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Motoring: Honda Civic - 1972

For the Honda Motor Company, the first Honda Civic was very much the right car released at the right time. Up until the Civic's arrival in 1973, the only Hondas Australians knew were the tiny S600 sportster, which arrived in 1965, and the Morris Mini clone, the N600, a year later, followed by the Z-series of micro cars. Neither of these vehicles inspired the Australian car buying public - they epitomised the perception Australians had towards Japanese cars at that time - small, fragile, cheap and nasty. It took cars like Honda's Civic, Mazda's 1500, Datsun's 1600 and Toyota's Corona to turn around the thinking of Australian motorists.

The Honda Civic arrived in July 1972, a few months before the oil crisis of 1973 when fuel prices soared and consumers began to look seriously at 4-cylinder alternatives to the fuel guzzlers being sold by the Big 3. The Civic was initially available in two-door coupe format, but the coupe was soon followed by a three-door version that September. With transverse engine mounting of its 1169 cc engine and front-wheel drive like the British Mini, the car provided good interior space despite overall small dimensions. Early models of the Civic were typically outfitted with a basic AM radio, a rudimentary heater, foam-cushioned plastic trim, two-speed wipers and painted steel rims with a chromed wheel nut cap. The current Civic has become larger and much more luxurious with satellite-linked navigation, a six-speed manual transmission, air conditioning, power locks, power windows, and leather upholstry available, but back then, the first Civic's level of equipment was way beyond that offered by non-Japanese car makers at that time for basic motor car transport.

The Civic's features allowed it to outperform all non-Japanese competitors. Japanese culture had a long-standing tradition of demanding high-quality economy cars, and the growing desire in Australia in the 1970s for well-made cars that had good fuel mileage benefited the standing of Honda, Toyota, Mazda and Datsun.

Honda Vivic 1980

Initially the Civic was offered with an 1169cc engine - the '1200' Civic. In October 1974 a '1500' 4-door car supplemented the range. This was created by extending the wheelbase by 4 inches and adding rear doors whilst retaining small boot of the original 2-door model. The mechanical specification was similar apart from increasing the engine capacity to 1488cc. Manual and Hondamatic transmissions were offered. To allow room for the larger engine the length of the front wings and bonnet were extended in front of the axle line. For 1977 the range was consolidated and the opportunity taken to facelift the appearance of the cars. The '1200' engine was enlarged to create a 1238cc (the '1250') unit and the '1500' was discontinued. However the 4-door body was re-engineered to incorporate a true 5-door hatchback door which was available alongside the 3 door.

The Civic remained basically the same car until 1980 when a new model debuted with a more angular shape, increased engine power, and larger dimensions in all models. By then, the Civic had built up an enviable reputation as a reliable, well built, well equipped, well behaved little car which enjoyed a resale value equal to none. When the second generation Civics came out, people who had bought the earlier models four or five years previous were able to sell them for close to what they paid for them new, something rarely seen before or since with almost any make or model of car.

983 Honda Civic

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