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Honda Civic Type R 2021 review

The Honda Civic Type R was already a wild child, but its facelift has made it even wilder.
EXPERT RATING
8.3
The Honda Civic Type R is the type of hot hatch you don't forget. On looks alone, it's unforgettable, but if you're lucky enough to get behind the wheel, you're in for a memorable experience that's just been made even better thanks to a mid-life facelift.

Hot hatches are great on so many levels, with their high performance and relative affordability making for a winning combination for the mainstream enthusiast.

But few are more divisive than the Honda Civic Type R due its wild styling, which is a shame because it arguably sets the benchmark for its segment.

But with the 10th-generation model having been on sale for more than three years now, it’s time for its mid-life update. Has the breed been improved? Read on to find out.

Honda Civic 2021: Type R
Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency8.8L/100km
Seating4 seats
Price from$54,990

Is there anything interesting about its design?   10/10

Let’s get straight to the point: the Type R isn’t for everyone, and that’s got nothing to do with how it drives, because if it did, (spoiler alert) everyone would buy one.

Instead, the Type R divides opinion because of how it looks. Needless to say, it’s a wild child and the very definition of ‘boy racer.’ If you ask me, it’s love at first sight, but there’s a good chance you don’t agree.

Either way, Honda has given the Type R’s exterior a few tweaks, but they don’t make it stand out in a crowd any less. In fact, they give it even more of an edge – with functionality in mind.

Our test car was finished in 'Racing Blue', which costs an extra $650. Our test car was finished in 'Racing Blue', which costs an extra $650.

For example, the larger grille and its thinner beam optimise engine cooling, with the combination delivering a 13 per cent larger air intake, while a tweaked radiator core also helps to reduce coolant temperature by up to 10 per cent in high-demand scenarios.

While these changes actually reduce front downforce by a small amount, the deficit is countered by a redesign of the front air dam, which is slightly deeper and now features ribbed sections to create negative pressure on the tyres.

The larger grille helps with engine cooling. The larger grille helps with engine cooling.

Other design alterations include symmetrical fog light surrounds with smooth surfaces and body-colour blades, a feature that’s replicated on the rear bumper.

Otherwise, it’s business as usual, meaning you get LED headlights, daytime running lights and fog lights, as well as a functional bonnet scoop and a splitter up front.

Around the side, black 20-inch alloy wheels wrapped in 245/30 tyres are linked by the prominent side skirts, while the red of the front four-piston Brembo brake calipers filters through.

The Type R wears 20-inch alloy wheels. The Type R wears 20-inch alloy wheels.

However, all eyes will be drawn to the rear, where the huge wing spoiler is complemented by vortex generators at the edge of the roof. Or perhaps it’s the centralised triple exhaust tailpipes sitting within the diffuser that will draw the most attention?

And if you really want to make the exterior pop, opt for searing 'Racing Blue' (as seen on our test vehicle), which has joined 'Rally Red', 'Crystal Black' and 'Championship White' as paintwork options. Worth noting Rally Red is the only colour to not command a $650 premium.

The Civic's rear draws most of the attention because of the huge wing spoiler. The Civic's rear draws most of the attention because of the huge wing spoiler.

Inside, the Type R now has a black/red Alcantara-trimmed flat-bottom sports steering wheel. A new shift lever includes a teardrop-style alloy knob on top and black Alcantara boot at its base. A 90g internal counterweight has been added to the former for better feel and accuracy.

An updated but undersized 7.0-inch touchscreen multimedia system is also present, with physical shortcut buttons and a volume control knob now part of the package, making for much improved usability, even if overall functionality is still somewhat limited.

Black and red Alcantara is spread throughout the cabin. Black and red Alcantara is spread throughout the cabin.

That said, for those that are keen to keep track of their driving data, new 'LogR' software is onboard, with it able to monitor performance, log lap times and score drive behaviour. We did mention ‘boy racer’ earlier, didn’t we?

Elsewhere, it’s pretty much the Type R we know and love, with red/black Alcantara upholstery covering the body-hugging front sports seats, which have integrated headrests as well as matt carbon-fibre trim on their backs, a highlight that’s also used on the dash.

A very useful and large multifunction display is positioned ahead of the driver, between the oil-temperature and fuel-level readings, while alloy sports pedals are at your disposal below.

A large multifunction display is positioned ahead of the driver. A large multifunction display is positioned ahead of the driver.

But before any driving takes place, make sure all passengers are wearing their red seatbelts, with those in the rear sitting on a two-seat bench (yep, the Type R a four-seater), which is upholstered in black cloth with red stitching.

The Type R certainly feels more special than a regular Civic, with red accents featuring throughout, and black Alcantara with red stitching trimming its door inserts and armrests, while a ‘Type R’ serial number plate below the shift lever caps it all off very nicely.

How practical is the space inside?   7/10

Measuring 4557mm long (with a 2700mm wheelbase), 1877mm wide and 1421mm tall, the Type R is on the large side for a small hatchback, which means good things for practicality.

