The Honda Civic Type R is a special vehicle. Some will belittle it because it is front-wheel drive. Others will say that it is stupid to pay that much money for a hot rod Civic. People that say things like that are inexperienced drivers who have no idea how much fun a proper front-wheel-drive car can be. And if they need a badge from a high-end European car to define a sports car, then they have an ego problem and they do not know anything about cars.
Honda’s rich racing history is one of the most successful in recent times and products such as the Type R are a result of what its engineers learn from racing. We spent a few days with the Civic Type R, and it is one of the most fun sports cars at any price. That sums it up quickly. If you want more details, keep reading.
Honda has been doing well in the United States lately and finished 2020 as the No. 4 brand in the U.S. without heavy use of rebates and other incentives. The Civic was the No 1 car sold in the U.S. for the fifth straight year, and one fourth of all of the compact cars sold in the U.S. were Civics. The Civic is a solid, practical car, but the beauty of the Civic, dating back to the 90s, was that a Civic could be an economy car or it could be a fire-breathing monster that eats up expensive sports cars.
In the 90s, the formula was simple. Take a lightweight Civic and add power and you would have the power-to-weight ratio of a much more expensive machine. But power was not the main thing. What set the Civic apart starting in 1988 was the racecar-style double wishbone suspension that allowed the small economy car to be a terror on canyon roads.
Fast forward to today and the Civic Type R is a factory-built hot rod that is a blast to drive, and the Limited Edition, the last of the current generation FK8 Civics, is the best to date. The U.S. is the primary sales region for the Type R and the US will receive 600 total cars. The Limited Edition has some unique features, starting with the Phoenix Yellow Pearl paint, which is reminiscent of the first Integra Type R yellow sold here in the late 90s.
Honda has tried to make the car as light as possible with the removal of some sound-deadening material, rear windshield wiper, rear parcel shelf and lighter wheels, resulting in a 50-pound reduction. Other exclusive bits to the Limited Edition are lighter BBS forged wheels with specially selected Michelin Pilot Super Cup 2 tires. The suspension also has been retuned around the new tires with new adaptive damper system and dual-pinion electric power steering.
Get inside the Civic and you will be greeted by a suede steering wheel and some of the best seats in any car. The seats are deep and have big bolsters to hold you in, and are covered in the same suede as the steering wheel that feels so great to the touch. The driving position is perfect and everything is where it should be for a serious driver.
Our only complaints involve the dated-feeling infotainment screen and the instrument cluster. The infotainment screen has everything you need including Apple CarPlay, but it reminds you that this car came out a long time ago. The instrument cluster is a bit busy, with a lot of graphics that are hard to see. We would prefer a cleaner cluster with simple white-on-black dials rather than things like the burgundy on black boost gauge that is hard to read when you are trying to focus on driving.
Driving is where the Type R shines. The Limited Edition has the same 306 hp output as the other FK8 Type R’s and the 2.0-liter four cylinder turbocharged engine is one of the sweetest engines around. There is a small delay when you floor it, but boost quickly builds up to 23 psi and you will see 306 hp at 6,500 rpm and a redline at 7,000 rpm. The engine is mated to a six-speed manual transmission with perfectly selected ratios that match the power train. A final drive ratio of 4.11 ensures that there is adequate torque at most speeds and the lightweight single-mass flywheel means that the engine responds quickly and feels as nimble as the chassis. The standard limited-slip differential plants the power down well despite the high power level. The Civic is so much fun to drive because you always feel full of confidence and it responds to your inputs instantly.
New suspension and steering tuning have made the car even more fun to drive. The dual-axis MacPherson strut front suspension is revolutionary because it has made torque steer a distant memory. The multilink rear suspension makes sure that the rear tires are at the right angle at all times, and a 29 mm front antiroll bar and a 20.5 mm rear bar reduce lean in corners. Steering is sharp at 2.1 turns lock to lock and is a real benefit when driving on twisty canyon roads. The 245/30-20 Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires provide an incredible amount of grip, and the 13.8-inch two-piece front brake rotors and four-piston Brembo calipers never overheat despite aggressive driving. The result is a car that has broken track records for front-wheel-drive cars at tracks like the Nurburgring and Suzuka.
When one looks at the Civic Type R specifications, it looks like many other sports cars. What sets the Civic apart is how well everything works together. The transmission, shifter and the engine are perfectly matched. They sound and feel amazing. You end up shifting, not because you have to, but because it feels good to do so. The suspension provides great balance and grip, but the difference is that the chassis feels so great that you know what the tires are doing, so you feel confident about pushing. It rewards a good driver, which brings a smile to your face.
The Type R is not cheap, but it is a bargain for the amount of engineering that has gone into the car. Our car retailed for $44,990, but unfortunately all examples have already been sold. Most people will undoubtedly buy them and resell them for a huge profit. It is not known what the next generation Type R will be like, but everything is getting bigger and more computerized, so this could be the last of the great ones.
|Engine:||Turbocharged 2.0-liter DOHC VTEC|
|Horsepower:||306 @ 6,500 rpm|
|Torque:||295 @ 2,500 rpm|
|Front Suspension:||McPherson Strut|
|Curb Weight:||3,071 lbs.|