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If you know your performance machinery, you know that Honda’s Type R badge is deservedly held in high esteem. Sure, the NSX is the pinnacle of Honda, but the Type R has long shown the company can also bring performance to the people.
After a prolonged gestation period, the Type R badge has resurfaced in Australia, affixed to the rear end of the 10th-generation Civic. Does it hold true to the values of the Type R philosophy of a ‘well engineered but exciting driving experience’, or has it morphed into something different?
|Honda Civic 2017: Type R|
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
‘Interesting’ is the word to describe the absolutely overt nature of the Civic Type R exterior. It looks like Speed Racer’s Mach 5 that’s been attacked by a group of 10-year-old car fiends with access to fibreglass moulds, such is the intensity of the bumps, lumps, swoops and curves that festoon this wild machine.
It’s 78mm wider than a stock Civic and 38mm wider, too, which comes across when the Type R hits the road.
While the front end is reasonably low key, things get loose and wild around the sides and back, with a World Time Attack-esque rear wing, exaggerated side skirts and overfenders and not two, but three exhaust outlets. The centre pipe, by the way, is there to increase noise levels.
This reviewer reckons it looks pretty awesome, offering a genuine road presence that puts even the overt Focus RS in the shade. Others, though, aren’t as sold, suggesting the car’s mature performance is spoiled by the street-racer vibe.
Inside is a similar story, with a red-themed trim spreading across the dash and steering wheel, and onto the deeply sculpted sports seats –custom-made Honda units that save 5kg each over the Recaros in the previous Type R – and even around the air vents.
The driver’s seat is the focus of the Civic, and from there it’s fantastic. The chunky steering wheel is dimpled to cup fingers and thumb, the narrow-gated shifter falls easily to hand and the deep buckets are both supportive and comfortable… although they could be mounted even lower in the car.
The rear offers a surprising amount of head room, given the shape of the car, but it needs the cooperation of the front-seat passengers to give back seaters enough knee and foot room. There are ISOFIX points for two seats, as well.
Two cup holders are part of an oddly shaped lidless bin between the front seats, and bottles will fit in all four doors. Rear seaters miss out on cupholders and USB points, although there is one in the centre bin that can be used if needed.
At 414 litres, the boot area is the same as the civilian Civic's, and 764 litres with the seats down, even despite the extra exhaust and suspension gubbins under the floor. The reason? No room for even a space-saver spare, and a can of sealant is your only get-out-of-jail card.
The biggest letdown in a practicality sense is the multimedia system – it’s well off the pace when compared to other products in the segment. It’s not intuitive, the buttons are too small, there are far too many menus and its performance during our test was suboptimal at best.
Coming in at $50,990, the Civic Type R – code-named FK8 - drops into a ferocious premium hot hatch stoush that includes the likes of the price-matching Ford Focus RS and the $1000 dearer Volkswagen Golf R Grid. Also entering the fray are the Peugeot 308 GTI and the incoming Renault Megane RS, not to mention the top-spec Hyundai i30 N.
The four-door Type R wants for little in the way of standard kit, offering up a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, six-speed manual gearbox, helical limited slip diff, Brembo front brakes, 20-inch rims and adaptive dampers supplied as standard.
Inside, the Civic is also well stacked, with Honda-built racing bucket seats, a digital dash that offers a shift-light function as well as a throttle-position indicator and other performance parameters, auto lights and wipers, and a machined alloy shift knob that’s a big nod towards the fifth-generation Type R.
A rev-matching function (thankfully switch-offable for purists) helps with downshifting, while a three-stage drive mode selector can give you a car that’s calm or more crazed at the flick of a switch.
It misses out on sat nav, but it does incorporate Apple CarPlay and Android Auto into its seven-inch touchscreen multimedia infotainment system.
There’s also a comprehensive set of driver aids packaged under the Honda Sensing badge, giving the Type R features like AEB, adaptive cruise control and lane-departure warning, while LED lighting appears front and back.
So stacked, in fact, is the Type R that Honda only offers metallic or pearl paint as an option, at $575. Red is free, but grey, blue, black or the famed Championship White come at a cost.
