This was, I should add, nothing to do with the ferociously quick Type R variants that were to add such a sporting flourish to the later incarnations, but more to do with the engineering flair and clever thinking that these eminently sensible family hatchbacks have always displayed beneath their inoffensive exteriors.
The same goes for the Civic saloons, coupés, estates and MPVs, the Civic having always been nothing if not versatile. More often than not they showed up their contemporaneous rivals for the dullards they usually were.
It all started with the very first Civic, which was launched in 1972 and by 1975 had an engine (the admirable CVCC) producing such low emissions that it shook the entire US motor industry to the core and continued in a double-wishboned frenzy right up until Honda produced a spacious but distinctly unsexy MPV-style model when the Civic reached its seventh generation in the year 2000.
This version dispensed with the neat double-wishbone front suspension, its successor introducing a torsion beam rear axle into the equation, from which point the car – despite its sporting variants and its quirky styling touches – was never quite the same again.
What is now the tenth-gen Civic is now completely new: longer, lower, wider and stiffer than the car it replaces, with an all-new platform, fully independent rear suspension and the promise – with help from its new turbocharged engines – of bringing back some dynamic finesse.
And then there’s the styling – my word, the styling. Consigned to history is the unorthodox and slightly divisive look of the past two generations to be replaced by something that’s, er, unorthodox and slightly divisive.
If this new one is not exactly handsome, or even cohesive, it at least has an energy to its busy lines that warrants your attention. It brings to mind the designer Raymond Loewy’s maxim that to sell something familiar you must make it surprising, and to sell something surprising make it familiar.
More to the point, though, I think as a result of all these changes it’s now possible for a keen motorist to get a little worked up by a Civic all over again, and that’s why I’ve chosen to run one.
The one I’ve actually snapped up for our long-term fleet is a 1.0 VTEC SR version.
Our early drives of the Civic indicated that this new 127bhp 1.0-litre turbocharged triple had the edge on the more powerful 1.5-litre four when it came to driver appeal.
On paper, performance seems respectable, if not exactly thrilling, for something with such a small engine capacity, with 0-62mph listed at 10.9secs and a top speed of 127mph. More impressive, perhaps, are its official 55.4mpg and its respectable CO2 emissions of 117g/km.