Honda Civic: A Story Of Continuous Decline, Disaster And Dinosaurs

honda-civic-evolution

“Oh baaains!” was my reaction when I saw the 1999 Civic for the first time. It was a little before sunset, I was on my bike waiting for the traffic signal to turn green when it appeared on the horizon in Shalimar Rose Mist and leisurely took a u-turn across the road giving me a full 360 degree view of its super-seductive curves. Starting with the long sleek bonnet fading into the windscreen slanted at next-to-perfect angle, maturing at the modestly rounded roof followed by rear window smoothly disappearing into the boot and oh-damn-those-crystal-lights – it was not a car, it was art. It was love at first sight. It was the sort of moment when on your Hunza Trip, you come across a local Angel who coincidentally looks into your eyes and takes your breath away. You end up spending the coming months lost in her afterglow despite knowing that she, most probably, isn’t even aware of your existence.

“Someday, InshaAllah” I thought to myself. The Civic disappeared into the busy backdrop leaving a faint meeoow of its 4-pot engine as the driver floored it. Deep inside I did believe, however,that that someday may never come.

Civic

See, Honda Civics in the 90s were not everyone’s cup of tea. They were bought by the eh..chosen ones. They were bought by risk takers. A friend who is also a fellow Pakwheeler, narrates that upon buying a 2000 VTi; he was greeted with the following phrase by his maternal uncle – “Teray pay abhi itni zimaydaarian hain, tu nay phir bhi VTi Lay li?”. (You have so many responsibilities, yet you again bought a VTi?)

And the uncle was right to an extent. The spares weren’t cheap, the local mechanics didn’t know if EFi was a fruit or a bird, and the suspension wasn’t exactly designed for the 3-potholes-every-10-meters standard of our roads back in late 90s. It was meant for people who loved driving and lived in areas where roads allowed this fetish to be fulfilled. While its competition, the Indus Corolla was the queen of puddles and off-roads and villages. The 90’s Civics came to life in DHAs and Civil Lines and Motorways. The VTEC was subtle, yet fun. A cherry on top, the double wishbone suspension setup made it, well not a BMW, but definitely the next best thing for us third-world inhabitants. It was our Pakistani equivalent of the Ultimate Driving Machine. These Civics would stick to the road like a lizard on turns where Corollas and Balenos would either slow down, or end up upside down. Yes, you were sacrificing the ground clearance, you were missing your cousin’s wedding in 28 chak, you were risking hefty repairs, and you were listening to your khaala cursing you for not letting 5 adults sit in the back seat; All those compromises just to be able to take that Kalma Chowk turn at 80kmph while casually puffing a cigarette with your right hand, and boy it was worth it! That is what Civics were about. That is what they were made like. That is what separated them from the usual Corollas and Balenos and Sunny(s).

Unfortunately it has been downhill since then.

Remember when you were told by your elder brother to always “be yourself”? Honda folks didn’t have that elder brother. In the pursuit of acceptability, Civic somewhere lost its DNA. The sleek curves of the 90’s Civics were replaced by blunt confusion in (2001-2006) 7th Generation Civic. The space took over style when it came to the interior. As if that wasn’t enough, they went ahead and murdered it by replacing the Double Wishbone with Mcpherson Strut. The result was a car with more space, simpler suspension, and zero drive pleasure. The result was a Corolla knock off.

Six years (of huge sales owing to the leasing revolution in Pakistan) later they tried reversing their mistakes, and like in case of most accidents, overcorrected themselves. The curves came back to the 8th gen Civic, but every single bit was a curve now. The interior was redone- though at the cost of various blind spots – but really adequately I give them that. Yet it looked something out of 60s Sci-Fi movies- which is cool if you’re in 60s! For the increased cabin space, they had to push their engine forward resulting in some pretty serious understeer. To counter the understeer, they had to give it a ‘Circuit’ suspension and steering, which came with a ‘circuit’ turning radius. Yes, they provided a torquey-ish 1.8 engine to be acceptable to your average Bankers, and their housewives, who didn’t want to change gears so often…but see, with 200 extra cc, they could’ve easily produced a beefier and faster 160hp motor. Instead they went for a fatter engine to move that fat and ‘pretty in its own way’ body.