Honda’s K20C1 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine was revealed to the world in 2013, before hitting the road in 2015 under the bonnet of the fourth-generation Civic Type R (we didn’t get that one in Australia).
The company is best known for its nat-atmo shriekers, but it’s hard to argue with a 400Nm torque curve that kicks in between 2500 and 4500rpm.
Its 228kW output is actually slightly down on overseas numbers, thanks to a retune for 95 RON fuel. Honda says its 5.7-second 0-100km/h time is the same, despite the power drop.
Only one gearbox is offered – an uprated version of the regular Civic’s six-speed manual, with marginally taller third, fourth and fifth gears, a lightened flywheel on one end and a helical LSD at the other. Clutch feel is excellent, and the shift action is tight and crisp.
It has a 47-litre fuel tank, it’s been tuned to accept 95 octane fuel. Oh, and it won’t gain back that missing power by using 98 octane, sadly.
At a shade under 1400kg (about 70kg heavier than a regular Civic RS), the fifth-gen Type R is about 350kg heavier than the 1997 Civic Type R… but it’s a handy 100kW more powerful at 228kW, not to mention 250Nm to the good at 400Nm.
It’s not a porker by hot-hatch standards, though, and that torque piles in hot and strong right around 3000rpm. It makes for a very different driving experience than previous Type Rs, which relied on screamingly high revs to make power.
The Civic’s platform was always designed around the eventual arrival of a Type R, and a multilink rear end makes a welcome return to the Type R. Combined with a long wheelbase for a hatch, as well as specially designed front suspension that limits torque steer and tramlining, the Civic Type R is a faithful and willing companion, rather than an outright lunatic.
The sheer amount of physical grip from huge 245mm wide tyres makes for eye-opening corner-entry speeds, and the rear end simply hunkers down and plays along.
The car has three drive modes – Comfort, Sport and R+ - which adjust all sorts of parameters including throttle sensitivity, steering weight and the stiffness of the dampers.
To be honest, we didn’t notice a great deal of difference between the top two modes, but the Comfort setting gave the Type R a genuinely civil edge, spoiled only by excessive tyre and wind roar at even moderate speeds.
A blast around Baskerville circuit in Tasmania revealed more of the Type R’s cooperative, neutral nature.
It would have been nice to see an Individual mode, giving the driver the option, for example, to wind the dampers down to Comfort for more grip in rougher conditions, but keep the powertrain in Sport.
A blast around Baskerville circuit in Tasmania revealed more of the Type R’s cooperative, neutral nature and the depths of that amazing front-end grip.
Big four-piston Brembo brakes on 350mm hatted front rotors stood up to the assault reasonably well, but if it was our car, we’d upgrade the pads and brake fluid to more hardy items if we were taking it to the track regularly.
The engine can be caught off boost under 3500rpm at times, so in that respect it’s still like the old Type Rs; give ’em revs and they’ll love you forever.
It could also stand to be a bit more overt with its exhaust noise. A bi-modal system, for example, that emits pops, crackles and bangs on throttle overrun would suit it perfectly.
In all, the Type R is an absolute barrel of monkeys to punt at speed, and it doesn’t punish you when you go to drive home again.
5 years / unlimited km warranty
It’s taken a while to get here, and its wild looks may put some people off, but make no mistake, the Type R fits in perfectly with the current crop of high-performance hot hatches you can buy now, and those that are coming our way.
It’s not perfect, but what is most striking after our first try is just how well Honda has balanced performance against real-world requirements. It’s a real Type R, all right.
|VTi||1.8L, ULP, CVT AUTO||$12,800 – 18,590||2017 Honda Civic 2017 VTi Pricing and Specs|
|VTi-S||1.8L, ULP, CVT AUTO||$14,400 – 20,240||2017 Honda Civic 2017 VTi-S Pricing and Specs|
|VTi-S||1.8L, PULP, 6 SP MAN||$11,800 – 17,270||2017 Honda Civic 2017 VTi-S Pricing and Specs|
|VTi-L||1.5L, ULP, CVT AUTO||$16,500 – 22,990||2017 Honda Civic 2017 VTi-L Pricing and Specs|
|Price and features||8|
|Engine & trans||8|