The 2018 Honda Civic Type R is a race-bred, road-going compact hatch. The Civic lineup now has a new flagship and it's big, it's bold and it's very, very red.
Honda's standard technology offering is available in the Type R, which means performance enthusiasts don't have to give up the smarts or other Honda nameplates.
The car features a 2.0L Turbocharged engine that's good for 228kw and 400Nm of torque, that power is deployed through just the front 2 wheels. That power, combined with great suspension and handling, lead it to set a new benchmark for front wheel drives around the famous Nurburgring in just 7 minutes, 43.9 seconds.
After a few weeks behind the wheel, it's time to lay down my thoughts on what's great, what's not and if you should buy it.
Big, bold, aggressive, performant.
There's all kinds of crazy bits that make up the body kit on this car. This styling will certainly divide audiences and will turn off some people, that's fine, go buy a base civic, but for those that love it, will really love it. That's one of the best attributes about this car, the design feels like it was a single vision, a design that is purposeful, bold and confident. There's a carbon fibre front splitter and rear diffuser, with matching side skirts, big flared guards, a hood scoop, vortex generators and it all works together not just for aesthetics, but to keep the car planted on the road in a straight line, but also lets it corner like it's on rails.
It's hard to talk about the exterior without talking about the interesting decision to have some active, but some fake vents on the car. There's probably a 50/50 mix between parts that are just for looks and half that actually work the air as it flows over the body. Probably the most egregious of these are the 2 large black panels in the rear bar that do absolutely nothing. It's almost a mirror of the ones on the front bar, although nobody could ever be looking at the front and the rear at the same time, so it does make you scratch your head a little.
Thankfully the one that matters, really works well. It's the opening in the front bar that feeds the intercooler with the necessary air to make that power. On the back, the most definitive design attribute is the triple exhaust tip.
Front the moment you sit in the Type R, you realise that this is a car built around the driver and perfectly matches a car designed to be driven. It's clear from the combination of so many different materials explains where a decent part of the budget was spent.
The seats are buckets and do everything you could ever want, it's comfortable, but importantly holds you in place, like seriously you do not move, even when applying the geforces in all directions. The consequence of this snug fit is that it won't suit larger people and accessibility wise, the sides of the bucket are difficult to get in and out of. The back is an often forgotten about area of seat design, but the Type R makes it a feature with a carbon finish that'll stand up rear-passengers misbehaving. While the seats are comfortable, they do lack the electronic adjustments found on other vehicles in this price bracket. If you're the only driver that won't be a problem, set and forget, but if this is to be a multi-driver vehicle, driver profiles are not on offer.
Everything is in reach of the driver and there's even a subtle red convenience light that fires down over the gear shifter, as if to say, go on, change to +R mode, shift down a gear, bury the right foot. That shifter is an incredibly short-throw short-shifter topped with a round, metal shift knob. It's a great combination that gives the driver confidence through a tight box, but being metal, may be prone to heat in the summer months. If you're married, you'll also be reminded of that each time with a ding as your ring connects with the metal.
The steering wheel is a great size, small and sporty and thick enough for larger hands, allowing you to feel connected to the road. That's largely thanks to the use of dual pinion adaptive electric power steering. While the car is only available as a manual, I would have enjoyed the option to have the modern flappy paddles as that will deliver a faster shift than the regular H-pattern.
If you do take the car to the track, you'll appreciate just how low the front seats sit, providing plenty of headroom for tall occupants, or more importantly, helmet space for when you take it to the track.
In the back, there's ISOfix mounts for those carrying baby seats, just remember to check the rear-view mirror before you decide to throw it into a roundabout at 60km/hr. For passengers in the rear, it's comfortable as long as you remember the leg room is still that of a medium-sized sedan.
The tech that has your back
The car is built to be driven, but it's also smart, featuring the Honda Sensing technology. Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Keeping Assist, Collision Avoidance are all powered through an array of cameras and sensors around the car. Living with the car, it's the small inclusions that work exceptionally well, like having automatic headlights and automatic rain-sensing wipers, that lets you focus on enjoying the drive, rather than deploying brain power to monitoring these essential services.
The car supports Android Auto (and Apple CarPlay), which is now a minimum requirement for many and it makes Honda's standard interface a non issue. One thing I do love in the Type R compared to the recently reviewed Honda CRV is the display features a hardware button to control (and to turn off) the center display. This is fantastic at night time when you're focusing on an apex. The buttons on the wheel let you control everything you need, but I found myself commonly using the voice button to control entertainment and navigation.