The 8th gen made way for the 9th gen, and it wasn’t great news either. It was as if Honda just wanted to release a newer model for the heck of it. It was bloated to compete with the corollas, it was softened in comparison to the 8th Gen Civic and the fuel economy was tweaked. Oh, and the HPS was replaced by EPS. They managed to do everything they were looking for – make an ordinary car which doesn’t have the flaws of the 8th Generation Civic.

Not really high standards to set for a car with an overly enthusiastic fanbase, right?

See in the olden days, driving a Civic was always about the exaggerated feel of drive, the urgency of the RPM meter. You feel me? In Civics you didn’t need more torque; you just needed to rev quickly and shift. Another gear, yes, then another! That’s the super-bike experience we wanted and that is exactly the experience this bike company delivered to us in older Civics.

Honda NSX:

Honda-NSX-Red-hd-wallpaper

The 7th and 8th and 9th generation Civic aren’t exactly bad cars. But the thing is, Honda can do so much better. Honda has done so much better. Remember, these are the maestros behind the original NSX and the BB1 Prelude, the DC2 Integra and the 2nd Gen CRX. That was the ‘Power of Dreams’ behind the older Civics and Accords. Older Civics used to give you a slight taste of what Honda was doing in performance motorsports; sadly not anymore. And that is why myself, and many dinosaurs like me are still stuck in the 90s. Had Honda been producing better Civics in the last 15 years, we would have been driving the 8th and 9th Generation as well rather than buying them and selling them within a month.

BB1 Prelude, DC2 Integra and 2nd Gen CRX:

honda_prelude_bb1_by_snikkaz-d4c8oxbhonda-integra-coupe-dc2-[3334]crx

But then, may be that is what evolution is all about. Maybe that is how it is supposed to be. We, humans, used to be tough and strong- now we are fat and lazy- so our cars are evolving with us. Or maybe I am just a nostalgic whiner who cannot accept change. Maybe they should keep making practical Civics which are roomier and have tons of gadgets and a fancy digital meter. May be they should keep making Civics which sell like ‘hot cakes’. It’s a better business case, right? My mind says yes.

My heart doesn’t.

My heart says they should get back to the original recipe: fire all the focus-marketing-financial-corporate divas, ask a motorhead to design an ultimate douche-mobile with a torque-less 9k revving engine, a fine double wishbone suspension, some seats and carpet and snap it with a tiny badge that says “Civic”.

And that would be a ‘Reborn’ Civic for me.

Khurram Altaf

Master has given Khurram a pen. Khurram has got a pen and Khurram... Khurram is freee

  • usman niazi

    many love 8th gen over here and many would want to differ… i only drove 8th gen once and i tore up lahore with speeds reaching 180kmph for 6 hours… sadly not enough of an experience to fully understand your points about civics, as i never drove another civic ever again… sat in your favorite one though(the one before the 6th gen) and as a kid i was amazed with its acceleration and such when my friend was trying to race a heavy biker friend with some kawasaki… again, i didn’t know how to drive back then so couldn’t understand much of how the drive was…

  • Humza Aamir

    Great piece of writing. Pleasure to read.

  • Khurram

    A true picture of the Civic highlighted by the author very accurately. But I do not agree with you about Baleno or Indus tipping over, while turning the car at 80 or 90. You see I still own a 2001 Baleno and it’s grip is better then Corolla or Civic of 2005 at 150/- kmph. As for Indus well it is one of the most famous model of all times, still being used on very large scale, not only in Sindh but in Balochistan and Khaibar Pakhtunkhwa as well it’s popularity is such that very recently a cousin of mine sold 97, Japan imported, Indus in normal condition for Rs. 850,000/-. However every person’s experience may differ from mine because of our different choices. I personally am a fan of Toyota and have been disappointed with current feminine looking model, a complete departure from Corolla’s general masculine shape.

