Civic Type Angry
In certain circles, no other hot hatch will quite cut the mustard except for a Honda Civic Type R since the first version appeared in 1997. Enthusiasts would have their eye set on this car alone as it offered a blend of exceptional handling, analogue sensations, and a screamer of an engine.
Now, with the FK8 generation car, the Type R has changed. Grown up in key aspects, just as the company had first attempted with its FK2 predecessor. It retains much of the boy racer appeal, but considers the needs of a more aged individual, being offered (only) in more practical 5-door guise instead and adopting a turbocharged engine.
Still, it’s definitely not seemed to have softened its views on high performance front-driven hoonery. Honda’s team obviously put a lot of effort into the new Type R, merging new ideas with the old, in part to garner the favour of a broader set of buyers, one who would have otherwise bought a Ford Focus RS, Volkswagen Golf R, or Mercedes-AMG A45 if money was less of an object - this is also why this Type R is the most widely available compared to older versions that were confined to only sell in select regions, spreading further afield through imports.
This is still a driver’s car, through and through - or so they would have you convinced - delivering thrills that were engineered to extract more enjoyment a proportionate amount of correctly measured input. However, the image of the Civic Type R cannot be escaped by merely adding doors and forced induction, so you’ll need to be quite certain about what you want when shortlisting the Civic Type R.
“Have you ever seen anything so wilfully yobbish? We’re told all its winglets and spoilers are there for a reason and I think I know what the reason is: to tell your neighbours you are very fond of football violence and shoplifting. And you have a knife.” - Driving.co.uk
The 10th-generation Honda Civic in general has its detractors and cheerleaders. Handsome from most angles, controversial in others, but most definitely bold and assuredly a departure from where we’ve seen Honda tread before.
In ‘hatch’ form, things take a slight turn to the obtuse, with the rear end tapered to give it some coupe-esque hints. Honda decided this was to be the one and only shape by which the world would see their newest (FK8) Type R.
There’s a lot of aero on display here, with an assortment of wings, scoops, and ducts to channel the air just so around the car - some to minimise drag, others to generate meaningful amounts of downforce. That fixed rear spoiler is responsible for a lot of it, and not just there to take the edge off that roofline profile.
It’s all quite cohesive, though, and looks purposeful without quite falling off the edge into being overly ostentatious. A bright red logo replaces typical Honda badge to signify this as a performance model, and that theme is taken to highlight much of the car’s edges and interior trim. That said, the Type R now relegates all its competitors to looking a little bland by comparison unless an outrageous paint option is selected.
The Type R looks, like most other ‘mega’ hatches, more sedate in colours like black, though this is only mildly true of the Honda as it still retains much of its menace thanks to that red shade tinging its perimeter and huge 20-inch wheels.
Engine and Drivetrain
“The Type R’s turbo engine doesn’t scream towards stratospheric redlines like the normally aspirated units in those cars, or the last Civic Type R, yet it absolutely rewards winding it out to its 7300rpm limiter.” - CarAdvice
This is arguably the largest departure from the how the Type R used to operate. High-revving VTEC engines were the main draw of previous generation cars, and a large part of why they were bought over its increasing number of turbocharged rivals.
However, Honda had to concede that there would be no way to keep naturally aspirated high-revving engines at parity with the performance expected of modern day performance hatches while meeting ever-stricter emissions regulations, especially since this model was planned from the start to be sold in nearly all markets the Japanese marque had reach.
Capacity stands at a familiar 2.0-litres, divided between four cylinders, but with the aid of variable geometry turbochargers and high flow induction, power jumps to 228kW and 400Nm available from 2,500rpm. The downside, of course, is that the redline drops to a slightly more modest 7,200rpm.
There’s plenty of upsides, though, not least of which how far more everyday usable it makes the Civic Type R as a package. Despite having just two driven wheels in a field becoming exclusively all-wheel driven, some clever traction management and front differential wizardry means that 100km/h arrives from rest in 5.8 seconds, provided, of course, one is proficient at rowing through the ratios as the car only comes with a 6-speed manual transmission.
The gearbox itself is a peach, smooth and precise, so that shouldn’t be any impediment practice cannot remedy. The engine, meanwhile, has a happy habit of not feeling turbocharged. Power is delivered in a very linear fashion, but the boost is tuned such to be served in increasing intensity. Take your mind off what’s under the bonnet, and you could almost mistake it for a very powerful high-revver.
Honda has had more experience to massage this 2.0-litre unit as it’s essentially the same version used in the previous Civic Type R, the criminally short-lived FK2. Here it develops around 7kW more power, though, courtesy of a revised exhaust and extractor system. Fuel consumption, if you’re into that kinda thing, is sits at a claimed 8.8-litres/100km on a combined cycle.
“…the new Type R has taken big step forward when it comes to interior quality. While a few scratchy plastics do remain in the cabin, particularly on the centre console, on the whole build quality is much improved.” - AutoExpress
The red and black blend of textured fabric and suede-like carbon back bucket seats don’t look particularly comfortable but actually do offer a good amount of support even over some longer distances. However, it does set the tone immediately about what to expect from the rest of the cabin: plenty of red and black.
