Why The Honda Civic Is America’s Favorite Small Car

Selling strongly since 1972

The automotive industry had a tough year in 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking havoc on car sales. It was also a changeover year for the Honda Civic. Even with the 10th-generation model in its last full year on the US market, it remained America’s favorite small car in 2020, selling more than 260,000 units. Only Toyota sold more sedans in the USA with the Camry. Now a completely new 11th-generation Civic has been launched and it’s not messing with a winning formula. It’s grown and is only 1.7 inches shorter than a BMW 3 Series, so it’s hardly a small car anymore.

The Honda Civic’s larger size has a lot to do with the US market where it’s so successful. The plentiful cargo space of around 25 cubic feet in the hatchback model and the spacious back seat make this all the car many Americans will ever need. Honda knows its target market and designed the car to play on the strengths that drive those sales. In 2020, IHS Markit awarded the Civic its consumer loyalty award in the sedan segment. Civic owners were rated the most loyal to their vehicles in this segment and the most likely to buy another Civic.

At launch, there are four sedan models in the lineup, all with automatic transmissions, but hatchbacks with manual-transmission options and a new Type R will follow later:

  • LX Sedan with a 158-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine
  • Sport Sedan with the same engine as the LX
  • EX Sedan with a 180-hp 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine
  • Touring Sedan with the same engine as the EX

It’s A Complete Package

As it turns out, several factors make the Civic earn its owners’ respect:

  • Quality. The Civic has a great reputation for building solid and reliable cars that last for years and score well in dependability and reliability surveys. Just like Toyota, Hondas have ranked with the best on J.D. Power and with reliability ratings readily available to anyone on the internet, this reputation has stood Honda in good stead.
  • Choice. Honda has traditionally offered a great choice of models in the range, with various body styles, as well as engine and transmission options. Exciting halo models such as the Type R offers lots of power and storming performance, yet still offer the hallmarks of Honda reliability and efficiency. The Civic has always offered a manual transmission for people who want it and the new hatchback will be available with a manual transmission as well – and not just on the base model, but on the Sport Touring too, as well as the next Type R. The automatic transmission is a CVT.
  • Safety. Hondas traditionally fare well in crash tests and are offered with the latest safety and driver-assistance features. The outgoing 10th-generation Civic was an IIHS Top Safety Pick recipient and achieved five stars in all its NHTSA crash tests. The new models come standard with Honda Sensing across the board, which includes a full suite of driver-assistance features including adaptive cruise control, traffic-jam assist, and road-sign recognition.
  • Space. With a roomy interior and a trunk of around 25 cubic feet on the hatchback and 14.4-14.8 cubic feet on the sedan, the Civic handsomely beats the compact German sedans in terms of cargo figures and runs larger cars such as the Camry close.
  • Efficiency. Civics achieve excellent gas mileage and the thriftiest model in the new range can do 36 MPG on the combined cycle. The worst model still achieves 33 miles per gallon.
  • Value. With a starting MSRP of under $22,000, the Civic offers excellent value and high levels of luxury and safety at the price.

An Established Brand

It’s not just a list of winning features, but the fact that Honda has been doing this for a long time. The Civic was first introduced to America in 1972 and proved to be the right car at the right time and offered excellent fuel economy at a time of rising gas prices and even available air-conditioning. Off to a good start, the Civics kept coming over the decades, always offering the Honda hallmarks of all-round ability, efficiency, and reliability. It is now a trusted brand after years of proving its worth in the US – and the most popular small car in the country.


Most cars’ copybooks are blighted by some flaws that are difficult to ignore, but the Honda Civic has endured as an evergreen option in the compact class with no obvious weak spots. However, offering only internal combustion engines might soon not be enough anymore and here’s hoping that hybrid options will be offered on the new Civic. There will no doubt be an EV in the Civic’s future, but right now, other automakers such as GM and VW are ahead in the EV race. However, this is unlikely to dim the popularity of the latest Civic in the US.


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