2018 Honda Civic Type R Road Test Review
October 24 2018, The New Vancouver Honda
‘The best handling front-wheel drive car ever made
What's it like to drive the world's fastest front-wheel drive production car? Amazing!
There isn't a sport compact fan that doesn't already know about the new Honda Civic Type R and its many achievements. Its class lap record around Germany's famed Nürburgring Nordschleife road course is the stuff of modern-day legend; a feat just recently built upon by doing the same at the equally revered Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium.
Such undeniable performance is indeed impressive, but normally such news gets dampened by the reality that the majority of race-ready sports models are difficult to live with. Not so with the Civic Type R, however. It's as easy to drive around town or on the highway as a regular Civic, while it's plenty comfortable, and thoroughly accommodative of four adults plus loads of their gear under its utile hatchback. Who could possibly find fault with that?
Bold Civic Type R design makes a purposeful performance statement
Not many it appears, as Honda seems to be able to sell as many Type R examples as it can build. This only makes sense, being that few sport compacts attract as much visual attention, the Type R delivering a dramatic yet purposefully aerodynamic design that pulls eyeballs as easily as a Lamborghini. Its aero add-ons are impressive, each directing air onto or around the car to improve its slipstream and/or downforce. Added to this are dazzling full LED headlights, classic circular fog lamps, an ultra light air intake-infused aluminum hood, and three centre-mounted chromed exhaust pipes. Honda adds to the excitement with red highlight paint in key areas, this really standing out on my Crystal Black Pearl painted tester (Championship White and Rallye Red are also available). For a race on Sunday, drive to work on Monday capable super hatch the Civic Type R is no wallflower.
While any fan worth their salt will likely be able to rattle off Type R specifications faster than I can, I'll nevertheless repeat them here for the few uninitiated still thinking their Golf GTI is fast for a front driver. It isn't (unless it's a Clubsport S). Don't get me wrong, as I love the GTI, but the Golf R isn't even as quick or as nimble as this Type R. The numbers speak volumes, with the 2.0-litre turbocharged Type R four-cylinder good for 306 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, and the Golf R only capable of 292 and 280 respectively.
That's an 11 horsepower and 15 lb-ft advantage to Honda, which (based on independent test results gathered from a variety of credible sources, and then averaged out) results in 5.1 seconds to 100km/h for the Type R compared to 5.4 for the Golf R (six-speed manual), 13.5 to 160 km/h instead of 15, the quarter mile eclipsed in 13.5 seconds compared to 13.7, quarter mile speeds at 174 km/h over 166, and top speeds set at 270 km/h compared 250 km/h.
Truth of performance dominance is found on the track
As for race track dominance (a more exact science), the Type R and Golf R managed the Nürburgring Nordschleife in 7:43.08 and 8:14.00 minutes respectively (that's a sizeable gap), Tsukuba (Japan) in 1:06.48 and 1:07.83 (closer), the Contidrom (Germany) in 1:36.70 and 1:37.38, Sachsenring (Germany) in 1:41.16 and 1:41.73, and Llandowin (Wales) in 0:46.50 and 0:49.00. To be fair, the Golf R shows up well on the track, especially with its dual-clutch automatic, proven on the Hockenheim Short (Germany) circuit that saw the VW out-lapping the Honda with a time of 1:14.50 to 1:15.70.
Of note, current competitive sport compacts also include the truly legendary Subaru WRX STI, and the soon to be unavailable Ford Focus RS (due to Ford North America's anti-car "focus"), the former putting 305 horsepower and 290 lb-ft of torque down to all four wheels via a six-speed manual or sport-tuned CVT f¬or zero to 100km/h in 5.7 seconds, and the latter pushing a staggering 350 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque through all four wheels via a six-speed manual, resulting in zero to 100km/h in just 4.6 seconds. Strangely, however, the fastest Nürburgring Nordschleife time from a Focus RS is just 8:06.29, significantly slower than the Civic Type R.
I'm not about to say anything negative about any of the cars mentioned so far, or my previous favourite Mitsubishi Evo X MR, as they're all beyond brilliant. If you've ever spent time at the wheel of any one of these super compacts you'll likely nod in agreement while your mouth turns up at each end in fond memory. These are the modern-day equivalents of yesteryears muscle cars, but with levels of near otherworldly manoeuvrability such straight-line masters could never hope to attain. Every car I've mentioned in this review is worthy of a driving enthusiast's appreciation, but Honda has done something very special in attaining such sensational performance from a front-wheel drivetrain.
Civic Type R performance is shockingly strong
Press the start/stop ignition button and the hyperactive turbo-four gurgles to life, the six-speed manual slotting precisely into first. It's a fine gearbox, which is nothing new for Honda. The Japanese brand's Civic Si is legendary for short-throw shift quality amongst other attributes, while this Type R shifter is even capable of rev-matched control. The notchy transmission is tight yet light, the clutch action easy perfection, and the lack of torque steer at full throttle shocking.
Shocking too is the immediate response to throttle input, the high-revving four spinning up to its 7,000 rpm redline so quickly you'll need to have quick arm/hand reflexes to get from the 3 o'clock position on the steering wheel to the shift lever and back in time to maximize control ahead of the next shift.
The shift knob is cold aluminum, welcoming on a warm summer's day but maybe not for a wintry Canadian morning. In fact, I recommend a set of red leather racing gloves with white H's sewn on top for just such days, the Type R (when properly shod) being a superb choice for getting (purposefully) sideways on a slippery road or track while set to "Race" mode.
