Honda Civic First generation (1972–1979)
|Assembly||Suzuka, Mie, Japan Petone, New Zealand|
|Predecessor||Honda N600 Honda Z600|
|Successor||Honda Civic (second generation)|
|Body style||2-door sedan 3-door hatchback 4-door sedan 5-door hatchback 5-door station wagon|
|Engine||1,170 cc EB1 I4 1,238 cc EB2 I4 1,487 cc ED CVCC I4|
|Transmission||4-speed manual 5-speed manual 2-speed Hondamatic automatic|
|Wheelbase||86.6 in (2,200 mm) Wagon: 89.9 in (2,283 mm)|
|Length||139.8 in (3,551 mm) (1973) 146.9 in (3,731 mm) (1974–1979) 160 in (4,064 mm) (wagon)|
|Width||59.25 in (1,505 mm) (saloon)|
|Height||52.25 in (1,327 mm) (saloon)|
|Curb weight||1500 lb (680 kg)|
Honda began selling the 1169 cc (70 in³) transversely mounted inline four-cylinder Civic for about US$2,200. The Civic was largely developed as an all 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 5-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 Civic's features allowed it to outperform American competitors such as the Chevrolet Vega and Ford Pinto. When the 1973 oil crisis struck, many Americans turned to economy cars. Reviews of American economy car quality were poor and getting worse due to spiraling costs for manufacturers. Japanese culture had a long-standing tradition of demanding high-quality economy cars, and the growing American desire in the 1970s for well-made cars that had good fuel mileage benefited the standing of the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla and Datsun B210 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 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). 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 CVCC engine), which had a wheelbase of 89.9 inches (228 cm) and an overall length of 160 inches (406 cm). Civic sales also increased and topped 100,000 units for this year.
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).
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. 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.
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.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.
At the time, Honda's rust recall was the largest safety action among all the brands imported into the U.S.Civics became known for their "typical Honda rust" in the used car market.
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 car off the line was bright yellow with brown interior trim and was, in 1984, acquired from its one lady owner by Honda New Zealand, who had taken over from NZMC, in exchange for a new City, also locally-assembled. 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.