Well, boys and girls, it’s finally here. The new Honda Civic Type R, which was first revealed at the 2016 Paris Motor Show, has finally hit dealer showrooms and is on sale now in the U.S. of A. 2017 marks the 5th generation of the Type R variant of the Honda Civic and the 10th generation overall for the Civic, which has been in continuous production since 1972.
A LITTLE HISTORY LESSON…
The original Honda Civic made its debut on July 11th, 1972 (as a 1973 model), replacing the N600 as the subcompact economy entry in Honda’s vehicle lineup. It was an immediate hit right out of the box in its native Japan, overtaking its domestic rivals from Nissan and Toyota. The Civic also achieved international success in both England and the United States as it specifically catered to motorists who were affected by the 1973 Oil Crisis and had grown jaded of the increasing banality of traditional, full-sized land barges. The Civic’s mass appeal as an inexpensive, fuel-friendly, and reliable (albeit, boring and uninspired) commuter car, combined with Honda’s growing reputation for hardiness, legions of Civic aficionados and Honda brand loyalists were formed as a result. In 1997, Honda’s famed Type R performance treatment was finally applied to the Civic, granting the little economy car to oin the legendary NSX supercar, DC2 and DC5 Integra, and CH/CL Accord in the Honda Type R stable of high-performance vehicles. The Honda Civic Type R remained unavailable in the North American market since its initial release but now, just in time for the first Civic Type R’s 20th anniversary, the newest iteration of the Civic Type R has finally made its way to American shores to do battle against other performance-oriented “hot hatches” such as the Volkswagen Golf R and the Ford Focus RS.
SO, WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL?
The Type R badge indicates the ultimate level of Honda-bred factory performance. Akin to BMW’s M-Sport, Mercedes-AMG, the Lexus F Sport brand, and (to a lesser degree) Cadillac V-Series and the Chevrolet SS designation, Honda’s Type R incorporates advanced factory modifications to production cars in the name of performance. Optimal engine tuning and suspension setup, weight reduction, and enhanced braking and handling capabilities are the ingredients that go into breeding a Honda car that’s worthy enough to wear the exclusive red Honda H emblem. The Honda Civic Type R was already long available in the Japanese Domestic (JDM) and European markets, but was always restricted from entering the North American market. Reasons for this include the differences in structural architecture for North American-spec and the Japanese/European versions, US government-imposed crash safety, emissions, and fuel-economy regulations, and possibly an effort by Honda themselves to eliminate any potential product overlap with their own Acura brand. To compensate for their own refusal to sell the Civic Type R in North America, Honda positioned the Si (Sport Injected) trim level (which began with the 1985 Civic CRX) over time to incorporate an increasing blend of performance and comfort amenities, but not to Acura-esque levels. That’s not to say that the Sis were Zonk prizes. Sis have went on to amass their own devoted following across the worldwide Tuner landscape. But for the JDM enthusiast in America, the Civic Type R remained an unattainable treasure, much like the Australian-only duo of the FPV GT-F and HSV GTSR for Muscle Car fans.
Unlike Honda Civics of the past, the current 10th generation now utilizes a single globalized platform on which it is built. The term ‘globalized platform’ means that a specific model (or models) built in multiple factories across the world use the same architecture as opposed to separate, regionalized constructs. In the case of the Honda Civic, they’ll all have the same bones, regardless of whether they come from Canada, the US, or the UK. The Honda of the UK Manufacturing plant in Swindon, Wiltshire is the birthplace of the new Type R, as well as all 10th generation Civic hatchbacks and the Civic-based CR-V compact crossover SUV.
