No name is as synonymous with modern Japanese performance cars than the ‘Type R’ moniker. The souped-up performance models, which first appeared in the ’90s from Honda, have become a phenomenon, igniting the passions of a whole new generation of auto enthusiasts. While the ‘Type R’ logo has been hijacked and put on just about everything, it really only belongs on special models from Honda’s performance branch. Does the new Civic Type R live up to the name?
By Jason Saini, Dennis Bindarau
When the newest generation of Civic was released a few years ago, we praised its design, quality and wide array of features. It really felt like a modern execution of the compact car concept, a little bigger and more powerful as people’s tastes have changed. They have already come out with a more performance-oriented Si model, and now we jump right into the Type R. Taking such a good base vehicle and adding the magic of that name to it turns out to be a winning recipe.
As you walk up to it, there’s no question this is a serious performance variant. Lots of aerodynamic elements, vents, and a giant wing – you know it’s a type R from the first second you see it. Getting inside, the theme continues with deeply bolstered seats and the requisite manual transmission. The aluminum shift knob that is synonymous with the Type R brand is present and feels very good in the hand. Power is a healthy 306hp, which is substantial for a 2.0-liter, but even more impressive is the flat torque curve featuring 295 ft-lb. from 2500 to 4500rpm.
Because of the use of V-tec and turbocharging, it doesn’t compromise on efficiency either – turning in 22MPG city and 28MPG highway. To go along with the wild styling, 6 unique colors are available too, unlike previous Type R’s that had limited color choices – mostly white.
There’s plenty of tech on the interior as well, something that previous Type R’s have not had, even though it’s a sign of the times in our tech-heavy world. Optional wireless charger, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and 7-inch touch screen are featured, but the software already looks a bit dated.
The huge 20” wheels have 245mm width tires and help clear the 4-piston Brembo front brakes. With a curb weight of just over 3100lb and so much power on tap – the brakes are handy. While much heavier than past Type R models, it’s still a bit lighter than some of the competition, including the Golf R, Focus RS, and Impreza STI. All of those cars are AWD, so if you’re willing to drive one of the best handling FWD cars ever produced, you can carry around a lot less weight and save a ton of gas in the process.
While the overall look of the exterior is aggressive and eye-catching, when you slow down and take a look at some of the details, it’s a bit over the top in some areas. Details like the multiple non-functional air vents and three-pipe exhaust don’t really add anything and just come off as trying a bit too hard.
As for performance, it set the benchmark on Germany’s Nurburgring Nordschleife as the all-time fastest front-wheel-drive car, an impressive accomplishment. That comes partially due to the power, but also the incredibly tuned suspension. You don’t get any of the understeer normally present in a FWD car, it’s light on its feet, lively, and willing to rotate – especially with a mid-corner throttle lift. And thanks to an advanced turbo, there’s not any lag to worry about when you do lift off.
The active dampers and limited slip differential add to the impressive performance and are all tuned expertly by Honda’s team. Overall, this is a car that likes to be abused. It begs to be taken to a race track, revved up and exercised. That is something it shares with previous Type R models, but unlike those in the past, this one is better at being comfortable and civilized in daily use. An ode to the past with an eye on the future makes this Civic Type R one special compact car.