2018 Honda Civic Type R

PHOENIX — The Honda Civic is one of the most popular, affordable, reliable and best resale value cars one could hope to purchase. It’s also one of the most staid, sedate and uninspiring vehicles one could drive. Even Honda acknowledged that Civic had grown boring and placid over the years.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, except it was falling behind competitors like the Hyundai Elantra, Mazda 3 and Volkswagen Golf when it came to driving enjoyment, advanced engines, and technology and product offerings.

As a result, Honda completely redesigned the Civic for 2016 with a striking new exterior styling, new engines, and an announcement that new Si and wild-and-crazy high-performance Type-R performance variants were on the way.

Fast forward to 2017 and the arrival of the 306-horsepower turbocharged Type R; it’s a very big deal. I got the chance to spend a week behind the wheel and I’m happy to report that it’s wickedly fantastic to drive and will set your heart pounding just looking at it parked in the driveway.

It took Honda 20 years to bring the Civic Type R to the United States, having previously been sold in Europe and Asia. Available only as a four-door hatchback with a manual six-speed transmission, one could completely enjoy it on looks alone — track-bred aerodynamics, massive rear spoiler, functional hood scoop, low profile, red caliper Brembo brakes, triple outlet center sport exhaust, and wide front and rear fenders that cover the performance black 20-inch wheels.

A black grille with unique red and chrome Honda and Type R badges accent the LED headlights and aggressive air inlets. A lower front spoiler with red edge trim further distinguishes the Type R from other Civic trim levels.

Inside, the interior is not to be confused with the standard-issue Civic. From the inside doors to the heavily bolstered racing style front seats, flat-bottom steering wheel and red-themed instrumentation, it’s fully modern with all the features and creature comforts one could hope for. Larger drivers will likely find the race-inspired form-fitting fronts seats too narrow for a comfortable fit.

Other key interior features are the seven-inch driver information interface, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, push-button start, hill start assist, walk away door locking and smartphone-powered GPS navigation and voice-controlled search capabilities.

There are also racing-inspired sport pedals and a solid aluminum shift knob that, while attractive, will clearly burn your hand after sitting in the hot Arizona summer sun. But what really stood out for us was the black interior with red accents on the instrument panel, steering wheel grips seat inserts, red stitching, and carbon-look trim.

Under the aluminum hood is the most powerful engine ever offered in a Honda production vehicle in America. The Type-R’s 2.0-liter turbocharged engine puts out 306 horsepower and 295 lb. ft. of torque. With a top speed of 170 mph, it’s the fastest Honda production vehicle ever in the U.S. The six-speed short-throw manual transmission includes rev-matching downshifts delivered through the front-wheel-drive set up.

On the road, the Civic is a blast to drive, from its massive delivery of instant power with no turbo lag whatsoever, to the effortless handling on curves and corners. What’s more, the rev-matching feature allows for quicker downshifts during aggressive braking when coming into a tight corner. You can turn the feature off, but why? The system is butter smooth, making the drive so much more fun.

Despite the triple exhaust pipes, the Type-R is surprisingly quiet, even in its selectable “R+” mode. Unlike the Ford Focus RS that artificially delivers exhaust notes into the cabin through speakers, the Civic could deliver more mellifluous exhaust burbles.

While it seems clear Honda’s priority was to build a track car, don’t let the Type-R’s performance creds fool you into thinking it wouldn’t be just as enjoyable as a daily driver. It’s much more refined than competitors like the Ford Focus RS or the Subaru WRX STi. It’s on road manners will surprise you; you’ll be just as pleased driving it on a road trip as you will at the track.

The Type-R comes fully equipped and the only decision you need make is choosing one of the five available colors. We really liked it in the Championship White, with red/black suede effect interior. That’s the only interior color option, regardless of exterior color choice.

With an all-in price at $34,775 including destination, it undercuts rivals like the Ford Focus RS, Subaru WRX STi and Volkswagen Golf R by thousands of dollars while giving up virtually nothing in terms of performance, functionality, and build quality.

Clearly the design and engineering team at Honda has solved the Civic’s staid, uninspiring, sedate and boring perception. This car rocks!

Vital Stats
Base Price: $33,900
Price as Tested: $34,775
Fuel Economy: 22-mpg City – 28-mpg Highway
Engine: 2.0-Liter turbocharged 4-cyl
Horsepower: 306-hp
Seating: 5
Safety Crash Test Results: IIHS: Good

Competes With
Ford Focus RS
Subaru WRS STi
Volkswagen Golf R

Fab Features
Awesome “track ready” performance driving
Spectacular amounts of fun for under $35,000
Head-turning good looks

— Jim Prueter