Honda Civic Type R (2017-2021) review
One of the most capable hot hatchbacks on sale, the Honda Civic Type R delivers on the road and the track
Honda's Type R badge is an icon of performance that promises as many thrills as a GTI or RS-badged model from a rival manufacturer. Thankfully, the latest Honda Civic Type R delivers the goods as one of the best front-wheel-drive hot hatchbacks ever built.
The Civic Type R on sale today uses similar running gear to the last model, but it has been given a thorough overhaul and a slight power boost to make the current car deliver even sharper handling and 310bhp from its 2.0-litre turbocharged engine. It's based on the current Civic Mk10, although this is only the fifth-generation Civic Type R to be produced.
There's a six-speed manual gearbox - unlike some rivals, Honda doesn't offer an auto gearbox on its performance hatch - and the front-drive layout gives the Civic Type R a 0-62mph time of 5.7 seconds. That's the same as the less powerful Mk4 Type R, but the current car has a higher top speed, at 169mph.
Either way, the current Civic Type R set out its stall as a front-runner in the class by setting a new front-wheel drive hot hatchback lap record at the Nurburgring Nordschliefe in Germany, setting a time of 7 minutes 48.3 seconds. Honda also claims that the Type R is the only car in its class which generates downforce at speed to help improve stability and performance. So those wild wings and spoilers aren't just there for dramatic looks.
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Perhaps the most surprising thing about the latest Civic Type R is that it's relatively docile when you're taking things easy. That's courtesy of the standard-fit adaptive dampers and switchable drive modes. Dial the Type R back to Comfort mode, and while the stiff chassis means the Civic follows the road surface, the suspension soaks up bumps amazingly well, so you could easily use the Type R for longer trips.
There are two versions of Civic Type R available - the standard car and the Type R GT. The differences are purely spec-based, with the GT adding around £2,000 to the list price. It gets extra safety kit in the form of a blind spot warning with rear cross traffic alert, while dual-zone climate control, sat-nav, wireless phone charging, an 11-speaker stereo and LED front fog lights are all added. As we've said before, adaptive dampers are standard on both models, as are 20-inch alloys and bucket seats.
Rivals for the Civic Type R include class regulars the VW Golf GTI and Renaultsport Megane, although both of these cars have less power. There's also the SEAT Leon Cupra and Skoda Octavia vRS, which share running gear with the Golf GTI, plus the Hyundai i30 N, Peugeot 308 GTi and the Ford Focus ST, although the latter is due to be replaced by an all-new Focus ST in due course. For some people, the Civic Type R is also worth considering over faster 4WD hot hatchbacks, such as the VW Golf R, Mercedes A-Class AMG, Audi RS 3 and Ford Focus RS.
This fifth generation Civic Type R has an illustrious ancestry. The original Civic Type R used the in-house name EK9, and was sold exclusively in Japan from 1997-2000. Some of these models have since made it to the UK as grey imports, and have a cult following with fans of JDM culture. The follow-up, the EP3 Type R was sold from 2001-2005 and was officially sold in the UK. For some fans, it's still the archetypal Type R, thanks to its compact shape and screaming naturally aspirated VTEC four cylinder engine.
The follow-up Type R came in two forms, the Japanese market FD2 four-door saloon, or the Euro-spec FN2 three-door hatchback. The latter was officially sold in the UK from 2006-2011, but the former wasn't. Again, grey imports have found their way to the UK, though. The FN2 was the last naturally aspirated Civic Type R, although its larger dimensions and generally odd shape meant it didn't find as much favour with Type R fans. The Type R Mk4 was the FK2, and it introduced wilder styling, five doors and turbo power to the mix. In the end, it seemed to be teased for far longer than it was officially on sale, lasting only from 2015-2017 before the current FK8 version arrived.
The Honda Civic Type R is the ultimate example of what a hot hatch should be. It has the ability to transform itself from a comfortable day-to-day hatchback into a hardcore performance car at the flick of a switch, helped no end by the addition of standard-fit adaptive dampers that can be tailored to suit your driving mood.
The styling won't be to everyone’s taste, but the Type R has the broadest range of abilities in its class. For that reason we crowed it as our Hot Hatch of the Year at the 2017 Auto Express New Car Awards.
