Honda Civic Type R Review

Tim O'Brien | 9 Comments

Honda’s racy Civic Type R is a delicious thing. Beautifully-balanced on road, it also has one of the best engines to be found anywhere - its i-VTEC DOHC four.

In a ‘hot-hatch’ segment dominated by thumping turbos, Honda’s masterful Type R takes a different approach.

INTERIOR

  • Quality: The Type R creates a premium impression with black Alcantara and red fabric seats, machined aluminium gear knob, alloy pedals, monogrammed carpets and tight vault-like feel.

    On the downside, the dash design is a mess of lines. Also, in our test car, there was an ill-fitted plastic corner trim in the driver’s door.
  • Comfort: With well-bolstered seats and a superbly damped elastic suspension, the Type R is a comfortable drive with few of the expected compromises.

    Its egg-shaped back also provides lots of rear leg and head-room. One niggling debit is that the front seat-backs do not return to their prior setting after being tilted forward.
  • Equipment: Standard equipment includes CD (MP3 and WMA), iPod and USB integration, and aux-in. It also comes with a multi-function steering wheel (tilt and telescopic), cruise and climate control, rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlights, fog lights, and heated door mirrors.
  • Storage: Boot space is a useful 485 litres; that rises to 1352 litres with the 60:40 rear seats folded into the footwell. The out-of-sight underseat area in the rear is also clever.

ON THE ROAD

  • Driveability: It may not have the sling-shot feel of a turbo, but the 148kW Type R is an exhilarating drive. Hit the meat of the powerband at 5400rpm and it simply takes off, shrieking to an 8000rpm redline.

    With the slickest of six-speed transmissions, on a winding road it is spine tingling stuff.

    It’s made for the racetrack but with a nicely-weighted clutch, direct (electric assist) steering and a compliant ride, it is just as easy to enjoy poking around the suburbs.
  • Refinement: The on-road refinement of the Type R is a surprise. It is much quieter than a regular Civic over coarse road surfaces; wind noise is low, and it’s also free of mechanical harshness.
  • Suspension: MacPherson struts up front, torsion beam rear with stabilisers front and back. With a rigid chassis and superbly-tuned damping, Type R ‘rides’ the contours of the road and, as a sporting drive, it simply works.
  • Braking: There are ventilated 300mm discs up front, 260mm solid discs at the rear, also ABS and EBD.

SAFETY

  • Euro NCAP rating: 5-Stars (not rated in Australia)
  • Safety features: Standard are front, side and curtain airbags with double pre-tensioners on the front seatbelts and seatbelt reminder system. ABS, EBD, VSA, and other dynamic safety features are also standard.

WARRANTY AND SERVICING

  • Warranty: All Honda cars are sold with a three-year/100,000km warranty. The Honda Assured Extended Warranty adds an additional two years and 40,000km.
  • Service costs: Service intervals are every 10,000km, with service costs between $70 and $250 for the first 60,000km. (Indicative pricing only)
  • Service interval: 10,000km/12 months.

HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY

The Civic Type R is priced at $39,990 plus on-roads (around $43k drive-away), but competition is tough.

  • Ford Focus XR5 Turbo ($36,490) - This is the bargain-buy of the moment and fast as all get-out. Although the recommended RRP is $36,490, you can pick up a brand new turbo Focus XR5 on Discount New Cars for as little as $33,990 drive-away. The Type R is more satisfying, but at that price..?
  • Mazda3 MPS ($38,435) - Another hot-hatch stormer with a deserved reputation. Currently $38, 435 plus on-roads; a very good drive but lacks the sublime balance of the Type R.

    Note: prices are manufacturer's list price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.

TMR VERDICT | OVERALL

The superbly balanced Type R is a gem: it is just so involving and such fun at the wheel.

In a segment that has become a battle of raw turbo-driven kilowatts, the Type R takes a different path – its sporting soul is one of balance and finesse.

It’s a decision of the heart. We love the Type R, you will too.

Filed under: Featured, review, Honda, petrol, honda civic, honda civic type r, hatch, fwd, performance, small, enthusiast, 4cyl, 3door, tim o'brien

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  • DM says,
    4 years ago
    Hmmm... Tim, I understand you love this car but there are a few drawbacks that you havent mentioned. Firstly, the rear suspension is a cheap torsion beam system which is not good enough at that price. Even the Japanese Civic has a proper IRS system. Secondly, getting power at 8000 rpm (with very little below 5000rpm) is fine when on the race track or fanging up your favourite mountain pass but is simply a pain in the a$$ for 99.9% of driving. I have owned VTEC cars before and would rather instant low down torque any day in a daily driver. Just too hard to live with. Not saying this isnt a great car, bit it's not the most "balanced" of reviews.
    • Timbo says,
      4 years ago
      1 like
      Yo DM, I don't quite understand the obsession with the torsion bar back-end of the Type R - triggered no doubt by Clarkson's savaging. But let's not mistake entertainment and some pretty loose words for accurate reporting.