For example, cargo capacity is very handy, at 414L, but stow the 60/40 split-fold rear bench (using the second row’s manual release latches) and an undisclosed amount of extra storage space is created alongside a counterintuitive hump in the boot floor.

  • Boot space is rated at 414-litres. Boot space is rated at 414-litres.
  • The Civic features a 60/40 split-fold rear bench. The Civic features a 60/40 split-fold rear bench.

There’s also a tall load lip to contend with, although there are four tie-down points on hand alongside one bag hook, which make dealing with loose items easier. Better yet, the parcel shelf is retractable, with it stored to one side.

While it offers around four centimetres of legroom (behind my  184cm/6'0" driving position) as well as two centimetres of headroom, the second row only has just enough width for two adults, which is perfect given the Type R is a four-seater.

In the back there's just enough room for two adults. In the back there's just enough room for two adults.

Of course, children have a lot more wriggle room, with not even the large 'transmission tunnel' posing a problem for them. And if they’re younger, two top-tether and two ISOFIX child-seat anchorage points are on hand.

In terms of amenities, though, the Type R lags behind, with rear occupants going without directional air vents, any form of connectivity or a fold-down armrest. Map pockets on the front seat backrests are also absent, while the door bins take regular bottles at a pinch.

That said, the situation is much better in the front row, where the deep central bin features a cupholder and a USB-A port, another one of which is located underneath the centre stack’s ‘floating’ cubby alongside a 12V power outlet and an HDMI port.

Up front is a USB port, 12V power outlet and an HDMI port. Up front is a USB port, 12V power outlet and an HDMI port.

The glove box is on the larger side, meaning you’re able to put more than just the owner’s manual in it, while the door bins can comfortably accommodate one regular bottle apiece.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   7/10

Priced from $54,990, plus on-road costs, the facelifted Type R is $3000 dearer than its predecessor, and as such, the model is quickly becoming a bit of an ask, although you’re not left wanting for much.

Standard equipment not already mentioned includes dusk-sensing lights, rain-sensing wipers, rear privacy glass, an electric park brake with auto-hold functionality, and keyless entry and start.

Inside, there's a 180W sound system with eight speakers, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, Bluetooth connectivity, and digital radio, as well as dual-zone climate control and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.

The 7.0-inch touchscreen multimedia system misses out on built-in sat nav. The 7.0-inch touchscreen multimedia system misses out on built-in sat nav.

What’s missing? In-built satellite navigation and a wireless smartphone charger are the notable omissions and should be included at this price point.

There are plenty of rivals for the Type R, with the key ones being the manual Hyundai i30 N Performance ($41,400), Ford Focus ST ($44,890) and Renault Megane RS Trophy ($53,990).

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   10/10

No changes have been made to the Type R’s 2.0-litre turbo-petrol 'VTEC' four-cylinder engine, although newly introduced 'Active Sound Control' (ASC) enhances its noise during aggressive driving in the Sport and +R modes, but refines it further in the Comfort setting.

The turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder produces 228kW/400Nm. The turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder produces 228kW/400Nm.

The unit still produces a punchy 228kW of power at 6500rpm and 400Nm of torque from 2500-4500rpm, with these outputs sent to the front wheels via a close-ratio six-speed manual with flattering rev-matching functionality.

Yep, there are no all-wheel-drive and automatic options here, but if they’re what you’re after, there are plenty of other hot hatches that do have them.

How much fuel does it consume?   8/10

The Type R’s fuel consumption on the combined-cycle test (ADR 81/02) is 8.8L/100km, while its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are 200g/km. Considering the level of performance on offer, both claims are quite reasonable.

In the real world, though, we averaged 9.1L/100km over 378km of driving split between highways and urban roads. For a manual front-wheel-drive hot hatch that was driven with intent, that’s a cracking result.

For reference, the Type R’s 47L fuel tank takes 95RON petrol at minimum, so be prepared to pay a premium at the pump.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   7/10

While ANCAP awarded the rest of the current-generation Civic range its maximum five-star safety rating in 2017, the Type R is yet to be tested.

Advanced driver-assist systems extend to autonomous emergency braking, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, a manual speed limiter, high-beam assist, hill-start assist, tyre pressure monitoring, a reversing camera and front and rear parking sensors.

What’s missing? Well, there’s no blind-spot monitoring or cross-traffic alert, although the former is somewhat accounted for by Honda’s 'LaneWatch' set-up, which gives a live video feed of the passenger side’s blind-spot on the central display when the left indicator is on.

Other standard safety equipment includes anti-lock brakes (ABS), electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), brake assist (BA) and the usual electronic traction and stability control systems.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

5 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   7/10

As with all Honda Australia models, the Type R comes standard with a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, which is two years short of the ‘no strings attached’ benchmark set by Kia. And roadside assistance isn’t included in the package.

Service intervals are every 12 months or 10,000km (whichever comes first), with the distance on the shorter side. That said, a free check-up is due after the first month or 1000km.

Capped-price servicing is available for the first five years or 100,000km, costing $1805 at minimum, which is pretty good, all things considered.

