The first generation Honda Civic is an automobile which was produced by Honda in Japan from July 1972 to 1979.
Honda began selling the 1169 cc (70 in³) transversely mounted inline-four engine Civic for about US$2,200. The Civic was largely developed as a new platform, and was the result of taking the previous Honda N600 and increasing the length, width, height, and wheelbase. The engine displacement was almost double the previous N600 (599 cc) at 1,170 cc, with two more cylinders added. The car produced roughly 50 hp (37 kW) and included power front disc brakes, vinyl seating, reclining bucket seats, and a woodgrain-accented dashboard which has many similarities to the later Rover SD1. The hatchback version added a fold-down rear seat, an AM radio, and cloth upholstery. The car had front and rear independent suspension. A four-speed manual transmission was standard. Options for the Civic were kept to a minimum, consisting of air conditioning, an automatic transmission called the Hondamatic, radial tires, and a rear wiper for the hatchback. The car could achieve 40 mpg-US (5.9 L/100 km; 48 mpg-imp) on the highway, and with a small 86.6-inch (2,200 mm) wheelbase and 139.8-inch (3,550 mm) overall length, the vehicle weighed 1,500 pounds (680 kg).
The Civic was the first Honda car to be sold in Britain when it was launched there in 1972, at a time when the sale of Japanese cars from Honda's competitors Nissan and Toyota were soaring. Its compact design and economical engine ensured that it sold well in Britain in the aftermath of the 1973 oil crisis.
The four-door sedan version of this bodystyle was never available in the USA and the five-door hatchback did not appear until 1978, just before the introduction of the second generation model. It was presented in Japan in September 1977 and the four-door was retired in June 1978. In the USA, the advertising campaign used to introduce the Civic was, "Honda, we make it simple." The tagline was later used with other Honda motor vehicles until the 1984 model year when the company revamped its product lineup.
The Civic's smaller size allowed it to outperform American competitors such as the Chevrolet Vega and Ford Pinto. When the 1973 oil crisis struck, automobile buyers turned to economy cars. Good fuel mileage benefited the standing of the Honda Civic in the lucrative U.S. market.
For 1974, the Civic's engine size grew slightly, to 1237 cc and power went up to 52 hp (39 kW). In order to meet the new North American 5 mph (8 km/h) bumper impact standard, the Civic's bumpers grew 7.1 inches (18 cm), increasing overall length to 146.9 inches (373 cm). The CVCC (Compound Vortex Controlled Combustion) engine debuted in 1975 and was offered alongside the standard Civic engine. The optional 53 hp(40 kW) CVCC engine displaced 1488 cc and had a head design that promoted cleaner, more efficient combustion. The CVCC design eliminated the need for catalytic converters or unleaded fuel to meet changing emissions standards, unlike nearly every other U.S. market car. Due to California's stricter emissions standards, only the CVCC powered Civic was available in that state. This created a sales advantage in Honda's favor in that CVCC equipped Honda products afforded the buyer the ability to choose any type of fuel the buyer wanted, and due to emissions equipment not being damaged by using leaded fuel, the buyer could use any gasoline products available. This was also an advantage due to some regions of North America having to ration available gasoline supplies due to periodic shortages at the time.
A five-speed manual transmission became available in 1974, as did a Civic station wagon (only with the 1500 CVCC engine), which had a wheelbase of 89.9 inches (228 cm) and an overall length of 160 inches (406 cm). Power for this version is 75 PS (55 kW) in the Japanese domestic market. Civic sales also increased and topped 100,000 units for this year.
1978 brought slight cosmetic changes: the grille was black; the rear-facing hood vents replaced the sideways vents; and turn indicators were mounted in the bumper instead of in the grille. The CVCC engine was now rated at 60 hp (45 kW)