In 1972 the Watergate scandal broke in the US. In the UK CND supporters were organising a series of high-profile protests against nuclear arms and Japan hosted the Winter Olympics. The host country had never won a gold medal in the winter games but swept the board in the 70m ski jump when Japanese athletes won Gold, Silver and Bronze.
Elsewhere in Japan, Honda unveiled what would go on to become an enduring classic in the first generation Honda Civic. It was in fact introduced in 1972 but sold as a '73 model so enthusiasts can take their pick over which 40th birthday they prefer to celebrate.
What's for certain is that it was an instant hit, transforming Honda from a company known almost exclusively for its motorcycles into one more than capable of producing world beating cars as well. The commercial release of the Civic Car coincided with the 1973 Oil Crisis, which turned out to be fortuitous – for Honda at least. Demand was high for a car with low fuel consumption and the Civic fitted the bill. The fact that the engine was able to run on either leaded or unleaded petrol also gave drivers a measure of fuel choice flexibility over most other cars.
The CVCC (Controlled Vortex Combustion Chamber) engine debuted in 1975 featuring a head design that promoted cleaner, more efficient combustion and eliminated the need for a catalytic converter. Throughout the four decades the Civic continued to evolve, both technologically and aesthetically. A hybrid version was first introduced in Japan near the end of 2001 featuring the Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) system first used in the exclusively hybrid Honda Insight.
The latest battery is 5kW more powerful, 9kg lighter and takes up 36% less space than its predecessor. Combined with improved aerodynamics and Honda ECO Assist technology, it helps drivers get the most out of increasingly expensive fuel and to reduce the environmental impact of taking to the road.
Launched in 2012, the current range of Civics represents the 9th generation. The 2.2 i-DTEC diesel has a power output of 150 PS alongside fuel economy of 67.3 mpg. Tech features include Adaptive Cruise Control, the Smart Keyless Entry system and a Collision Mitigation Braking System.
The Civic continues to provide a winning combination of style, functionality and value for money, with the Honda Civic SE being crowned the overall winner of the Parkers New Car Awards 2012. In the Medium Hatchback category, the Civic 1.4 i-VTEC SE 5dr model ruled the roost after 11 category winners were analysed.
The Honda Civic might be 40 years old but it's showing no signs of suffering a mid-life crisis just yet – and with plenty of other great models like the new Honda CRV 2013, the manufacturer could be celebrating many more anniversaries to come.