2018 Honda Civic Type R: Video Review and Road Test
The hot hatch segment got a huge shot in the arm with the introduction of the 2018 Honda Civic Type R. This high powered liftback delivers on the attitude it projects through its aggressive aerodynamic package that is punctuated by a huge rear wing. The Civic Type R puts other pocket rockets like the Subaru WRX STI on notice as Micah Muzio explains to us in this Video Review and Road Test.
You cannot buy a faster, more powerful Honda than the Civic Type R. From the roots of sensible Civic transportation, a performance tree has blossomed, lovingly nurtured by a mighty 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, a thoroughly reworked suspension, 3-mode adaptive dampers, Continental summer performance tires, and robust 4-piston Brembo brake calipers, the cumulative result of Honda's tuning effort is a quick and sophisticated expression of vehicular bliss offered at a reasonable sum.
For a driving aficionado and ex-S2000 owner like me, the Type R should be a slam-dunk. Except, when I was picking up the car before I even sat in the driver's seat a little kid walked by wearing a Spiderman backpack and screamed "Look mommy, a race car!" To be fair, that kid was both correct and adorable but it made me wonder, is the Type R designed for full-grown adults or preteen Hot Wheel fanatics and Johnny Tran wannabes? More succinctly, am I getting too old to drive something so ludicrously styled?
What do I mean? Well, like layers of frosting on a hatchback cake, the Type R is slathered with faux carbon-fiber front and side splitters, a conspicuous rear diffuser, three exhaust tips for some reason, vortex generators, matte black 20-inch wheels wrapped in low-profile tires housed in wide vented fenders, and, like a cherry on top, a novelty sized wing.
Does the most powerful of Honda's need to look like this? I'm guessing not but the air scoop does help cool the engine and the hood it's mounted to is made of aluminum saving, 11.7 pounds versus the Civic's regular steel hood. The wide fenders are necessary to accommodate a track that's 2.1 inches wider in front and 1.2 inches wider in the rear, vortex generators help guide air to the wing, and the wing does create handy downforce when exploring the Type R's roughly 170 mile-per-hour top speed. So, while it might look ridiculous, there's enough purpose in the Civic Type R's design that you have talking points when your clients ask, "Why did you show up to the meeting in a race car?"
Inside, the racy theme continues with red accents galore and a neat serial plate found on every Type R. But function takes priority. The thick, flat-bottom steering wheel is satisfying to grip and the manually adjustable front seats accommodate shoulder harnesses for serious track duty and are brilliantly supportive without resorting to the super beefy lower torso side bolsters that some performance cars have that impede my arms when I steer.
Thankfully the Type R isn't nearly as abusive as it looks. Employ the comfort drive mode and you'll enjoy reasonable steering efforts, easy throttle response, and a ride that's firm but thoroughly tolerable. As you expect sport mode tightens the suspension and steering, but if you want to drive like a madman or madwoman consider R mode. It's the absolutely right choice if you need to lose Dom Toretto on your way to the spark and firework factory. R mode makes the ride racetrack stiff, heavies up the steering, and alters the automatic rev matching feature for even revvier rev matching.
On that note every Type R comes with a delightfully precise manual transmission. Think of the shifter and clutch pedal as velvet ropes guarding the Type R. If you want to party you got to do the manual dance. Upstream from the transmission is the Type R's engine. If you're curious here's the fuel economy numbers (22 mpg city/28 highway/25 combined).
And moving on, to make sure all that power isn't wasted through the sound of one wheel spinning, there's a limited slip diff. Because two spinning tires are better than one or at least they would be if the Civic Type R didn't hold its revs in a very specific spot and not allow me to do a sweet burnout, which is why I'm going to leave quickly instead of dramatically. This is the thing I was talking about. When I floor it, the revs stay at 3,500 rpm. That's probably good for the drivetrain but it's not so good for smoke burnouts.
As the most powerful production Honda to ever grace North America, the Civic Type R has the moxie to blast from stoplight to stoplight with real purpose but it's important to set expectations. The Type R's sub-six-second 0-60 sprints are quick but choose your battles wisely. All-wheel drive competitors like the Ford Focus RS, VW Golf R, and Subaru WRX STI are notably quicker off the line but are also somewhat more expensive. I've also noticed that if you accelerate to redline, after the upshift, it takes a short beat before full thrust kicks in. It's kind of exhilarating but it sort of makes me miss the high-rev linearity of my old S2000. Nonetheless the Civic Type R is a fine tool for stoplight shenanigans.
And for some drivers that'd be enough, but some of us like to turn. How does the Type R turn? Like this! Huh. Yeah, I just drifted the Type R. I really did too! The Type R's variable ratio steering is slower on center, making it more stable on straights and quicker off-center allowing you to negotiate corners with less steering lock. In R Mode efforts are a little heavy but overall the steering feels wonderful.
But perhaps the best part of the Type R is the brakes. The pedal has essentially zero dead space and just like the steering it feels amazing. Brake. With 13.8-inch front rotors the brakes return consistent powerful deceleration and look, the 4-piston front calipers are already red so you don't have to paint them yourself.
What's remarkable to me is the general lack of torque steer. Apparently, the Type R's unique front suspension reduces steering axis offset and apparently that helps. Look, virtually no torque steer. Not bad for 306 horsepower. And now I should steer, there's a corner. In a track environment the Civic Type R is fast, fun, and exceptionally well sorted. Yeah, understeer is still a thing but it's not nearly as bad as you might expect. If I was looking for a track day car and I felt like driving the front wheels this would be the one.
Applied to a race track the Civic Type R's technical prowess and comparatively light curb weight shine and yet it's equally a home on the streets, supported by an odd measure of practicality. After all, underneath all these pointy bits hides a Civic hatchback with abundant cargo space and spacious rear seats, though I wish there were three instead of two.
For a little less than $35,000 the Honda Civic Type R includes LED headlights and fog lights, smart key access with push button start, dual-zone climate control, and a seven-inch touchscreen offering Apple CarPlay and Android Auto but not a volume knob. The Honda Sensing suite of active safety features found on most Civics is sadly not included on the Type R but you never know what the future might hold.
Despite its competitors’ lures, the Honda Civic Type R is a neat proposition. Spawned from a superb foundation, this little guy is fast, engaging, reasonably-priced, and oddly sensible. It's a glorious be-winged ball of fun. So, what can we learn from the Civic Type R? One lesson is that from simple beginnings greatness can emerge. Perhaps another more important lesson is that if you're going to look ridiculous you better have a good reason.