Spoiler alert: I think it’s this one, the 1992-95 generation. But do tell me what you think in the comments.
I’ve ridden in all manner of Civics. The first was my high-school homeroom teacher’s late-70s two-door hatch. It wasn’t a favorable first impression: no matter how I adjusted the seat, my knees were simultaneously in the dash and at my chin. I guess the next generation Civic was slightly roomier, but I never experienced one to know for sure.
A college buddy’s 1985 CRX HF didn’t seem much bigger on the outside than my homeroom teacher’s car, but it was comparatively capacious inside. And even though it had but 58 horsepower, it never seemed to lack grunt. It was likeable under any circumstance. I even drove it confidently and relatively happily through a blinding snowstorm on the Pennsy Turnpike.
I’m not, however, a fan of the square styling of the other early-80s Civics. It’s enough for me to mark them right off the list.
Other Civics have come and gone since these early efforts. My brother is a confirmed Civic driver. His 1998 and 2006 Civics stand out in my mind. The ’98 was an okay enough car but compared to its 1992-95 predecessor, all of the details were one level cheaper.
I’ve driven his ’06 and find it to be just a blast to drive – great power and stability, a lot of fun on a twisty road. The cabin is a great place to spend time, at least in the front seats, with an interesting dashboard and materials of way better quality than his ’98. It’s a wonderful car, actually. But it just doesn’t feel like a Civic. It’s too big, it’s too expensive, it’s too complicated.
That’s why I think the 1992-95 Civics are the last great ones. They are still imbued with right small, simple, frugal Civic spirit but offer arguably the best material quality, build quality, and reliability of any Civic until the last two generations. But even though those newest Civics wear the storied name, they really are different cars with different missions.