine), which had a wheelbase of 89.9 inches (228 cm) and an overall length of 160 inches (406 cm). Power for this version is 75 PS (55 kW) in the Japanese domestic market. Civic sales also increased and topped 100,000 units for this year.[2]

1978 brought slight cosmetic changes: the grille was black; the rear-facing hood vents replaced the sideways vents; and turn indicators were mounted in the bumper instead of in the grille. The CVCC engine was now rated at 60 hp (45 kW).[2]

Rust Recalls[edit]

The first generation Honda Civics were notorious for rusting in less than three years from purchase where salt was used in the winter. The U.S. importer, American Honda Motor Company, signed a final consent decree with the Federal Trade Commission that provided owners of 1975-1978 Civics with rusted fenders the right to receive replacements or cash reimbursements.[3] In the end, almost 1 million Honda owners were notified that their fenders could be repaired or replaced by the automaker at no charge. About 10% of all Hondas sold were to be inspected by a dealer, and the automaker had 180 days to replace front fenders and supporting parts that showed rust within the first three years of use.[4]

The Hondas were so vulnerable to corrosion that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also issued a safety recall . This was because the car's lateral suspension arms, front crossbeam, and strut coil spring lower supports could weaken with exposure to salt.[5] A total of 936,774 vehicles built between 9-1-1972 and 8-1-1979 were subject to extensive repairs since Honda had to replace the suspension components, or the automaker bought back entire cars with serious body corrosion.[6]

At the time, Honda's rust recall was the largest safety action among all the brands imported into the U.S.[7] Civics became known for their "typical Honda rust" in the used car market.[8][9]

New Zealand assembly[edit]

The first generation Civic – a 1.2-litre, three-door manual, was assembled in 1976 from CKD kits in New Zealand by importer and distributor New Zealand Motor Corporation (NZMC) at its Petone plant near Wellington. This was the first time Honda cars had been assembled outside Japan. The first generation NZ Civic was also offered with optional two-speed semi-automatic 'Hondamatic' transmission. Earlier cars had, from 1973, been imported assembled by the Moller Group before NZMC took over the Honda franchise but availability was limited due to restrictions on built-up imports. All subsequent Civic generations were assembled in New Zealand until car manufacture there ceased in 1998.


  1. ^ Leeps (1989-06-04). "Rust Busters". New Straits Times / Google News Archive. Retrieved 2015-05-03. 
  2. ^ a b c "Generations". Edmunds. Retrieved 2006-11-05. [dead link]
  3. ^ Goodman, Richard M. (1983). Automobile design liability, Volume 1. Center for Auto Safety, Lawyers Co-operative Publishers. p. 106. 
  4. ^ Dunne, Jim (December 1981). "Detroit Report". Popular Science 219 (6): 8. Retrieved 2010-10-23. 
  5. ^ "Vehicle Recalls, NHTSA Campaign: Honda Civic". recalls. Retrieved 2010-10-23. 
  6. ^ Ditlow, Clarence; Gold, Ray (1994). Little secrets of the auto industry: hidden warranties cost billions of dollars. Moyer Bell. p. 84. ISBN 978-1-55921-085-0. 
  7. ^ "Updates". Car and Driver 28: 27. 1982. 
  8. ^ Gillis, Jack (1993). The used car book: 1993. Harper & Row. pp. 115–116. 
  9. ^ Darack, Arthur (1983). Used cars: how to avoid highway robbery. Prentice-Hall. p. 70. ISBN 978-0-13-940049-0. Retrieved 2014-10-08.