  • Zain-Ul-Hassan Khan

    A pleasure to read. Zain

  • Kamil Mahmood

    Excellent article. Loved reading it!

  • Baber

    See yesterday, I was saying to Fahad that the Civic has been in a continuous decline, while the current generation has been a disaster globally, and us dinosaurs want the 1996 Civic back in new packaging.

    Excellent read.

  • Adeel

    Makes a lot of sense. A very well written article. Really enjoyed reading till the end!
    You are so right by saying “My heart doesn’t…”

  • Abdul Hannan

    nice article……..agree with that 🙂

  • sufyan

    Master gave you a pen. You got a pen and you… you did a great job with it.

  • Amazing article. In my opinion the best civics ever made were uptil 2005 just before being reborn!

  • Well written, we’re a lot to think that.
    You should have drop a line too on the CRZ that can’t replace an old CRX in our hearts.

  • rkk

    I wouldnt agree with this. The company has evolved and the reason they are selling well is coz of their cars. Nobody wants those old pieces of garbage anymore. The newer the better. The only issue is back in those days there was less competition now a whole lot of companies are making better cars. Yes there is room for improvement each time. but for God sake dont compare a 90s janaza to a 2015 model shape. Toyota and honda are companies which are here to stay. I dont think theres any decline. It just a matter of choice.

  • Rohail

    @khurram Altaf, Man your article was a treat to Read! Great Job

  • Usman Haider Sheikh

    the baleno feels grippy but civic’s chassis is stiffer, more composed and unified while turning at high speeds, braking and feedback is certainly better than corolla 2005(you know the exact moment when you are reaching the limits which corolla cushions but with right tyre size(15’s, 205) the corolla has higher limits, civic 2005 is another league(but it feels more like a 4 door econobox than an sporty yet economical sedan).

  • Baber

    That’s the thing. The new one is not selling one.

  • Umar Sajjad

    Sales only tell you how focused a car is towards a certain kind of community. Today’s Civic might be a better machine- machine as your washing machine or microwave- but older models were better cars! Toyota Prius is selling well these days, that doesn’t make it a good car, but rather a good all around device to move about.
    See cars are more than mere machines- they’re our replacement for horse- they’re companions. We like to see them as if they have soul, as if they need us just as much as need need them.
    But today, with the ipod generation, things have changed. Getting your hands dirty for your car is one thing, people don’t even like to change gears manually. And that reflects in the cars of today as well. They’re more focused towards sales and figures, rather than being good driver’s cars.

  • Umar Sajjad

    By the way, you said no one want them anymore. But the fact that they’re selling for prices ever more than before, and the fact that we’re seeing a lot of nice old cars properly restored by enthusiasts, tells a different story.

    ‘Newer is better’ is the first chapter in ‘Guideline to Marketing, by Dr. Capitalism Senior.

  • Ahmed

    Am amazing read this article is. The expression is very beautiful. I started reading due to Civics but then continued due to the way the piece has been written. It is great that “Khurram has got a pen…” 🙂

  • Rahatullah Mallick

    This piece is too good; this beautifully sums up what we were capable of and doing in the 90’s and where we have ended. The 90’s were a promise of what the future might hold but unfortunately now that future is here, its very different and very depressing. We have cars with nearly fatal blind spots, fronts that make them look like pickups and shells that resemble a potato. I would request the writer as well as everyone else to check out videos titled “Regular Car Reviews” on youtube.

  • Saad Khan

    One of the most coolest and easy to understand article to wrote. (Y)

  • Az Laan

    Great article and boredom melting writing. Keep it up!

  • khuram

    Well written khuram

  • Ali Abbas

    This guy can write…

  • Ali Mehdi

    EXCELLENT

  • Asad Khaliq

    Another crappy article on pakwheels blog. why would he want to have a “torque-less 9k revving engine”? Its the torque we love about the Honda SOHC engines. which is way better than the Toyota’s DOHC engines that sound like a sewing machine. Maybe to just to revv around and get the feeling of a racing car while driving a family sedan. The writer has rightly described himself as a nostalgic whiner.

