Cars > Iconic

Why the Honda Civic has a cult following

Whether the real thing or the die-cast model

The author and his admiration of the Honda Civic go way back to his childhood. PHOTO BY JASON DELA CRUZ

I first encountered a Honda Civic way back in 1983 when I was waiting to be picked up from school one day. I was in first grade then. Here came this white hatchback belonging to a foreign student. It had blue-numbered diplomatic plates, which made it even more intriguing.

The sight of a Civic was alien from the usual Mitsubishi Lancers and Toyota Corollas. Each time saw it over a year or so, I’d soak in the sight of it. After seeing one in the metal, I appreciated seeing it in car magazines in the years that followed.

Most will be familiar with the EG Civic as it was part of the People's Car Program in the early ’90s. PHOTO FROM HONDA

Fast-forward to 1991, when the Civic was officially distributed in our market, albeit with that puny 1.2-liter engine. So inadequate that a friend who owned one said he had to turn off the compressor to overtake.

Well, be careful what you wish for, because what followed was the ESi variant, which had a 127hp, 1.6-liter engine. The brand was also marketed well with the tagline “The Prestigious,” enticing a new audience in search of something different and a little more premium. Hence the strong beginnings of Honda Cars Philippines.

But who could forget the iconic EK Civic SiR? PHOTO FROM JASON DELA CRUZ

Interest in the Civic soared with the EK SiR in the late ’90s. No doubt it inspired enthusiasts, tuners and fanboys to get more out of Civics via mods—bolt-ons and proper tuning.

Some went as far as engine-swapping to the B- and K-Series powerplants, which could handle a higher rpm range and a higher horsepower output. And the best part? Honda has a healthy aftermarket. Tunability has contributed to the Civic’s popularity.

The Civic ES was a bit of a snoozefest compared to its exciting predecessor. PHOTO FROM HONDA

After the highs of the boy-racer EK, however, came the bland ES, replacing the front double-wishbone suspension with MacPherson struts—unfavored among enthusiasts due to low-grade handling.

The FC Civic helped reignite the nameplate ever since its introduction in 2016. PHOTO FROM HONDA

The desirability of the Civic was rediscovered three generations later.

The FC featured a 1.5-liter turbo in the RS Turbo variant, somehow tying its performance roots with the SiR (it was launched in our market alongside an SiR and with the slogan “Civic Reborn”). It has an output of 171hp and 220Nm.

The latest Civic exercises restraint compared to the edgy last-generation model. PHOTOS BY JASON DELA CRUZ

The latest gen you see here, an FE in RS Turbo trim, evolves from the previous model with 176hp and 240 Nm, with the 1.5-liter turbo as the sole engine in two variants. The current model sports a simpler look inside and out, departing from the Gundam styling of the FC.

This EK coupe is the most popular Hot Wheels Honda Civic casting in the lineup. PHOTO BY JASON DELA CRUZ

The Civic has proven to be so strong, it even has a cult following in die-cast form. As far as Hot Wheels is concerned, the toy-car maker released various Civic Si models (SiR to you and me) starting in 2001.

The EK coupe is perhaps the most popular, and was retooled for 2021. Other releases include an EP3 Type R produced between 2003 and 2014.

Ryu Asada was one of the main reasons we see a lot of JDM cars in Hot Wheels' lineup today. SCREENSHOT FROM HOT WHEELS

The collaboration became stronger when Ryu Asada, a die-hard Honda fanboy, became designer project lead. He started as a designer for Matchbox from 2004 to 2012, then Hot Wheels from 2012 to 2021. As a Japanese, he elevated the JDM culture within the company. Sadly, he passed away due to cancer.

Some of the Civics to come out during Asada's time. PHOTOS BY JASON DELA CRUZ

During his time, we witnessed some refreshing Civic releases, including a ’90 EF hatch in 2014, an EG hatch in 2020, an FK2 Type R in 2017, an FK8 Type R in 2019, and an EK9 Type R in 2021.

These are some of the vehicles released in tribute to the late Asada. PHOTOS BY JASON DELA CRUZ

As a tribute to Asada, a segment of the 2022 mainline referred to as “Ryu’s Rides” is dedicated to him. These include the recently released Honda Civic Custom EG (designed by Dmitriy Shakhmatov) and ’73 Honda Civic Custom (designed by Fraser Campbell).

There’s also a five-car Civic set (EF hatch, EG hatch, EK Si coupe, FK2 Type R, and FK8 Type R) with matching artistic packaging. Annoyingly, there are those who hoard these toy cars, particularly the Custom EG, the EG hatch, the EF hatch, and the EK9 Type R, and sell them at a higher price. It does tend to work because demand is higher than supply.

Collector or not, we want to relate to something attainable. And the Civic is up there as an aspirational car, whether you have one or dream of having one. Visit the DCPH page on Facebook and you’ll see more interest in Civics than exotics.

Tomica obviously has its fair share of releases, but typically Type Rs. While these have high demand, there’s one that’s sought after: the Civic FD2 Mugen RR. Honda enthusiasts would easily say this is even more special than the already special Type R. The catch? It has a ridiculous price of P12,000 upwards. Yes, that little version. If you can find one.

JDM-centric brands like Hobby Japan and Street Weapon—as well as Inno 64 and Tarmac Works—offer a variety of Civics, both of which have a higher retail price than Hot Wheels and Tomica given the high details. In spite of the higher asking price, however, there is a demand.

Just as this little easter egg found in the latest Civic says, the car’s history will go on. PHOTO BY JASON DELA CRUZ

A friend once said: “Ang lakas talaga ng Honda Civic.” With crossovers all the rage these days and sedans facing a struggle, it’s hard to imagine the world without the Civic. It looks like we’re far from that. The Civic nameplate is strong.

Jason Dela Cruz

Jason is a veteran member of the motoring community, having worked as an automotive journalist and a car industry executive. He is now based in Cebu, where the car culture is vibrant.