A unique combination of absolute power and thoughtful fuel efficiency
Honda includes multiple driving modes in the Type R, from default to Comfort at one end, and Sport to +R (Race) at the other, this being one of only two Civic models without an Econ mode-the other being the Si. I'm ok with that, being that it's quite fuel efficient for such a formidable sports car, its official Transport Canada claimed rating at 10.6 L/100km city, 8.3 highway and 9.6 combined.
Of course, compared to the 8.0 city, 6.2 highway and 7.2 combined rating from the same Civic Hatchback model with a 1.5-litre turbo and manual transmission the Type R is thirsty, but it's a bit cheaper to use than the Golf R M6 that's rated at 11.1, 8.1 and 9.8 respectively, the Focus RS with estimated fuel usage of 12.2, 9.0 and 10.8, or the WRX STI that guzzles down 14.1, 10.5 and 12.5. Certainly fuel economy isn't the first priority in this class, but with regular hovering between $1.50 and $1.58 per litre in Greater Vancouver, and premium unleaded a lot higher, the Civic Type R's best-in-manual-class fuel economy is something to consider.
I could go on at length telling you about the Type R's fabulous handling, just how addictive it is to repeatedly lay into the throttle, flick through the gears, stomp on the big 350/305-mm Brembos and experience the big 245/30ZR20 Continental SportContact 6 performance tires bite into tarmac, etcetera, but as noted earlier the numbers speak for themselves. What you might find more useful is my opinion on general livability.
A wonderfully refined and fully featured performance car
After proximity keyless access lets you inside, the Type R's heavily bolstered microfibre sport seats are amazingly comfortable, thanks to wrapping right around your backside to hold you in place during hard cornering. I found them ideally shaped, and while the six-way manual driver's seat isn't as adjustable as a Civic Touring's powered setup, the seat is so well designed, cupping my lower back in just the right position for optimal comfort and support, that I could drive it all day without issue.
What's more, the black and red, flat-bottom, leather-wrapped sport steering wheel provides excellent telescopic reach, which allowed me to set up my driving position for perfect control of wheel and pedals, the latter finished with a nice set of grippy textured aluminum pads.
The mostly regular Civic gauges are upgraded with bold red background lighting all the time, a change from the regular Civic's pacifying aqua blue, unless in Sport mode when they go red as well. A well-stocked 7.0-inch colour TFT centre meter display provides quick-access info from the tips of your thumbs via illuminated steering wheel controls, which is nothing new but nicely done.
Type R instrumentation and infotainment as good as regular Civic
Red also gets used for the centre-mounted infotainment touchscreen's backing colour, and like the primary gauge cluster it's superbly designed plus filled with useful features such as an excellent multi-angle backup camera with dynamic guidelines, Honda's awesome LaneWatch blind spot display that projects a live image from a right-side rear-facing camera onto the monitor when flicking the right turn signal, highly accurate Garmin-based navigation with excellent mapping, HD Digital Traffic, 3D renderings of terrain and buildings, predictive local search, a lane guidance split-screen for road signs and exits, and simplified voice recognition, plus climate controls supported by a separate dual-zone auto HVAC interface just below, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and HondaLink smartphone connectivity, a great sounding 542-watt audio system with 12 speakers plus HD and satellite radio, Siri Eyes Free, SMS text message and email reading capability, two USB ports, Wi-Fi tethering, car settings, apps, and more. Also worth mentioning, a wireless charging pad sits at the base of the centre stack.
The microfibre seats are joined by equally plush microfibre door panels front and rear, these with attractive red stitching to match additional red highlights throughout the cabin, while carbon-fibre-look inlays cross each door and the instrument panel, adding to the performance-first design. Overall Civic quality is superb no matter the trim, so expect the best when climbing inside a Type R.
Comfort and refinement for all
On that note, I'll quickly mention that two rear passengers will be well cared for in a comfortable set of back seats, Honda having eliminating the Civic Hatchback's usual middle position and folding armrest for a fixed centre console with two cupholders and a tray. The cupholders are fairly deep and quite useful, but depending on who's behind the wheel I'd hold onto those drinks just the same.
As for storage, anyone familiar with the Civic Hatchback's cavernous cargo compartment will be happy that nothing changes in its transformation to Type R, its measurements still 728 litres with the seatbacks upright and 1,308 litres when they're folded flat. The 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks remain, while Honda once again fills the compartment below the floor with a styrofoam storage unit partially filled with a tire repair kit. My favourite cargo feature is the retractable cover up top, which smartly slides sideways when not needed.
An incredible performance car for great value
Considering the incredible performance, the long list of standard features, and that it comes full equipped in standard trim (although plenty of dealer-added accessories are available), the $41,090 2018 Civic Type R base price is very reasonable. Of note, it slightly undercuts the Golf R and base WRX STI, but when more fairly compared it's more than $6,000 less expensive than a similarly outfitted WRX STI Sport-tech, while the Focus RS is almost $18,000 pricier. For that you can get a Civic Type R and a nicely equipped Fit for the kids, your spouse, parents, or anyone else you want to make smile.
It's so very Honda to make sure that its track-dominating super compact is also a great value, plenty practical, comfortable and feature filled, and no doubt reliable. Civic Nation is certainly alive and well in Canada.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press
Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
Copyright: Canadian Auto Press Inc.