Appearance-wise, the 10th generation Honda Civic (also known as FC/FK) is a polarizing vehicle. It’s one of those ‘love it or hate it’-type designs that attracts as strongly as it repels; a stark contrast to the comparatively sedate and almost-comatose styling of the 8th and 9th generations from 2005 to 2016. Depending on your point of view, the Type R either builds upon or grossly exaggerates Honda’s current design philosophy which is clearly inspired by the reborn NSX. The chrome brightwork found on the base model’s grille and window trim is replaced with solid black accents. REAL carbon fibre—not the fake stuff that can be bought in THAT AISLE at THAT STORE—can be found as it makes up the side skirts, front splitter, and that cartoonishly ridiculous-looking rear spoiler that, according to Honda, actually serves an aerodynamic purpose. There’s even a finned row of vortex generators on the roof that smooths airflow coming out the back, a functional inlet scoop on the new aluminum hood to extract engine bay heat while adding front downforce, functional front bumper air curtains and front side fender vents, new widened fender flares that coincide with the larger 20” black alloy wheels, and topped off with a questionable triple tailpipe exhaust (more on that one, later). The interior is typical FC/FK Honda Civic fare, save for all-new racing-style front bucket seats, Alcantara faux suede inserts along the interior touchpoint, and the juvenile red accents and carbon fibre-look trim that’s all part of the trademark Type R look. Exterior paint colors include Crystal Black Pearl, Rallye Red, Aegean Blue Metallic, Polished Metal Metallic, and Championship White; a Honda hallmark since 1992. And, of course, that iconic red Honda H badge.
We’ve discussed this skin. Now, let’s talk about the guts. This is what separates the Type R from lesser Civic models. In addition to the structural improvements Honda incorporated into the FC/FK Civic in the name of smooth airflow and chassis rigidity, the Type R replaces the entire front end suspension with extensive use of lightweight aluminum and a new system called Dual-Axis. Like GM’s HiPer Strut and Ford’s RevoKnuckle, the Dual-Axis front suspension is designed to help quell the bane of wrong-wheel drive vehicles: torque steer. Front-end twist is suppressed while fortifying ability and steering feel. Out back, the multi-link rear suspension that replaces the previous torsion beam (dead axle) improves ride quality and at-speed stability. 20” black alloy wheels with 245 width tires grip the road while the bespoke Brembo high-performance brake setup brings it all to a dead stop. Integrated brake ducts from the front end to the wheel wells prevent the Brembos from overheating. The standard Civic’s electric power steering has been retuned and revised with a new variable ratio to deliver a more direct steering feel and response. An electronic adaptive suspension features G-sensors and four-wheel continuously variable electromagnetic dampers while Honda’s optimized Agile Handling Assist stability program keeps the Civic Type R planted in high-speed turns, plus adds selectable driving modes to suit the driver’s preference. Under the hood resides the heart of the Type R; the 2.0L VTEC TURBO K-series engine named K20C1, the first Honda Type R engine to be built in America. Churning out an unbelievable 306 horsepower and 295 pound feet of torque, this little 4-cylinder—with the help of a massive turbocharger and other assorted engine programming hocus pocus—makes more power than many V6 engines and some V8s from not too long ago. An air-to-air intercooler, 2-piece water-cooled cylinder head manifold, and internal cooling channels in the engine block keep rising temperatures in check. Power is delivered VIA a 6-speed manual transmission featuring a helical limited slip front differential and an auxiliary transmission oil cooler. A lightened flywheel and special gear ratio optimized for performance connects the driver to the machine with greater throttle response and speed control. Spent gasses are sent through the previously-mentioned custom triple-exit exhaust that terminates at the rear of the vehicle and placed within the center of the rear diffuser. The two main pipes expel exhaust fumes while the smaller center pipe controls the tone and volume of the exhaust. It works in a similar fashion to cutouts and the active butterfly valves, only using exhaust gas pressure versus electronically-controlled solenoids.
Together, this formula of new sheetmetal, new bones, new guts, and new brain(s) is what gives the Honda Civic Type R the credentials to sit atop the Type R ladder as the most powerful model in all of the marque’s storied history.