Over the standard Civic and even the older FK2 Type R, this version’s driver H point is noticeably lower, giving the whole experience a more driver-oriented feel that’s almost spot-on, aligning nicely with the pedals gear shift lever that boasts a beautiful machined aluminium sphere knob. There’s the same level of interior quality as to be found on any normal Civic, and that’s a good thing, with a good amount of soft touch points, commendable ergonomics, and a general solidity to the construction.
Elsewhere faux leather is used in the trim as well as a reappearance of that suede-like Alcantara (but not quite) material, and both are used well to add an air of class to temper the general aggressive aura. However, though this is a good cabin to be in and more than ably serves its purpose as an exciting cockpit, much more premium surroundings can be found in the Germans, such as the AMG A45 and Golf R in particular.
Behind The Wheel
“It is capable of jinking into corners with a crisp ferocity that can take your breath away.” - Autocar
Although Honda might have been inclined to have the Civic Type R’s dynamics be a little more approachable this time around, the changes they’ve made don’t seem to greatly corroborate this theory. As previously indicated, this is very much an analogue machine, quite an amount more so than its closest competition.
While steering is very sharp, the wheel itself does need quite a bit of shove to get rotating at lower speeds, needing drivers to be more deliberate in their inputs, also because the rack is rather quick from lock to lock.
On most roads, the ride is manageable but most definitely on the firm side, even with the dampers set to their softest setting. This translates into greater composure at higher speeds, which is where Honda is betting you’ll keep the Type R most of the time.
Once there, the car is remarkably nimble and rewarding, with a seemingly unyielding front end and unrelenting grip if using an appropriate cornering speed to have the aerodynamics kick in. Apply the throttle too liberally out of the corner, though, and its front-driven nature does have the car push wide, but keeping the driver well informed of the proceedings for a recovery.
Given that the Type R is quite a bit lighter than its rivals, heavy braking doesn’t get it nearly as unsettled as is often the case, and also means that the discs can take more abuse before succumbing to fade. Clearly, though, to experience its full potential, you’ll need a track as it was plainly made to shine there most of all, which is why, upon its launch, it took the crown as the fastest front-drive car to ever lap the Nurburgring.
Safety and Technology
The Honda Civic Type R, as a variant, has not been rated by ANCAP, but considering the standard hatch has been awarded the 5-star seal, there’s good reason to believe its not far off, especially since its safety features read identically to most well-specified standard car.
There’s a full spread of front, side, and full-length curtain airbags, forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking (AEB), lane departure warning, lane keep assist, reversing camera, front/rear parking sensors, and even adaptive cruise control - probably for that uneventful drive back from the circuit.
Elsewhere the Type R receives the same 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system as the rest of its range, running the Android-based interface that supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and attached to a 160W speaker array with 4 woofers and 4 tweeters.
Despite being hot hatch, the digital instrument cluster is retained here as well. It’s as responsive as ever and conveys information well, even in more demanding scenarios, and its graphics do change to red with a helpfully large tachometer when the +R drive mode is selected.
The Civic Type R still holds its head high as something of a people’s hero, offering the kind of performance and cornering poise that manufacturers typically charge a markedly higher price for. In its 4th-generation, it has also managed to adapt to the onset of turbocharging and the more versatile nature of hot hatches without sacrificing much of its initial uniqueness.
Dynamically, the Type R is one of the most characterful machines of its time and circumstance. The labour poured into linking the various chassis and aerodynamic strengths to make up for the lack of a rear-driven axle and its departure from natural aspiration is evident and worthy of great praise.
And to the hot hatch connoisseur, all this seemingly single-minded focus should add to the car’s overall appeal. But dig deeper and there’s a serviceable everyday driver hiding beyond the polarising bodywork and shamelessly red accents. It’s a Civic, after all, and as such still offers plenty of cabin space, cargo capacity, and *ahem* reliability.
Autocar - 4.5/5 - “A less track-biased, prettier car with a greater focus on cabin amenities than mechanical matters might have been a bigger seller, but it wouldn’t have been half as compelling. Nor would it be the most exciting hot hatch that can currently be bought from new.”
Drive.com.au - “Overall then, in the Type R you have a car with plenty of raw appeal and not a small amount of ability when it comes to straight-line speed, cornering prowess and even comfort, but still possesses enough raw edges to let the driver know it deserves the red "H" badge that adorns the bonnet.”
EVO - 4.5/5 - “The new Civic Type R is a huge step on from the previous car, mixing surprising refinement with genuine interaction and scintillating pace.”
AutoExpress - 5/5 - The new Honda Civic Type R is the ultimate example of what a hot hatch should be. It has the ability to transform itself from a comfortable day-to-day hatchback into a hardcore performance car at the flick of a switch.
Driving.co.uk - 3/5 -“Wonderful to drive, embarrassing to be seen in.”
Motoring.com.au - 83/100 - “…there’s a lot here that’s different to traditional Type R. But I’m sure you’ve already got that message. So, bin any preconceptions about what you expect from this car. Tape over the badge and drive it for what it is, not what it has traditionally represented.”
CarAdvice - 8.7/10 - “…the Civic Type R – much more than the NSX supercar – is emphatic proof that Honda has rediscovered its sporty mojo.”