They arrived some 46 years ago as little hatches, mostly two-doors, with 1169cc engines mounted east-west. Pretty clever for the time.
Long before then, Honda was already the world’s top motorcycle manufacturer and its foray into the car sector was a natural progression.
It was also rapid, becoming the first Japanese brand to crack the US market.
Also naturally, the little models grew in stature and today’s Civic bears zero resemblance to ol’ number one — apart from the badge, that is.
What’s it cost?
Here we’re looking at the latest from the respected company, the Civic VTi-L, which at $27,990, sits midway between the VTi 1.8 ($22,390) and the similarly powered VTi-S ($24,590) and the upmarket 1.5-litre turbo RS ($31,990) and the VTi-LX, at $33,690.
The VTi-L also has the 1.5-litre turbo that produces a fairly modest 127kW and 220Nm, both numbers considerably better than those of the non-turbo 1.8-litre models.
It’s a good-looking, smooth-styled and very comfortable sedan that now features Honda’s impressive Sensing package, with features such as autonomous emergency braking, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, Forward Collision Warning and Collision Mitigation Braking System — the latter sensing the vehicle ahead with a monocular camera and millimetre-wave radar transmitter.
The driver gets audible and visual warnings, but if he or she is asleep at the wheel, the system automatically goes into action to help avoid a collision.
There’s also RDMS, or Road Departure Mitigation System, which will fire up if it senses you’re about to do some unplanned landscaping and applies corrective steering to bring you back on the road.
Ol’ number one, back in the early 1970s had none of that. Back then, drivers had to concentrate — and nobody had mobile phones.
Other standard items on the VTi-L include 17-inch alloys, auto-on headlights and wipers, auto-folding mirrors, push-button start, leather-rimmed steering wheel, blind-spot camera, front and rear parking sensors, LED daytime-running lights and a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
There’s also an eight-speaker audio system and comfort via climate control aircon, plus an updated instrument panel and improved controls for the audio and ventilation systems.
How can you tell a 2019 model Civic? The newie has a shiny black, rather than chrome grille, a restyled bumper and more black bits here and there for a slightly sportier image.
Accommodation is very good, especially in front, and visibility is top class, even if you’re reversing. Yep, of course it has a reversing camera.
There’s a big console between the front seats that houses a lot of storage space and a couple of cup holders, and it has a lid which doubles as an armrest.
Back seat accommodation is also generous and features a fold-down centre armrest with two cup holders.
The boot is big at 517 litres and can be expanded by folding the back seats, and should you have the rare misfortune of a puncture, there’s a space-saver wheel under the boot floor.
What’s it go like?
It’s a pleasant car to drive, with the four-cylinder motor providing decent punch, despite its seemingly average power output.
It can run to 100km/h in 7.5 seconds, which is surprisingly rapid, and helped by the car’s low mass of about 1350kg.
It hums along the freeways and always seems to have the power to zip past slower traffic quickly and safely.
Its sleek shape and the continuously variable transmission also helps its efficient Vtec engine to sip petrol at a miserly rate. We averaged 6.8L/100km.
Honda has a long history of motorsport and the Civic shows its pedigree with impressive comfort, ride and balance.
The steering, brakes and suspension are spot-on and the car maintains an even keel through the twisty bits, making most drives a pleasure.
It could do with a bit more sound-proofing though.
The Civic now comes with a 7-year unlimited distance warranty with roadside assistance, adding to its appeal in its very competitive market sector.