Are you an extrovert?
Do you like being the center of attention?
Do you like answering lots of questions from people you don’t know?
Then we have the car for you.
The Honda Civic Type R.
It’s R turn.
While Type R Honda models have been the epitome of performance for the brand elsewhere, Honda and Acura have been extremely stingy bringing any to the U.S. When the new Civic bowed, a promise that the lineup would include the first ever U.S. Civic Type R got enthusiasts all fizzy with excitement.
Sparkling or flat?
Not everyone likes bright and bold in their performance car, but we certainly had no problem with our Type R. Which is good, because in Rallye Red, you’re going to attract attention. But that’s just the start. On top of the Civic’s boy-racer looks are real racer-type stuff, including roof-mounted vortex generators, a massive rear spoiler, an underbody spoiler kit, center-mounted triple outlet exhaust, LED headlights, fog lights and taillights. All this hunkered over black 20-inch alloys.
The looks snap heads. From those in the know, and even those who don’t. Civic fans are notably thrilled. You also find every hotted-up import, muscle car, and sports car checking you out – and a few wanting to see what you got. So, this is a car that is best suited to those with some self-restraint, or have a judge in the family.
It’s such an amazing contrast to something like a VW Golf R, which is low key – you’d scarcely know it from other Golfs or GTI’s. You decide how you want to roll.
Inside is all about the business of driving. It starts with some of the most comfortable sport seats you’ll find in any car. They look like racing buckets with cutouts for harnesses, but they’re surprisingly comfy. You need to clear the lower cushion bolsters and plop down, but then it’s a perfect blend of support and padding in all the right places.
A fat, leather-wrapped wheel with red leather inserts, an aluminum shift knob (which does get burning hot in the sun!), sport pedals, and a nice numbered plaque, a few other Type R badges around the interior let you know you bought the big boy.
After that, the interior will be familiar to anyone who’s been in the latest generation Civic.
Well, make that a loaded Civic, with dual-zone climate control, 7-inch display touch screen, 12-speaker, 540-watt premium audio system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Navigation, Bluetooth Streaming and Pandora capability. There’s also some driving focused gear, including a gear position indicator and G-Force gauge.
Along with the niceties that make the Type R a usable daily driver is the fact that it’s a hatchback (take that, WRX!) with easy-folding rear seats and a roomy cargo area – perfect for everything from surfboards to an extra set of wheels and tires for the track.
Did you say take it to the track?
Why yes, yes, we did! Actually, we’d have to say the Type R hits the sweet spot where you can enjoy much of its performance on the street, but also have an impressive track day car if you’re into that sort of thing.
It starts with the heart of the matter – a turbocharged 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder pumping out a mammoth 306 hp, and equally stout 295 lb-ft of torque at just 2500 rpm. Combined with a 6-speed manual – sorry no auto available here – and the super civic hits 60 mph in just about 5 seconds. As impressive as that is, it is also almost entirely devoid of torque steer (where it wants to pull under power), long a problem with high-powered front-wheel drive vehicles.
It’s a happy engine, pulling with surprisingly civilized exhaust sounds – some may want a more obnoxious set of pipes, and we’re sure they’ll be out there – and if it lacks any of the singing zingy quality of old V-TEC powerplants, it makes up for it with power that’s always on tap. And for added fun, the system provides rev-matching – super smooth on downshifts – so you’re always shifting like a pro.
But that’s just the beginning of the Type R’s show. Ride quality is superb; very comfy in Normal mode, and firm but not harsh in Sport, where we kept it most of the time. While there is an R-mode, we found that it stiffened up the steering so much it was nearly unusable on the street. Perhaps it would work better on the track, where you don’t need to move the wheel as much. Or we need to work our arms more at the gym…
Even in Sport mode, the handling is phenomenal, with superbly precise steering, massive amounts of cornering grip, and a chassis that gobbles up the bumps to keep you on your desired line. Call for big chunks of power exiting a turn and a helical limited slip serves up power without complaint. Push it hard on your favorite road and It feels every inch the thoroughbred that it is.
We’d also point out that although this is a serious driver’s weapon, the Type R would not be a handful for less-experienced enthusiasts, this is a friendly, engaging drive that anyone can enjoy. Hey, it’s a Civic.
Hey, it’s priced like a Civic, right?
Welcome to the dark side, young Padawan. While the Type R is reasonably priced, high demand has made the stories of dealers charging ridiculous markups – especially in urban areas – unfortunately common. Perhaps if you found a dealer, in a galaxy far, far, away….
But let’s run the numbers, anyway – and hope the hysteria calms down. While a Civic Hatchback starts at $20,050, and a Civic Si Sedan (an excellent choice if you don’t need the commitment of a Type R) is just $24,100, the Civic Type R starts at $34,100. And it’s pretty much loaded right there.
And if you can find one at that price, we’d say it’s a bargain. While a loaded GTI runs $35,920, you’ll need a Golf R to keep up with the Civic R, and it rings in at $40,635. And a Subie WRX STI Limited runs $40,895.
Worth the wait
If you’ve lusted after a Civic Type R, your patience has been rewarded.
Outside of something like an NSX, this is the most awesome drive we’ve ever had that wears that the Honda/Acura badge.
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.