In the early 1970s, Honda was close to bailing on the American automotive market altogether after its previous attempts were met with a lukewarm reception. However, two things kept Honda in the game: The new 1972 Honda Civic, and the 1973 oil crisis. Arriving a year apart, the oil crisis pushed consumers towards fuel-efficient vehicles, and the Civic’s excellent fuel economy, reliability, and low price were a godsend.
Fast-forward to the turn of the millennium, and Honda unveils the seventh generation of the modern-day people’s car, ready to welcome the 21st-century with plenty of room on the inside. Here’s a look at the seventh and eighth generation of the Honda Civic, covering model years 2001 through 2011, and found in Chilton manual 30203.
Arriving in September 2000 as a 2001 model, the seventh-gen Civic won Car of the Year Japan for a record fourth time, then took home the Japan Automotive Researchers’ and Journalists’ Conference Car of the Year award in 2001.
How did it pull it off? Increased interior space likely helped. The Civic’s exterior dimensions were roughly the same as the previous generation, but the newly found room inside pushed the Civic up into the compact car class. The double-wishbone front suspension previously used was replaced in this generation with a more compact MacPherson strut design, paired with independent suspension in the back that allowed a flat cargo floor.
The Civic could be had in both coupe and sedan, with many variations available. Most were powered by a 115 hp 1.7-liter four-cylinder, though certain models got VTEC and a small boost in power to 127 hp. Those who wanted to keep their carbon footprint as tiny as possible could opt for the natural gas-powered GX (with available home fueling from some municipal gas companies) or the Civic Hybrid sedans. Natural gas models lost seven hp but gained the title of Greenest Car of the Year in 2000, 2004, 2005, and 2007-2011 for low tailpipe emissions. The Hybrid made do with a 1.3-liter engine, plus electric motor, for 46 mpg city/51 highway when equipped with the five-speed manual transmission, or slightly less with the CVT.
On the other end of the spectrum, those who liked their Civics fast and furious got it, in the form of the Civic Si. This hot hatch was built in Honda’s factory in Swindon, England shared nothing with the coupe or sedan as far as body panels and interior are concerned. For power, the Si used the 2.0-liter K-series motor from Acura with 160 hp, working exclusively through a six-speed manual transmission.
The seventh generation Honda Civic was also the basis for the second generation Honda CR-V compact SUV, though with the bigger 2.4-liter motor from the Accord.
The eighth-generation arrived in September 2005 as a 2006 model, bringing with it a two-tier instrument panel and standard features like power windows, ABS, and side/curtain airbags. The exterior of the US Civic was designed specifically to appeal to American buyers, but the platform and drivetrain were shared with other markets worldwide. Power came from a new 1.8-liter motor and traveled through five-speed automatic or manual transmissions. For the North American market, Honda no longer offered a Civic hatchback body style, so we were deprived of the nearly egg-shaped three and five door cars sold in Europe.
For 2007, Civic Si could be had in sedan form for the first time for the U.S. market. Both sedan and coupe Civic Si had a 2.0-liter i-VTEC good for 197 hp and 139 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual with a helical limited-slip diff helped make this Si the quickest Si off the line, running from zero to 60 in 6.7 seconds, and stiffer springs and sway bars improved the cornering.
The Civic Hybrid entered the new generation without a manual transmission, relying only on the CVT to deliver the combined 110 horses and 123 lb-ft of torque from the 1.3-liter three-stage i-VTEC four and electric motor. The Hybrid pulled in excellent numbers at the gas pump, though, with an EPA rating of 40 mpg city/45 mpg highway. This Civic was the second best-selling hybrid in the U.S. at the time.
The natural gas-powered Civic GX returned as well on the new car, but the motor and transmission carried over from the previous generation. Initially only sold to the public in New York and California, by 2011 it could be found in dealers in 35 states, and special ordered by fleets in all 50.
The North America specific design must have struck a chord because this generation of the Honda Civic was a hit with the people. While displaying the upcoming ninth-generation Civic at the 2011 Detroit Auto Show, Honda announced it had sold over 1.5 million eighth-generation Civic since its 2005 debut.Tags: Civic, Honda, Honda Civic, Honda Civic GX, Honda Civic Hybrid, Honda Civic Si, short history