  • Nusrat Wadood Rathore

    ok I’m like tired and very disappointed in the pakwheels content team!!!… JIger!!! “oooo Bhainnsss” was not even a trendy jargon back in 1999!!!! 😀 now let me read and identify tons of grammatical that you guys often make!!!

  • Shani Arain

    Articles’s gud! and that Dolphin civic is still more popular in market than 9th gen. but honda 8th gen ( civic reborn) was a nice car tho.

  • Umar Sajjad

    You’re confusing torque with horsepower, mate.
    And you’re right about ‘rev around… feeling race car’ thing. That’s what Honda of the past were known for, that’s what Honda is best at, that’s what Honda should be doing.
    Think of legendary F20C in S2000, the C30A in NSX, B18C in DC2 Integra, H22 TypeS in BB8 Prelude, F20B in SIR Accord… the lot. They were all 9k revving torqueless motors, those made Honda what it is, today. That was Soichiro Honda and Ayrton Senna’s Honda. That was the: ‘Torqueless Power of Dreams’.

  • Hussain Akram

    This is an absolute gem! The article truly depicts how civic enthusiasts feel about modern day civics. The narration is impeccable as well. Keep writing this and I see you at Jalop or 5th Gear very soon. Made my day!

  • Taimur Shafai

    Some bones of contention but still Nicely sumed up and doesn’t contain boredom factor.

  • Asad Khaliq

    I dont think I am. A high-torque engine is that one which has a low end high horsepower. both are inter-relational terms. A torque-less engine is that one that has poor low end horsepower but has high rpm, high horsepower. correct me if i am wrong.

  • Asad Khaliq

    D16w9, L13A1, L13Z1, even the current R18 engines are pretty decent engines compared to the engines by Nissan, Toyota and Mitsubishi in their similar vehicles. Its not just the racing / motor enthusiast stuff that makes Honda the power of dreams… its the ordinary stuff present in the family sedans. my humble opinion.

  • Khurram Altaf

    Shukran. There will always be difference in opinion.

  • Khurram Altaf

    You are too kind. Thank you.

  • Khurram Altaf

    The dolphin (5th gen) got a huge boost after the first f&f release. Thanks for liking the article.

  • Khurram Altaf

    OK – (capital letters)
    like tired – (revise phrase)
    “Grammatical” – grammatical what? Errors? Sandwiches?

    That is just a two phrase comment. I can go on but there are so many better things to do than being a grammar Nazi, right?

    On the positive side, I am so glad ‘o bhainss’ was the only issue you had with the article. 🙂

  • Khurram Altaf

    Zarra nawaazi hai aapki. Thank you!

  • Khurram Altaf

    Thank you good Sir!

  • Khurram Altaf

    Love the potato analogy. Spot on!

  • Khurram Altaf

    Thank you!

  • Khurram Altaf

    That is exactly the point many miss. We don’t want the 6th gen back. We want that legacy to reflect in the 9th and 10th gen.

  • hassam_tariq2003

    Brothers i just love the way you ppl write these articles….Keep it up and Good Job…

  • hassam_tariq2003

    Go home Nusrat, you’re burnt…

  • Haris Khan

    Impeccably penned. However, Civics are low tier family sedans with a small engine not a full sedan even if you go by global standards. a 1.8 liter engine if made to produce 160 hp will be a gas guzzler and eventually fail here.
    However, I am in love with 8th and 9th gen cockpits. they are way more beautiful than the older variants. Honda is clearly a winner there.

  • rkk

    again thats only your opinion not facts. The rich all around the world prefer newer models. If there wasnt room for improvement everybody would buy older models. Theres only a minority who go with old is gold mentality. You canot call a prius a mere machine, its a car and a hybrid which you didnt have back in those days. Technology has improved. The drive has improved too. Theres nothing wrong with driving an automatic, it has made peoples lives easier and one puts less effort in it. Its just a matter of choice.