Engines, performance and drive
The Honda Civic Type R may not be the fastest hot hatch off the line with a 0-62mph time of 5.7 seconds, but as a package it delivers one of the most intoxicating driving experiences money can buy – that’s why we crowned it our Hot Hatch of the Year for 2017.
The first thing you notice from behind the wheel are the excellent buckets seats. They hug you in all of the right places, seat you low in the car and feel a lot more comfortable than they look. A new digital dash and cleaner centre console design also make the Civic Type R a much nicer place to spend time than before.
A new Comfort setting on the Type R’s adaptive dampers has also been added, which makes the Honda far more useable on a day-to-day basis. The ride is supple and forgiving so this feels like a much more refined car than the previous model. A crucial change in the transformation is the addition of a more sophisticated multi-link rear suspension setup that replaced the old torsion beam. It means the Type R covers ground with more composure and control than before.
However, that softer side hasn’t come at the expense of excitement. Flick through the Sport and +R driving modes and the Type R takes on a much more aggressive character. The steering becomes weightier, the throttle response sharpens and the body control becomes much tighter, making the hot Honda feel like a touring car for the road.
A limited slip-front differential helps generate huge amounts of grip when cornering, which slingshots you round and out of bends at incredible speeds. The six-speed manual gearbox is also one of the best in the business, with a precise, short and weighty throw between changes. A new auto rev matching function has also been added, which blips the throttle on down changes to help aid refinement. It works very well but you can turn the system off if you wish.
The Civic Type R doesn’t sound particularly exciting, however. A new exhaust system has been added, and that is an improvement over the old car but it doesn’t deliver the rally car soundtrack of the Ford Focus RS.
The only engine available in the Type R is the 316bhp 2.0-litre turbo. It’s the same basic engine as before, but tuned to develop 10bhp more thanks to the new exhaust system.
Honda claims it propels the Type R from 0-62mph in 5.7 seconds and on to a top speed of 169mph. The engine suffers from some turbo lag, but not as much as in the old car, with 400Nm of torque available from 2,500rpm.
MPG, CO2 and Running Costs
With prices starting from around £31,500, the Honda Civic Type R falls in a middle ground between its less expensive front-wheel-drive rivals and four-wheel-drive super hatches like the VW Golf R and Ford Focus RS. The Type R is around £1,000 more than the most powerful five-door version of the VW Golf GTI Performance, about £2,500 more than a Peugeot 308 GTi, £3,500 more than a Hyundai i30 N and £4,500 more than a Renaultsport Megane.
It's no surprise that the high performance 316bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged engine under the bonnet makes the Type R the least efficient Civic in the range. But then if you buy a hot hatch based on fuel economy, then you need to seriously have a think about what you're doing.
Honda claims that the Civic Type R is capable of returning 36.7mpg on the combined cycle and emits 176g/km of CO2. In comparison, the Peugeot 308 GTi manages 47.1mpg and 139g/km, while the Golf GTI Performance 5dr has economy of 42.8mpg and emissions of 150g/km with the six-speed manual, and 44.8mpg/144g/km with the DSG auto box.
As it's a high-performance car, the Honda Civic Type R falls into insurance Group 40, out of 50 groups that make up the UK's insurance group rating. That's in the same category as the Ford Focus RS, one group higher than the VW Golf R, four groups above the Peugeot 308 GTi and seven higher than the Golf GTI Performance. You really do have to pay a premium for that 316bhp power output. For comparison, the standard Civic has a maximum insurance rating of Group 22.
The Honda Civic Type R holds on to around 45 per cent of its value after three years/36,000 miles. In comparison, the Ford Focus RS is more desirable, holding on to over 50 per cent of its value, while the VW Golf GTI loses roughly the same percentage in the same period, albeit off a lower original price.
Interior, design and technology
The fourth-generation Type R sticks with the outlandish design that was introduced with the last version. There’s certainly no mistaking it for anything else on the road, with aggressive bumpers, 20-inch alloy wheels and a huge rear wing. However, Honda has said everything you see on the car serves a purpose and is not there simply for show.
The bumpers, rear wing and vortex generator on the roof all help the Type R generate downforce, pushing the car into the ground to improve high-speed performance and stability. The crazy looking triple exhaust has also been designed to help reduce engine noise at motorway speeds.