By now, most auto rags and every fanboy on the Internet has waxed poetic about the Civic Type R’s record-setting lap time of 7:43.80 at the Nürburgring Nordschleife. That’s faster than some of the world’s most decorated entries in the upper echelon of performance, including the Porsche 911 GT3, Audi R8, Pagani Zonda S, Ferrari 599, and the Lamborghini Murciélago LP640. Perhaps, most shocking of all, is that this feat was accomplished through the front wheels which, typically, is not an ideal drivetrain layout for true performance cars. Some of the world’s greatest supercars were beaten by a daily beater on the grandest stage of them all, the “Green Hell” of Germany’s Nürburgring Nordschleife. But what does that mean in the real world of daily commuting to and from work, going to the grocery store to pick up milk and eggs, or driving across state lines to spend a weekend with the relatives? Absolutely nothing. Sure, the stats all look good on paper and you’re bound to stir up some kind of pointless argument in the comments section of any car video on YouTube, but in all reality, it means nothing.
Remember: this is a still just a daily commuter, not a full-blown race car. It’s purpose is to live everyday life, not to compete against GTS Aston Martins, GT Le Mans Ferraris, and Daytona Prototypes on the banks and infield twisties of the Daytona International Speedway sports course. The 2018 Honda Civic Type R stickers for around $35,000. That is, of course, after you eliminate all those greedy, dishonest, bloodsucking dealerships who have the gall to charge up to an 80% premium over the MSRP.
$35,000 can buy you one of the most highly-anticipated new car releases in the past 10 years and a long-desired model that was never-before offered for sale in the United States. In comparison, the base Civic sedan starts at $18,840. The coupe, oddly enough, commands a 2.17% increase over the sedan for a base price of $19,250. The hatchback tops the Honda Civic hierarchy for a starting price of $19,900. Start adding options and moving up the list of available options packages and the price balloons up into the neighborhood of over $30,000. $5,000 more nets you the Type R. That’s quite a bit of coin for what is, at its very core, a basic front-wheel drive economy car. If looking at price alone, $35,000 can let you drive home in your choice of a new, 2018 base model Audi A3, BMW 3-Series, Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class, Cadillac ATS, or Infiniti Q50—all of which carry higher brand prestige and curb appeal than the lowly Honda Civic. On the other hand, absolutely NONE of them offer anywhere near the amount of raw power as the Civic Type R. None of them boast the same blend of performance and practicality as the Civic Type R, and none of them will be as cheap and inexpensive to maintain as the Civic Type R.
If you’re cross-shopping the direct competition, the top-dog Ford Focus RS commands a $2,000 upcharge against the Civic Type R. Hefty, but what you’re getting for the money is best-in-class power in an overall superior performing machine that, depending on your personal preferences, might be just a bit too extreme and downright violent for the everyday commute. The 2017 Volkswagen Golf R asks for only $600 over the Civic Type R, but offers legendary German chassis engineering and and the only dual-clutch DSG transmission of the lot while the current Subaru WRX STi (only $200 more than the Civic Type R) carries Subaru’s reputation for diehard reliability and is also the only competitor to feature the unique flat “boxer” engine design. The Focus RS, Golf R, and WRX STi all come standard with all-wheel-drive while the Civic Type R has to make due with putting its power through the same set of wheels that also steer the car. Ford and Volkswagen have available two lesser variants of their high-performance hatchbacks that also compete in the same segment as their beefier brethren; the Focus ST and Golf GTI, respectively. Both models are significantly less pricier than the Honda Civic Type R, nearly $10,000 less, but are also far less capable than the Honda and, at this point, probably far less desirable.
At the end of the day, it’s up to you, to decide what’s right for you and what you’re in the market to buy. Not your friends, not the musings of some self-absorbed writer in an overblown manufacturer-sponsored advertisement in any of the big name car magazines, not what the anonymous basement dwellers and social media trolls comment and post about on the Internet. It’s up to you, the shopper. The Honda Civic Type R is an automotive engineering marvel; a marriage made in Heaven between Japanese engineering and English-style sport driving dynamics, and a gift to the JDM Honda fans who kept the faith for so long while others across the globe got to enjoy what was never before accessible until now. Try one out for yourself and you be the judge. Tanoshinde kudasai, mates!