The Honda Civic Turns 50 Today. What Was The Best One?
Across 50 years and 11 generations, which was your favorite? Personally, I love all 27 million Honda made of ’em.
It's hard to imagine car culture without the Honda Civic. Its ubiquity, low cost of operation, and handling bona fides since day one (when it got independent suspension as a $2,073 base price, 50-horsepower economy hatchback) have defined automotive enthusiasm for generations. Over its 50 years of existence—since the first generation was introduced on this day in 1972—more than 27 million Civics have traveled the world's roads.
Incidentally, I learned to drive with one of those 27 million Civics; it was the 2006 Civic LX automatic shown above. That poor car deserved better than 16-year-old me. Somehow, it is still my younger brother's daily driver nearly a decade after I gave the keys back to my family, despite the leaden-footed habits I subjected it to over my years driving it.
This car took me to my first college class, my first internship, my first job, and my first date. That photo above is the first light-painted picture I ever took. It took me on my first solo trip out of my home state, which was my first introduction to the idea of vehicular freedom I would savor in later years. Despite its mundane provenance and the fact I never owned it (I merely borrowed it from my parents) this dark-blue, mass-produced, automatic-transmission Civic is firmly established in my internal pantheon of the greatest cars ever created. I hold it there not even because of its own superlatives—great mileage, excellent reliability, comfortable interior—but instead because of how much it let me accomplish. It was exactly the car I needed when I hadn't yet defined the places I needed to go, because it would unquestionably carry me wherever they ended up being.
And Civics kept cropping up throughout my life and career. They've been important waypoints in my journey, sometimes changing my life entirely. The Civic-based Honda Lady concept I reviewed last year was one of the stories that established my career at this very outlet. One of the very first sporty cars I ever reviewed—and to this day, one of my favorite first-drive experiences—was the 11th-generation Civic Si. The first woman I ever loved owned a supercharged 8th-generation Si that took us all around Texas, visiting friends and hitting twisty hill country roads. My own story is now deeply intertwined enough with Honda's little economy car that I recently drove the first CVCC Civic sold in America (review coming soon!), in an incredibly memorable tour down the beaches of Los Angeles that made my Civic connection come full circle.
There are other cheap cars out there that have played important roles in my life, but none of them were ever plentiful, fun, or reliable enough to become memorable over the last decade since I got my driver's license—not like the Civic has. It's a car that has transcended being just a machine by being such a rock-solid one. Even now, as my van is having mechanical troubles and I search for another daily driver to carry me forward into the next uncertain era of my life, it looks like a Civic will end up in my life once more to help me move forward.
As a result, I think I would struggle to define what my favorite Civic is. They're all fun and so many of them have helped me drive my own story forward that choosing just one seems impossible. So I will ask you, our readers: What is your favorite Civic? I can assure you from personal experience there are no wrong answers.