Gone But Not Forgotten: Honda Civic
Honda were once the purveyors of the most advanced automotive technologies and back in 2006, cashing in on the prestige and reputation that the Honda City had lavished on the brand, the Japanese carmaker brought in the Honda Civic. It was bigger, more luxurious, better equipped and an absolute treat for the eyes, but what we loved the most was the sweet 1.8-litre i-VTEC. If you ever get your hands on one today remember to (after warming it up nicely) pull it all the way to the 7000rpm redline in first, then second, and if the road permits third. And then as you stand on the brakes don’t forget to heel-toe while you slam it down the ’box. I guarantee your nerve endings will fizz and pop.
No modern turbo engine sizzles, crackles and generates fireworks like a naturally aspirated Honda VTEC, and then there was the 5-speed manual gearbox that was slicker than a tub of hair gel. The powertrain sophistication was next to none and had Honda listened to us and brought in the Civic Type R, this car would have reserved a permanent spot in the hearts and garages of enthu-cutlets.
Except India never got an insane, manic Type R. Instead in 2008 came the Hybrid that combined a downsized 1.3-litre i-VTEC with the Integrated Motor Assist system. With less than 100bhp this was the complete opposite of what Honda fanboys wanted but fuel efficiency went up over the regular Civic by nearly 50 per cent. Great for the kitna-deti-hai crowd except the Civic Hybrid was only brought in as a CBU and the price went up by a shocking 100 per cent, from Rs 10.2 lakh to Rs 21.5 lakh. Obviously nobody was interested, particularly since the only visual differentiators were the super-cool wheels, and Honda had to knock down prices by 30-40 per cent to get rid of stocks.
As for the regular Civic, initial reaction was super-positive. This was great to drive — low, sporty and with fabulous ergonomics and sweet details such as the aircraft throttle-style handbrake and two- step dashboard with the digital speedo above the arc of steering wheel. Except it was so low it would scrape its underbelly over every other speed breaker and as soon as word got out, sales too hit the proverbial speed breaker. In 2012 the plug was pulled, only to return seven years later with the same 1.8 i-VTEC, except you now only got it with the CVT that killed all remnants of its enthusiasm. There was also the diesel but BS-6 was just a year away, as was Covid, and it all conspired to kill the 10th generation Civic in just two years as Honda reset their India priorities and geared up for the City Hybrid which, thankfully, has met with stronger than expected demand. The Civic experiment, particularly with the Hybrid, has not been in vain.