Honda Civic Type R — Prepare to have fun

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

We've been fans of the Si performance version of the mainstream Honda Civic for years. With more horsepower than the standard garden variety Civic and with handling and corning credentials that put it in the extremely fun-to-drive category, what is not to love? This has been for decades the Civic to buy.

And it still is very much available — and desirable — with 205 horsepower, slot-car-like handling, and an affordable starting price of $24,990. While the Si has been a good alternative to the Focus ST and Volkswagen Golf GTI, in recent years the Si has been trumped in North America by the high-energy Ford Focus RS hatchback (350 horsepower), Volkswagen Golf R hatchback (292 horsepower), and Subaru WRX STI sedan (305 horsepower).

Honda has said enough — no longer willing to taking a backseat to the competition. To make good on its intentions, Honda has finally brought the Type R Civic to North America after 20 years on the market in Europe. Fans of this incredible hot hatch are the clear winners. The Type R arrived as a 2017 model in June and has returned this fall as a 2018 model complete with a 2.0-liter direct-injected 306 horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine making 295 pound-feet of torque — the most powerful Honda ever sold in America .

The Type R is available in one fully equipped trim with a short-throw 6-speed manual transmission, limited slip differential, Adaptive Damper System and an ingenious dual-axis strut front suspension design that virtually eliminates torque steer. It goes out the door for a bargain basement price of $34,775.

Available only as a four-door hatchback, the Type R is nothing short of pure joy for the person who relishes a compact car that will comfortably seat four complete with track-bred aerodynamics, massive rear spoiler, functional hood scoop, 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.

The Type R interior comes complete with 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 front 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 summer sun. But what really stood out for us was the black interior that includes red accents on the instrument panel, steering wheel grips, red stitching, and carbon-look trim.

While styling certainly sets the Type R apart from other Civics the real difference is in the driving. This Civic is simply a joy behind the wheel. It's a blast to drive from its massive delivery of instant power with no turbo lag, 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. Carving up our usual “back-road” test track was awe-inspiring.

Note, the Type R is not just about speed or road-holding ability, but also straight ahead quickness. Shift at the right time and 0-to-60 can be accomplished in 4.9 seconds and a quarter-mile can be reached in 13.5 seconds at 108 mph.

If you need the rumble that accompanies a big V-8, you might be disappointed. Despite its mellifluous exhaust burbles and
the triple exhaust pipes, the Type-R is surprisingly quiet, even in its selectable “R+ mode.

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.

The Type R shatters the perception that all Civics are conservative, comfortable and boring. Be ready to leave your perceptions behind when slipping behind the wheel. You will discover the wow factor is through the roof.

Base price: $34,778; as driven, $34,778
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 306 @ 6,500 rpm
Torque: 295 foot-pounds @ 2,500 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Drive: front wheel
Seating: 2/2
Wheelbase: 106.3 inches
Length: 179.4 inches
Curb weight: 3,117 pounds
Turning circleL 39.5 feet
Luggage capacity: 25.7 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 46.2 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 12.4 gallons (premium)
EPA rating: 22 city, 28 highway, 25 combined
0-60: 4.9 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Ford Focus RS, Volkswagen Golf R, Subaru WRX STI

The Good
• Handles like a slot car
• Outstanding performance
• Can hold a lot of cargo
• Excellent fuel economy

The Bad
• Bad boy racer look with big wing

The Ugly
• Hard to find on dealer lots

Jim Preuter contributed to this review