Fast on track and on the road
The Type R is a 6-speed manual with rev matching. When you first start driving the car this feels pretty strange as you stomp on the clutch, shift down and see the left needle jump with excitement. Normally the revs don't change until you release the clutch pedal and the clutch engages. After a few days of driving, you expect it, trust it and just drive as you like. The reason the car does this, is to help the car, always be ready to take off with anger.
The car makes 228kW at 6500RPM and when you take off from the line, you'll have to look in the rear vision mirror to see anyone else. The power is very healthy, but it's how that power is applied is the important bit, with 400Nm of torque, it puts pressure on the tyres to deliver and in the dry, you're good, the car fires off the line, in the wet, it's got too much power, which is probably a good problem to have. You'll learn to regulate the throttle, rather than just planting it.
Every time you turn on the car, you'll start in Sports mode which is a great middle ground for day-to-day driving. If you want to settle everything down, then change into Comfort mode, but you buy this car for the top mode, +R.
The steering gets heavier, the suspension tightens up and the car comes to life, gets angry and aggressive and is so much fun to drive. It's a road-legal race car that has a short-shifting 6-speed manual gearbox but on the street you'll love shifting from 2nd to 3rd, using the shift lights in the dash to optimise performance.
The handling of the Type R is easily one of my favourite attributes. Helped by an Adaptive Damper System and an LSD, MacPherson with Dual Axis Strut up front, Multi-link on the rear and an adaptive damper system. Thanks to the car's drive modes, the handling changes dynamically which impacts everything from steering weight, ride stiffness and cornering ability. Comfort is great for the highways, but +R is where you want to be when getting the best out of the car.
Tyres and Brakes
The rims are wrapped in Continental 245/30 ZR20 XL rubber. These are premium tyres that'll set you back as much as A$418 per tyre, so best to look after these, but as you'd expect for that price, they perform amazingly well. When you go fast, you'll need to stop with confidence which is why Honda bolted 350mm ventilated discs and 4-Piston Brembo brakes, and 305mm solid disc brakes are bolted to the rear, but I don't see any evidence they do much. Being front wheel drive, almost all the braking happens up front and the Brembo's will help you test how many negative G's you can pull, the answer: a lot. The car won't stop on a dime like a software controlled, all-wheel drive Tesla, but for a FWD drive, you wouldn't know it when you hit the brake pedal.
As good as it is, this car isn't perfect
The biggest competitor to the Type R is the Ford Focus RS and after now reviewing both of them, I like the interior of the Type R better, but the AWD of the Focus. This becomes an issue in the wet, where this car shows its weakness, where the FWD just can't compete with the traction available from the all-wheel drive Focus RS. The way this manifests itself during daily driving is the car spinning wheels when you accelerate aggressively (this can be helped by selecting comfort mode), and in the worst case, you end up in axle tramp.
After reviewing, then purchasing a Honda CRV, it's immediately obvious the features that are not available in the Type R, that are available from the almost A$10K cheaper CRV. There's no sun roof, there's no electronic seats, no paddle shifters and no powered tailgate. Clearly the Type R aims at a different market, but the decision to spend more on the interior finishes and performance means consumers loose a lot in that compromise, thankfully technology isn't on that list.
PRICE & AVAILABILITY
How much and when can you get one ?
The Honda Civic Type R is available from $57,412, but that jumps to $58,012 if you choose a paint colour other than Rally Red. If you're really crazy on TypeR, you may consider the illuminated sill which features a Type R logo for a steep A$699.00.
All things considered the Honda Civic Type R is an amazing car, one that I'm incredibly grateful to see exist in the world and one I'm thankful Honda brought to Australia. After revisiting my initial thoughts 3 weeks ago, my view on the car has changed slightly, it's performance and technology combination make it an excellent package for the right customer.
Whenever I review a vehicle I think, could I see myself in this car? The answer is yes, at 36, I could probably pull it off, stepping out of the flashy car, but I'm someone who tends to buy and hold on to cars for 10-15 years, so fast forward and at 50, I'm thinking I'd get a few 'mid life crisis' looks from onlookers. If I was to buy it, I'd go with the white paint, while it still has the black/red accents, it's a little less 'look at me' even if it does still have that crazy aero body kit.
This is the car that 20 year old me wanted and the 30 year old me could afford, if it's the next car for you is really difficult to say given it's so divisive.
If you like the design, then go for it, the performance and handling is fantastic. Would I buy one over the Focus RS? That's the hard one, but if the Type R had AWD, not FWD, it'd absolutely be YES.
- Single design direction
- Great technology
- Front buckets
- Drive modes
- No sunroof
- No powered tailgate
- Manual seats