    Civic has always been a car not a washing machine and you can not prove it. Older models were crappy thats why they invested in making them better n better with new technology and new shapes. I respect peoples opinions and likings but many like me think differently otherwise the whole world would be buying those “old souls” as you mentioned.

  • rkk

    i would agree with Asad. People these days want a better shape, more comfort and luxury, improved suspension which is all lacking in older models. Thats why they are obsolete.

  • rkk

    I agree. Obviously they are better cars now. Alot better i would say. Nobody wants that old filthy interior like cars had. Some people cant let go of the past i guess. No offense its the writers opinion and at some points he might be right but i wouldnt agree with most of what he has written here.
    I mean go tell the world not to buy new cars because old cars were better, they wouldnt listen. The majority wants new improved vehicles. and thats what all car companies are trying to provide. People buy what they like and thats why all such companies are still alive.

  • Asad Khaliq

    8th gen has a pure Japanese, as beautiful as it can get design. The sleek front. The fully blended body. Sleep head lamps. And round tail lights that leave the impression of afterburners. Saying that it came out of 60s movies is sick. I would appreciate if anyone would name a movie from 70s 80s or even 90 in which there is something similar to 8th gen

  • rkk

    i agree. infact the success of 8th generation is a fact and people buy these cars because they indeed have become better over the years. The article is clearly just his opinion. Most will not agree.

  • Imran Cheema

    I owned and loved ’99 Civic but the 2001 made me switch and switch big. Opted for Baleno 1.6 GTi though not a perfectionist’s choice in specs. Before that I did enjoy the ’96 GLi by Toyota as well. Never after that I have had the satisfaction in driving any other model and ’99 Civic is closely followed by 2001 GTi Baleno and than the 1.6 GLi Corolla. Though I have not tried every other model by different manufacturers but have owned a couple different Civics, Corollas (only SE Saloon for 3 years and an altis for only few months, just changed back to the SE Saloon as a regular with a 2012 Vtec occasionally. But I totally agree with you. It seems Honda has somewhat lost it more than a decade ago and still they are trying to find their way back but its not doing any good to them lately. They (Honda) tampered with the DNA in a very wrong way.

  • Imran Cheema

    Must add – Nicely written by Khurram

  • Mashood Anwar

    Best civic made by atlas :*

  • and Khurram is putting the pen into use. Nicely written.

  • Guest

    There is flow in the prose and must be appreciated.
    Despite the choice of slang words, opinion-style column and other criticisms as raised in the comments, it is good to see at least someone whose prose is easy to read and engaging.
    Perhaps Pakwheels would consider hiring this writer as an editor who would proof and improve every article before it is published. We would be glued.

  • Saad Ahmed Siddiqui

    Although your article is good (Khurram) about the facts you turned into the 6 generation civic, its my favorite too,Honda aerodynamic 5 speed V-TECH manual transmission civic Vti oriel. Very first time EFI introduced by Honda in Pakistan,but my point is that comparing 6 generation civic to 7 generation have vey much similarities like both have same specification 1500 1600 same engine how ever 7 generation is much more enhanced electronically having inter Coil system attached with spark plugs rather distributor coil ,plugs wire connected by ignition coil.
    During drive the car was too much pleasure able its feel comforts smoothness you also find in 6 generation civic,the interior is much more improved and first time glowing meter is introduced in 2003 model also having a big change in brake technology introducing ABS anti lock-braking system with censor in VTI. And also the big change and a boom in technology was PROSMATIC progressive management shifting technology introduced by Honda in 2001. Which shows its respect in auto transmission about to change the gear at RPM not in certain speed showing difference with other big rivals like Toyota Corolla dint marketed that shifting phase. Mean while in 2004 they also changed the light style with external Dipper and high beamer Corolla has a similarity Honda 2004-2006 model probably known as Eagle Eye which give a tremendous
    sale and big market to Honda especially in Pakistan and in entire Asia.
    No doubt about Honda 2000 civic which makes teen age a new overlook and the boy Glimpse different from Man but in 2001-2006 7 generation Honda Civic also ruled the Honda lovers with attractive look and stable performance and also its comfortable drive.

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