For years, sports compact enthusiasts in the U.S. have longed for the Civic Type R, a high-powered version of Honda's compact car that's been sold in various forms overseas for years. That wait is over; the 2017 Civic Type R is on sale now.
Offered exclusively as a four-door hatchback, the Honda Civic Type R is available only in a well-equipped Touring trim level with a price of $34,775, including an $875 destination charge. It has many of the same features as other Civic Tourings, like navigation and a premium stereo, along with performance-oriented features, like an adaptive suspension and Brembo-brand brakes. Notably absent is the Honda Sensing active safety system.
Exterior and Styling
With its raked liftgate, the Honda Civic's hatchback body style resembles the Civic sedan, which has a sleek rear roofline. From there, however, the Type R goes its own hot-hatch way with aggressive-looking exterior styling that goes way beyond what even the Civic Si offers. The design serves both to distinguish the Type R and to provide functional benefits.
Functional aspects include winglets that direct air around the wheel openings; a hood vent that cools the engine and reduces lift; roof-mounted vortex generators that channel air to the massive rear wing; and the wing itself, which generates downforce at higher speeds. The resulting look might be a little much for some shoppers, but the overall aesthetic is in keeping with Type Rs that have come before.
How It Drives
After spending the better part of a day driving the Civic Type R on a track and public roads in the Canadian countryside, it's clear that many of the qualities we like in the regular Civic have been turned up to 11 in the Type R.
The regular Civic's range of naturally-aspirated inline four-cylinder engines provides adequate power but little more. As you'd expect, the Type R's turbocharged four-cylinder operates on a completely different level. Rated at 306 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 295 pounds-feet of torque from 2,500 to 4,500 rpm, the engine pulls hard and pours on power smoothly. You do need to keep the revs up or it starts to feel sluggish, but that's not hard to do given that the motor is happy to rev as much as you want.
The Type R feels planted and body roll is well-controlled — even when pushed hard on a track.
A six-speed manual is the only transmission offered, and it sends power to the front wheels through a limited-slip differential. The six-speed manual transmissions's throws are very short and have a satisfying mechanical feel. It's easy to make quick gear changes most of the time, though it did feel like the shifter wasn't completely engaged in the chosen gear a couple of times.
A Honda-first rev-match feature is included. The selectable system automatically syncs engine rpm when you're upshifting or downshifting to ensure a smooth shift. It worked quite well on the track and street; the clutch pedal feels a bit springy, but the clutch engages easily without any jerkiness thanks to the single-mass flywheel.
The current Honda Civic helped return the car to its fun-to-drive roots thanks in large part to great handling, and handling is one of the Civic Type R's standout features, too; the car feels planted and body roll is well-controlled — even when it's pushed hard on a track. Which it did when Honda set a front-wheel-drive lap record at the world-famous Nurburgring track in Germany.
The standard adaptive suspension has three modes: Comfort, Sport and Plus R. I was pleasantly surprised that the Comfort mode lived up to its name: It does a good job soaking up road imperfections and delivers a comfortable highway ride. Sport, the default mode, firms up the ride compared with Comfort, while Plus R gives you very taut suspension tuning that creates a bumpy driving experience on rougher roads. It worked well on a smooth racetrack.
Besides suspension firmness, the modes vary steering feel, gas pedal responsiveness and the rev-match feature. Steering feel is a little artificial, especially in Sport and Plus R, which give the wheel more heft.
The Honda Civic Type R's brakes are another highlight. Featuring four-piston Brembo-brand calipers in front, the cross-drilled brakes had no trouble shedding speed on the track, and the pedal has a good, firm feel.
EPA-estimated gas mileage is 22/28/25 mpg city/highway/combined. That bests all-wheel-drive competitors like the Subaru WRX STI and Ford Focus RS, which get 19 and 22 mpg combined, respectively. The all-wheel-drive Volkswagen Golf R with a six-speed manual is also rated 25 mpg combined.
The Honda Civic Type R's cabin layout and overall appearance are the same as a regular Civic hatchback, but red accents are the order of the day: There's red trim on the dashboard, red stitching on the shifter boot and elsewhere, and a red Honda badge in the center of the steering wheel. The gauges, dominated by a central color display, also have red accents.
Perhaps the biggest functional change is the Type R-specific front sport seats. Finished in suedelike fabric, the red and black seats have fixed head restraints and large side bolsters that kept me from moving side to side too much in turns, yet didn't grip me too tightly. Adjustable lumbar support isn't included.
One thing that needs to change is the Civic Type R's multimedia system. It's the same 7-inch Display Audio touchscreen that's used elsewhere in the Civic lineup, and the problems we've observed in other models — a poor on-screen interface and a lack of volume and tuning knobs — remain a detriment to usability. Standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity let you interact with select phone apps on the touchscreen as you'd otherwise do on your phone.
Backseat legroom for adults is good, the seat cushion is positioned at a comfortable height and there's enough headroom despite the sloping roofline. A storage tray and two cupholders take the place of the regular hatchback's center seat, making the Type R a four-person car.
Despite its performance focus, the Honda Civic Type R offers a lot of utility, too. There's 25.7 cubic feet of cargo room behind the backseat, and folding the 60/40-split backrest expands the cargo area to 46.2 cubic feet. Like other Civics, the Type R has a huge configurable bin in the front center console that's great for holding stuff.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has partial test results for the Honda Civic Type R: top, five-star ratings in both side impact crash performance and rollover resistance.
A backup camera with dynamic guidelines is standard, but advanced safety features — like forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking and lane-keeping assist — offered on other Civics are not available on the Type R. There's an argument to be made that the high-powered Type R is most deserving of the latest safety technology, but a Honda spokesperson said the Type R's focus on performance dictated that certain features, Honda Sensing included, wouldn't be offered.
Value in Its Class
If the Type R's nearly $35,000 base price seems like a lot, it's worth considering that when buying the ultimate anything — be it a home theater system or a tailored suit — paying top dollar is part of the deal. You can see this at work among the Type R's front-engine competitors, such as the WRX, all of which are based on mainstream compact cars yet cost at least $1,700 more than a Type R.
Some might knock the Type R's front-wheel-drive setup, but I didn't find it any less enjoyable to drive because of it. From its performance to its utility, the Type R does a lot right, and its few missteps aren't deal-breakers. The ultimate Civic it is.
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