A new, sleeker body and increases in wheelbase and base-model engine size marked the 1980 Civic. The wheelbase now measured 88.6 inches for the hatchback (the two-door "sedan" was dropped) and 91.3 inches for the wagon. All Civic engines now used the CVCC design; the base 1,335cc ("1300") engine made 55 horsepower, while the 1,488 ("1500") produced 67 horsepower. Three transmissions were offered: a four-speed manual (on base models), a five-speed manual and a two-speed automatic.
The Civic 1300 and 1500 came in base and DX versions, and the latter featured a five-speed manual, rear window defroster, intermittent wipers and a cigar lighter. The 1500 GL added radial tires, a rear window wiper/washer, tachometer, clock and bodyside moldings. The Civic wagon came in a single version that was tantamount to the DX trim level.
A four-door sedan debuted for 1981, as did a three-speed automatic transmission that replaced the primitive two-speed unit.
Rectangular headlamps and black bumpers appeared on the 1982 Civic. A new gas-sipping model, the five-speed "FE" (Fuel Economy) was introduced and was rated at 41 mpg in the city and 55 mpg on the highway.
The sporty new Civic "S" replaced the 1500 GL in 1983 and was fitted with a firmer suspension (with rear stabilizer bar) and 165/70R13 Michelin tires. A red accent encircled the S and set it apart from the other Civics.
The Civic grew up in 1984, not only in size, but also in terms of design sophistication. A new wheelbase of 96.5 inches represented an increase of 5 inches, making Civic four-doors and wagons identical to the Accord in this dimension. A new 1.5 liter-engine (formerly referred to as 1,500cc) with 12 valves (three valves per cylinder) and 76 horsepower was found underhood, except on the base hatchback, which had a new 1.3-liter 60-horse unit. Transmission choices were the same as previously: four- and five-speed manuals and a three-speed automatic. A revamped suspension, though no longer with an independent rear setup, offered a space-efficient design along with fine ride and handling characteristics.
The lineup consisted of three hatchbacks (base, DX and S), a sedan, a tall wagon and a new two-seater called the CRX. As before, the base car was fairly spartan. The DX came with the five-speed manual, bodyside moldings, a split/folding rear seat, rear window defroster/wiper/washer and tilting steering wheel. The S had sport seats, reclining rear seats and the same hardware upgrades, such as a rear stabilizer bar, as before. The sedan and wagon were again equipped similarly to the DX hatchback.
The new CRX was basically the Civic chassis under a sporty body. Two models were offered: the base CRX and the CRX 1.5. The chief difference between the two was that the base CRX had a 1.3-liter engine (which allowed the car to score amazing fuel economy ratings of 51 in the city and on the 67 highway) and the CRX 1.5 had the 1.5-liter engine. All CRXs had a two-tone paint scheme, comprised of White, Blue or Red with a Silver lower bodyside and bumper treatment.
A neatly chiseled exterior devoid of gimmickry, an intelligent interior design with supportive seats, large gauges and high-quality fit and finish made the 1984 Civic line attractive and an immediate success. Dealers would routinely have slim pickings on their lots, and, as a result, they didn't have to discount the cars too much, if at all.
Introduced in 1985, the hot-rod CRX Si came ready to run with a fuel-injected version of the 1.5-liter engine that pumped out 91 horsepower. Able to hit 60 mph in less than 9 seconds, the Si also boasted handling enhancements, such as 14-inch alloy wheels with 185/60R14 high-performance tires. A power sunroof was standard on the Si, as were a monotone paint scheme and sport seats.
A CRX HF (High Fuel economy) model replaced the CRX with the 1.3-liter engine. The HF had an eight-valve version of the 1.5-liter engine that produced just 58 horsepower but offered more torque and thus better acceleration around town. Mileage figures for the HF stood at 52 in the city and 57 on the highway.
The other Civics continued unchanged for this year, with the exception of the wagon, which, later in the model year, became available with four-wheel drive and a six-speed manual gearbox. As the Civic's reputation for quality, clever engineering and steadfast reliability continued to grow, so did the little Honda's popularity, as sales figures that topped 200,000 annually attested.
Flush-mounted headlights made it easy to tell the 1986 Civics from the older models. Other changes included a four-speed automatic and an Si version of the Civic hatchback, the latter geared toward those who wanted the performance of the CRX Si but needed a four-seat vehicle. Other perks for the Civic Si hatchback included a removable glass sunroof, a full-width taillight panel and color-keyed front airdam and roof spoiler. The CRXs received the same updates as the other Civics, including the flush headlights.
For 1987, the four-wheel-drive (4WD) system for the Civic wagon was revised. "Real Time" 4WD automatically channeled power to the wheels that had optimum grip and did away with the driver having to decide (and then move a lever) if four-wheel drive was needed.