How’s that for an outsized proclamation? Did Road and Track jump the shark this time? Well, like everything else, it’s all in the context. Or more specifically, the price of gas. In 1975, in response to the first energy crisis, the Civic was the great messiah. In 1981, it was the the Metro FXi. In 2005, it was the Prius. Humans have a very hard time not assuming that certain trends like oil prices are not going to continue indefinitely.
Having said that, there’s no question that the Civic CVCC was a genuine milestone car in the history of the American automobile industry. It convincingly showed that it was possible to meet three seemingly impossible criteria (super compact size, super efficient engine, low-emissions), right here and right now. And as perhaps the most important point of all, it was fun to drive. In the process the Civic instantly made the rest of the industry look about ten years behind. No wonder it vaulted Honda out of obscurity (as an automaker) into center stage, and set up a legacy unabated as of today (the Civic is a perennial in the best seller list).