What's it like to drive?   10/10

Some say there’s no such thing as too much power, but the Type R might just beg to differ…

Being a front-wheel-drive hot hatch, the Type R was always going to test the limits of adhesion, but it’s got so much power it can break traction (and begin to torque steer) in third gear when under hard acceleration. Reverse muscle-car antics, indeed.

That said, the Type R actually does a pretty remarkable job of putting down its 228kW, so long as the throttle is squeezed appropriately, with it progressively getting sharper in the Sport and +R modes.

Helping this process around corners is the helical limited-slip differential on the front axle, which works hard to maximise grip by limiting power to the wheel that’s stuttering the most. In fact, it puts in a prodigious effort.

Either way, when you work out how to make the most of the Type R’s high performance, it becomes apparent just how hard it hits. After all, it sprints from a standstill to 100km/h in a claimed 5.7 seconds, which is pretty darn good for a manual front-wheel-drive hot hatch.

And while 400Nm of maximum torque is on tap throughout the mid-range, this engine is still a VTEC, so business really picks up as you approach peak power and then the redline, making for addictive acceleration.

Yep, the extra shove in the upper reaches really is noticeable, and it makes you want to the rev the Type R out in every one of its gears, the first few of which are pleasingly on the shorter side.

Speaking of which, the gearbox is just as delightful as the engine. The clutch is well weighted and has a perfect release point, while the shift lever feels great in hand and its short throw makes quick upshifts and downshifts much more achievable.

While that’s all well and good, the Type R’s trump card is actually its ride and handling.

The independent suspension consists of MacPherson-strut front and multi-link rear axles, with its adaptive dampers evaluating road conditions 10 times faster than before thanks to a software update, which aims to deliver better handling response and ride quality.

That’s promising, especially considering the Type R was already at the front of the pack when it comes to ride quality. In fact, it's relatively sublime in the Comfort mode.

Of course, if you seek out some cobblestones, you’ll go through the motions, but on the blacktop, the Type R is as liveable as it gets for a hot hatch. I particularly like how quickly it rebounds from road imperfections like potholes to ensure it remains in control.

But don’t make the mistake of thinking the Type R is too soft, because it most certainly isn’t. Flick between the Sport and +R modes and the adaptive dampers firm up to deliver a much sportier ride.

While adaptive dampers have almost become a bit a cliché because many versions do very little to change the driving experience, the Type R is a different beast, with its variability as genuine as genuine gets.

As soon as you’re out of the Comfort mode, everything is amplified, with the conditions underfoot coming to the fore and body control becoming even stronger.

Overall, even more confidence is afforded, with the Type R always keen to corner, managing to keep its 1393kg body flat while only exhibiting a hint of understeer when pushed hard.

Of course, there’s more to handling, with the Type R’s electric power steering also playing a key role. 

While it has a variable ratio, its darty nature is immediately apparent, with the Type R looking to point as directed at a moment’s notice.

Stiffer front and rear bushings, alongside new lower-friction ball joints, are said to improve steering feel for better control and improved toe-in characteristics when cornering.

Feedback through the wheel is fantastic, with the driver always across what’s happening on the front axle, while the system’s weighting is well judged, varying from nice and light in Comfort, to meatier in Sport (our preference), and heavy in +R.

It’s also worth mentioning the Type R now has a stronger braking system in tow, with new two-piece floating 350mm ventilated front discs decreasing unsprung mass by about 2.3kg.

They’re fitted alongside fresh pads with a more fade-resistant material, with this combination claimed to improve thermal efficiency, particularly during spirited driving.

Better yet, brake stroke has been reduced by about 17 per cent (or 15mm) under heavy loads, which leads to a more immediate pedal feel. Yep, the Type R almost feels as good to stop as it does to accelerate and corner…

Verdict

The Type R is a real joy to drive. Unlike some other hot hatches, it’s genuinely capable of being a comfortable cruiser or a ferocious feline at the flick of a switch.

This breadth of ability makes the Type R so appealing to the discerning enthusiast — so long as they’re able to live with its ‘out there’ looks.

We can, so we’re hoping the next-generation Type R, due in the next couple of years, doesn’t stray too far from the formula. Yep, as an overall package, this hot hatch is that damn good.

Pricing guides

$45,145
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
Lowest Price
$23,590
Highest Price
$66,700

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
RS 1.5L, ULP, CVT AUTO $35,600 2021 Honda Civic 2021 RS Pricing and Specs
Type R 2.0L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $54,990 2021 Honda Civic 2021 Type R Pricing and Specs
Type R Limited Edition 2.0L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $66,700 2021 Honda Civic 2021 Type R Limited Edition Pricing and Specs
VTi 1.8L, ULP, CVT AUTO $23,790 2021 Honda Civic 2021 VTi Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8.3
Design10
Practicality7
Price and features7
Engine & trans10
Fuel consumption8
Safety7
Ownership7
Driving10
Justin Hilliard
Deputy News Editor

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Pricing Guide

$54,990

Lowest price, based on new car retail price

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Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.