After driving the Honda Civic Si last year, I remember wondering how much better the Type R version was going to be. How could Honda justify another $10,000 over the Si, especially when the base Civic starts at just under $19,000? The irony is that on top of the $34,775 sticker price, dealerships have been marking it up even further, sometimes up to ten grand more. It’s seems like madness but what it is, is the voice of the automotive enthusiast community welcoming the first Type R Honda in the US after a 17 year hiatus following the Acura Integra Type R. So was it worth the anticipation?
The Championship White elephant in the room when it comes to the Type R is the fact it sends 306hp and 295 lb-ft of torque to the front wheels. The enthusiast community has been quick to point out that FWD causes understeer and that it is ludicrous to try and send so much power through the front wheels. To those people I say, “Drive one.” Don’t just type comments on YouTube videos, go and drive one. The Civic Type R has dominated its main rivals, the Subaru WRX STi, the Ford Focus RS and the Volkswagen Golf R, on just about every single track. It holds the record for the fastest front wheel drive production car at the Nürburgring in Germany at 7:43.8. It wasn’t just fast for a front wheel drive road legal hatchback, it beat supercars like the 997-gen Porsche 911 GT3 RS, Ferrari F430, and the Mercedes-McLaren SLR. These were all hailed as the finest handling automobiles just over ten years ago and have all been left in the dust by a Honda Civic hatchback.
When you get behind the wheel of one, it all starts to make sense. The Type R is the not the comfortable, refined Civic that I tested early last year. It’s noisy, harsh and it feels like it was built in the early 2000’s. When you watch my video review on Clutch Kick, you’ll struggle to hear my commentary over the road noise. The ride is stiff, even in comfort mode. It becomes rock solid in Sport and in +R mode so does the steering. It feels absolutely hardcore, genuinely like a race car. You feel Honda’s racing heritage through every turn of the steering wheel. The steering, speaking of which, is wonderful. Extremely direct, accurate, and quick. There is no torque steer whatsoever. Thanks to Honda’s clever reengineering of the front struts, which shifts the pivot point of the steering further out to eliminate any torque steer. The throttle is sharp, especially for a turbocharged engine. It’s the familiar K-Series engine that we all know and love, dating all the way back to the RSX’s at the turn of the century. The turbo starts spooling around 2000 rpm. There is torque everywhere along the rev range which means you rarely have to downshift. This is a completely different personality of an engine compared to the high-revving four cylinders of yesteryear in fast Hondas of the past. The brakes stop with authority with no indication of fade, complimenting my aggressive driving style. The clutch is still light and easy to use but has a little bit more heft and aggressive engagement to it, compared to more plebeian Civics. The pedals I’m 99.9% sure are exactly the same as the Si but I found heel and toeing much easier in the Type R for some reason. The shifter is joyous, with great weight, throw, and metallic solidity to it. It feels like it’s connected with rods like a rear or all wheel drive vehicle.
All of these details make driving the Civic Type R on back roads absolutely stunning. There’s very little body roll and the whole car gives such a sense of stability and agility. The front end is extremely well planted helping to eliminate understeer. We were the last automotive media outlet to get this Type R so naturally the Continental summer performance tires were completely worn. Testing in the cold December weather of the Pacific Northwest proved tricky and required careful throttle inputs. On days where it rained, I’d often inadvertently spin the front tires in third gear even in partial throttle. I can’t wait to try a Type R in warmer weather for this reason. But in the few stretches of dry asphalt I came upon, the Type R felt like a vehicle with the playfulness and throttle rotation of a rear wheel drive vehicle and with the outright grip of an all-wheel drive one.
The Civic Type R gains LED headlights and foglights over the Si. That said, the Type R does not have the clever Honda Lane Watch blind spot camera but maintains the premium sound system. It’s not a great system but it does the trick and still has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The interior of the Type R is the same basic Civic interior with great visibility all around. The red body hugging seats are a welcome addition. The red treatment around the carbon fiber trim, I can do without. I would’ve liked a more unique steering wheel that’s not as obviously a carbon copy of the steering wheel found in lesser Civics. I would’ve liked a little more exclusivity in terms of interior design for the sticker price as well. I do, however, like that the center rear seat was removed and replaced with cupholders. Hashtag, race car.
Exterior styling has received a mixed response but everyone on our production team likes the outrageous, boy racer styling cues. I love the big spoiler at the back, I don’t feel pretentious knowing that it’s fully functional along with the vortex generator up top. I love the wider fenders. I love the black wheels even though 20” wheels on a Civic is absolutely nuts and the red pinstripe is unnecessary. I love the Championship White paint that our test car came in. It’s very appropriate for the Civic Type R and is quite a yellowish tint of white which is very unique. I also love that just about every vent is functional. A Type R model from Honda should not be subtle and this ticks all the right boxes.
When the Civic Si was released, Honda made it a point that the Si was a subtle upgrade over the standard Civic Turbo, rather than the halfway point between the base Civic and the Type R. It’s clear they weren’t lying. The Type R is on another level and it’s hard to believe that it’s based on something as mundane as all the other Civics that you see driving around. But every little detail has been refined, enhanced, given some steroids even. The Civic Type R represents two things: New competition in the $30,000+ compact sport segment and that Honda still remembers how to build a proper sports car. Welcome back, Honda.
Photography by James Chrosniak @thathalfjapaneseguy
Specs: Engine: 2.0L DOHC 16-Valve I4 Drivetrain: FWD
Power: 306hp @ 6,500 rpm Torque: 295 lb-ft @ 2,500 rpm Transmission: 6-Speed Manual w/ LSD
Fuel Economy (City/Highway/Comb.): 22/28/25 MPG Wheelbase: 106.3 in Curb Weight: 3,117 lbs (61.8% / 38.2%) Base Price: $34,775 Price as Tested: $34,775