R&T’s test for the ever-improving Civic.
From 1980 February issue:
I remember this version of the Honda Civic. At the time, I didn’t find it very attractive. It was better looking than its previous version, but not as attractive as the 80s or 90s version.
But compared with the competition, it was golden.
“That’s how you gonna beat em butch, they keep underestimating you…”
Reminds me of the one from Pulp Fiction
I see that this is only 4 pages. Not long ago someone complained that todays car magazines only have a few pages devoted to new car tests. I am not sure that things have really changed. The editors (writers) have changed, not always for the better.
Ah, now I know why I did not buy a Civic when I was shopping in Feb 80. I subscribed to R&T and would have read this test.. Over the years, I have found that 36″ of headroom, by R&T’s measure was not enough, in spite of the article’s assurance there is plenty of room for people of any size. I also would have been put off by the engine stumbling, hot or cold, having dealt with that with the POS 78 Zephyr, and it’s peaky nature. This was also about the time that Honda was in the kimchee over how rapidly it’s cars rusted. I had a coworker whose 76 Accord had patches of rust through about 4″ wide on top of both front fenders by 80, so I had doubts about Honda on that score as well, doubts that appeared to be well founded as around 83 or 84, I saw one of these second gen Civics, with significant rust in several places.
So I got a Renault R5 instead. Excellent driveability with no stumbling and a torque peak at 2500rpm for exceptional around town performance. Enough headroom thanks to the design of the sunroof. Fantastic suspension performance which avoided the typical Japanese oversprung, underdamped suspension of the time, which the Civic test also complains about. On the other hand, with the Renault I became very familiar with the staff at the repair shop, and it too rusted out in 4 years.
I had one of these in 5 door trim with a 1300 5 speed and of course none of the pollution crap attached it wasnt required in this market, Good little car actually it would roll along in town @ 50kmh/30mph in 5th gear quite happily accelerating required a downshift though it was ok on the highway and handled reasonably well, I used to get 45mpg on a trip and about 40 in town, rust was only just starting to appear in 05 when I sold it, I guess if they get hosed out underneath the sheet metal lasts longer than just running them thru a carwash.
… it would roll along in town @ 50kmh/30mph in 5th gear quite happily accelerating required a downshift
The way my Renault was geared, the 2500rpm torque peak came on at 35mph in 3rd and 45mph in 4th, so it usually felt pretty strong around town. Freeways were another matter as top speed depended on which way the wind was blowing. With a headwind, it would top out at 55, which was the limit in the US then. There was one time when I was passing a truck. Everything was going fine until I hit the bow wave coming off the truck, that the Renault could not break through. On the other hand, one day with a tailwind, I saw the speedo hit 80.
Were people actually driving near the speed limit in the late ’70s? My memory from family trips was travel in the mid-60s and other people bragging about running 70+ mph. I think the tested Civic’s ability to exceed the national speed limit in 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th gears would be worth a few extra downshifts around town.
Amazing how the Hondas have grown over he years. The New Civics are larger than the original Accords were. . New Accords are considered mid size now.
The New Civics are larger than the original Accords were.
Noticed that with my 98 Civic hatch. About the save size overall as the first gen Accord hatch, and iirc that Accord had a 1.6L engine, same size as my 98 Civic.
Same thing all over. I passed an 80s Rabbit Cabriolet in my 2014 Jetta last year. The Cabriolet looked like a toy next to the Jetta. The Polo now is the size of a Mk I Golf/Rabbit. The Golf now is the size of the Mk I Dasher/Passat.
The Honda Fit is the same size as an ’84-91 Civic wagon; at least they’ve held the line on size for three generations of Fit although they’ve adjusted the rear seat/”trunk” space balance in favor of passenger room with each model change (leaving cargo space with the back seat down unaffected).
Believe it or not, even that ’98 Civic was quite a bit larger than the original Accord. Old Hondas are seriously tiny cars by modern standards…
I love these scanned road tests by the car mags. Keep it up!!
+1. Reading tests like this really makes me appreciate the fuel injection system on the ’86 Jetta. At a time when many cars still had carbs, it starts almost instantly and runs perfectly without warm up, even when in the teens outside. And no spaghetti nightmare of vacuum lines to try to sort out when they leak or get disconnected. Carbs should have gone away much earlier.
I was never really all that fond of this generation of Civic. The 1st gen cars had chrome bumpers and this generation had bumpers that looked like they planned on making them chrome (or at least polished aluminum) but cost cutting forced Honda to go with painted metal….at least in the U.S. Yet, to Honda’s credit, the interior was a bit better in the 2nd gen than it was in the 1st. Mechanically I’d guess any generation of Civic is okay (I’ve owned 3 and ridden in 3 more), they are not the fastest or slowest car out there.
Honda cleaned up the bumpers and many other aspects of the design for the last two of its four years (1982-83) along with the switch to rectangular sealed-beam headlamps. The hood lost its vent openings, the dashboard was much more unified, etc. (I drove an ’83 1300 4-speed – the cheapest model then offered, with 12-inch wheels and no armrests – from 1987 to ’97. Damn good car for what it was.)
A 1980 Civic 1500 GL exactly like this test car got me through college and grad school. I have so many fond memories of my first car – simple and unassuming, economical, eager, and an absolute blast to drive around town. I’ve owned dozens of cars since, but will always have a soft spot for my beloved Civic. Its only flaw was the rust. Midwestern winters eventually took their toll on the body to the point where it was unsafe to drive. The Ford Escort that replaced it wasn’t in the same league.
I had a metallic green 1980 Civic 1300. Bought new with no air conditioning. I bought the A/C kit separately and installed it myself. I saved $500.00 by doing that, and in those days I was a pretty good shade tree mechanic. I kept it for four years and traded it in on 1984 Civic wagon. I have been happy with the Hondas that I have owned over the years. I also had a 1987 CRX, a 1990 Acura Legend, a 2006 Odyssey and a 2010 Insight. The Legend, I wound up keeping for 16 years, with very few problems. Eleven years with no car payment was nice. I am still interested in Hondas, but having got past the car buying age, I probably will not have another.
It really needed about 400 fewer pounds of weight.
A friend of mine got a 81 Civic as a birthday gift-it was the top of the line model- we did a lot of cruising in that car. My other buddies dad was so impressed with the Civic he bought a stripper model–it even had a manual choke.
My older sister’s first car was a ’76 Civic she bought used in 1982. It had a 4-speed manual and was a lot of fun to drive – much better than the ’78 Gutless I was driving at the time. I always liked the older Civics. Like all Civics of that era, though, Ontario winters were not kind to it and by ’84 the body was shot though it still ran great. I drove a newer Civic last year (with a stick, of course) and still found it lots of fun to drive, and they don’t rust like they used to. My sister owns one and is quite happy with it.
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *
Notify me of follow-up comments by email.
Notify me of new posts by email.
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.
Copyright 2011 - 2021 Curbside Classics. All Rights Reserved.