Step inside, and the Type R has taken big step forward when it comes to interior quality. While a few scratchy plastics do remain in the cabin, particularly on the centre console, on the whole build quality is much improved.
As standard every Type R comes with LED headlamps, air con, a reversing camera, adaptive cruise control and alloy wheels. A more kitted out GT spec replaces the air con with dual-zone climate control, adds a high-powered audio system, LED front fog lights and a wireless phone charging point. Garmin sat-nav is also added as part of Honda’s Connect infotainment system.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
Honda Connect, the name of the Japanese manufacturer’s infotainment system, has been improved in the latest model, but it still lags behind the slick systems found in the class leaders such as the VW Golf GTI.
Graphics and resolution of the screen look a little low rent, and at times the screen can be slow to respond to inputs. A column of shortcut buttons down the side for the seven-inch display are touch sensitive rather than physical buttons, so it can be difficult to tell when you have selected the right option, especially if you’re trying to do it on the move.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
The latest Civic Type R is the largest version of Honda’s famous hot hatch there has been. It’s longer and wider than the model it replaces and is one of the largest hot hatches on the market today. Having said that, it's not quite as practical as some rivals, especially because Honda only fits two rear seatbelts - there's no option to carry a fifth passenger.
The Honda Civic Type R is slightly longer and wider than the standard Civic hatch, courtesy of its extra spoilers front and rear, and widened wheelarches. It also has a slightly wider track front and rear to enhance its handling.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
A party trick of the old Type R was its Magic seats, which allowed owners to fold the back seats flat, or flip the bases up cinema-style to create a second load area between the front seats and boot. However, they don’t appear in the new car because Honda had to reposition the fuel tank in order to get the packaging correct.
Nevertheless, the Type R remains a hugely practical car by hot hatch standards. Annoyingly there is no middle seat in the rear, despite there being space for one, so it’s a strict four-seater. However, there is a huge amount of space for the two passengers you can get in the back, with plenty of leg and head room for adults over six feet.
The 420-litre boot is one of the biggest in its class – a Skoda Octavia vRS offers more luggage space but doesn’t get anywhere near when it comes to performance or agility. Dropping the rear seats in the Honda frees up a total of 1,580 litres of space, but the wheelarches do impede you slightly when loading bulky objects.
Honda also fits its strange load cover here. Rather than having a parcel shelf that opens with the boot, there's a roll-out load cover that fits across the load area. It's perfectly fine at hiding objects in the boot, but it does feel a bit flimsy.
Reliability and Safety
Honda has long held a reputation for developing dependable and reliable cars, with the Japanese brand finishing 3rd in our 2018 Driver Power survey of manufacturers. In addition, Honda's dealers are also offering sterling service, with respondents to the Driver Power survey placing the company's franchises second in the table behind Lexus, the second year it's had a podium finish.
This being a performance car, be prepared to pay a little extra for consumables on the Civic Type R, such as good quality tyres and brake pads. You’ll also be buying them on a more regular basis, especially if you plan on taking the Type R on track.
Honda has tuned the Civic Type R's engine to work with 95 RON unleaded fuel, but it recommends you use 98 RON and higher premium unleaded for the best performance from the engine and to help prevent premature engine wear.
Still, Honda's older naturally aspirated VTEC engines have gained a reputation for producing consistently reliable performance, even under hard use, and as the Type R's 2.0-litre turbo unit is essentially the same as the last car's motor, then it should prove to be relatively reliable, having had more development under its belt than the rest of the car.
The standard Civic initially earned a four-star crash safety rating, with issues raised about side impact protection for child occupants. However, Honda went back to the drawing board, and modified the Civic's safety equipment accordingly, so all cars that are built after 25 September 2017 have a five-star rating for safety.
Every Type R sold comes with Honda’s standard three-year/90,000 mile warranty. This includes a 3-year guarantee for surface corrosion, 5 year exhaust cover, 12 year structural corrosion and 10 year chassis corrosion cover. Honda also offers an extended guarantee for extra cost, which you can add to the end of the 3-year cover.
A service every year or every 12,000 miles is recommended, while Honda offers buyers a five year service plan for around £600.
For an alternative review of the Honda Civic Type R FK8, visit our sister site carbuyer.co.uk...