by Don Sikora II
Note: The following story was excerpted from the August 2018 issue of Collectible Automobile magazine.
If you’re a “hot-hatch” fan in America, these days your choices have largely been limited to the Volkswagen Golf GTI and Golf R, along with the Ford Focus ST and Focus RS. Of course, there are also various speedy Subarus, along with the Honda Civic Si coupe and sedan. Not that there’s anything wrong with any of those, but if you’re the type of enthusiast who can’t wait to pick up the next issue of EVO magazine, you’re certainly aware of all the fantastic over-the-top hot hatches the Brits get to drive but you can’t buy. Why is it we always want what we cannot have?
Honda must have been paying attention, because one of those untouchables is now on sale in America. Yes, the latest version of the legendary Honda Civic Type R is this issue’s pick as a future collectible.
Honda says the “R” stands for “Racing,” and the original Civic Type R was a 1997 Japan-only special. Highlights of this very special three-door hatchback included a hand-massaged 1.6-liter dohc “VTEC” four-cylinder rated at 182 bhp, limited-slip differential, and a close-ratio six-speed gearbox. Interior touches included red seats and a MOMO wheel.
Fast forward, and today’s fifth-generation Civic Type R is only sold as a five-door hatch built at Honda’s Swindon plant in the United Kingdom. The front-drive car runs a 106.3-inch wheelbase, is 179.4 inches long, and has a curb weight of 3117 pounds.
The engine is a turbocharged 2.0-liter iVTEC four rated at an attention-grabbing 306 bhp and 295 pound-feet of torque. Honda says it also features model-specific steering, adaptive dampers, and aluminum front lower control arms and steering knuckles. Other chassis hardware includes a new multilink rear suspension, and four-wheel discs with four-piston Brembo-brand front calipers.
A limited-slip diff and six-speed manual are present too. Continental SportContact 6 summer-only performance rubber is mounted on 20-inch alloys.
Exterior styling is best described as aggressive. Highlights include wider front and rear fenders than “regular” Civic hatchbacks, a scooped aluminum hood, a front splitter, red trim, and various add-on bits that are said to improve aerodynamics, among them four vortex generators that help direct air over the car’s huge hatch-mounted wing. Out back, you can’t miss the Type R’s center-exit exhaust with its unexpected trio of pipes.
The interior comes in hard-to-ignore Type R-exclusive black-and-red trim. Notable touches include a beefy flat-bottom steering wheel, aggressively bolstered race-style front buckets, and a solid aluminum shift knob. There is also a serial-number plate on the console. Practical touches include a large cargo area that’s even handier thanks to the split-fold rear seats. Plenty of today’s expected tech goodies are part of the deal too, including Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and navigation.
As expected of a drool-worthy hot hatch, the Civic Type R set a front-drive production-car lap record at the Nürburgring Nordschleife, running the 12.9-mile course in 7 minutes, 43.8 seconds on April 7, 2017. In a preview drive, Consumer Guide®’s Rick Cotta was impressed with the sweet shifter, stout brakes, and how at home the car felt on the street and the racetrack.
The U.S.-market Honda Civic Type R priced from $33,900 in 2017 and $34,100 in 2018.
- It’s a 306-horsepower Honda Civic, and arguably today’s hottest front-drive
- Sweet six-speed manual transmission with short-throw shifter and an easy-to-
- Surprising blend of street refinement and track capability.
- If you absolutely need a flappy-paddle gearbox, you have to look elsewhere.
- Production is limited, but that could help long-term prospects.
- The styling is anything but subtle, and may be too much for some.
The hot-hatch arms race has accelerated so dramatically that if you’ve been out of the market for even five years, today’s offerings are nearly unimaginable. Honda’s latest shot is the Civic Type R, a fan favorite finally available in America. It’s fair to say that the styling isn’t for everybody, but it’s hard to argue with its performance, and the red-backed Honda emblems knowing enthusiasts covet should make this Civic a long-term keeper.
Honda Civic Type R