      Quite simply, the Type R's torsion bar rear works. Lots of 'proper' IRS systems don't work nearly as well.

      The Type R has a better 'stuck' rear for instance than the MPS or Focus, and is line ball with the Golf GTi. And when really wound up on a mountain road, the extra chassis rigidity inherent with a low profile 'twist beam' suspension, allows you to really load up cornering forces without suddenly finding a loss of balance and a wheel in the air.

      The other obvious benefit of a torsion bar rear is a practical one. Without suspension towers intruding into the interior, the rear seats can be mounted further back (further improving balance), and boot space is greater. There have been so many brilliant European cars - sporting and family - with the 'long-travel' suspension that torsion bars afford that it's a tad premature to begin ringing the bells and calling for their demise.

      As an aside, it's somewhat strange the amount of second-hand opinion peddled about on the supposed shortcomings of torsion bar back-ends (and how they're 'cheap') with so few lamenting that nearly every manufacturer on the planet has gone to MacPherson strut front ends - cheaper, simpler, and, yes, in most applications inferior to the more expensive double-wishbone (but, of course, that's another generalisation).

      It's also not true, if you've spent some time with the Type R, that there's 'very little below 5000rpm'. It's true that it takes off with a bucket-load of revs on board, but it is actually quite tractable even at 2000-3000rpm.

      One of the reasons in fact I find the Type R so appealing is that it is such a sweet daily driver. And, yes, Clarkson's comment about the suspension is simply wrong: the ride in the Type R is firm, but elastic, and not as hard as the Golf GTi for instance: they're both stiff, but the GTi is stiffer.

      Seems like you need to book yourself into a Type R DM for a reappraisal.

      Tim

      • MotorMouth says,
        4 years ago
        Tim, on the subject of MacPherson strut v double-wishbone, I am not so sure it matter these days. The real advantage of a double-wishbone set-up is that it is easier to set-up for perfect handling. With computer-simulations these days, I imagine it is just as easy now to get the perfect MacPherson strut set-up too, and a MacPherson strut set-up is lighter, which also helps balance. There are other advantages for double-wishbone, of course, but I doubt it still has the massive advantage it once did.
        Overall though, I agree that independent rear suspension in a FWD car is largely a marketing advantage, but it seems to work.
  • MotorMouth says,
    4 years ago
    The new Megane RS250 also has a torsion beam rear end and it doesn't hurt it one bit. In fact, I'm pretty sure the RS Clio does too, so maybe that is the secret to make a really good handling FWD? Seriously though, the rear end doesn't have much to do so it obviously isn't all that important if you get the set-up right.

    Interestingly, this is the first review I have read anywhere that suggests the ride is anything short of bone-jarring and if you need 5400rpm to get to the power-band, I can't imagine it would be much fun as a daily driver. When they first came out, I thought they looked great but now when I see one, I think they look a bit stupid.
  • MotorMouth says,
    4 years ago
    Channel 9 just replayed Clarkson's review. He said the ride was "intolerable" and that you'd need a skeleton made out of granite to deal with it. Overall, he said it was useless, but he was mostly comparing it to the previous model that we never saw here.
  • Tocam says,
    4 years ago
    DM, it is this variable intake/exhaust lift technologies found in the Honda's VTEC, Toyota's VVT-i (think the 4A-GE Blacktop engine) that makes FWD cars so much fun to drive. The are both efficient during day to day city driving and when pressed provides the extra rev counts at the top end and extra grunts from the natural aspirated engines.

    But then these engines are so free-revving it gets to its top end rpm in no time, so I've never had any issues with them before. I've driven a Type R Civic before with the red-top B16B engine, and also the Integra's B18C and they are all very lovely engines in lovely chassis, I can't fault them.

    This lates Civic Type R is a totally different story, I do agree with you however that the suspension is a bit under-done. It has left it's Japanese legacy behind in pursue of the European taste.

    MotorMouth, I think you read too much magazine. Go and drive a real mid-late 90s Japanese hot hatch with the Type R engine. Nothing from today's hot hatch are a match in terms of balance and excitement. Torsion beam rear is just a way to cut cost, end of story.
    • MotorMouth says,
      4 years ago
      Unfortunately, Honda never made a "mid-late 90s Japanese hot hatch with the Type R engine" that had seats that I could sit in, so they are completely irrelevant to me. I also think you are kidding yourself if you think any chassis from that era can possibly be better than one from today's computer-engineered cars. Clarkson showed that last night, with the previous Type R lifting it's inside-rear wheel all the time. That might be fun but it doesn't get you around a track faster.

      I've owned many rotaries over the past 30 years and I loved 'em dearly, until I drove a European four cylinder with torque at low revs. Now I will never go back to that high-revving, race-style engine for a daily driver. My current non-turbo four has more than 200 of it's 230Nm available from idle but it also screams to the 7000rpm cutoff in 1st, 2nd and 3rd. It has most of the excitement of a VTEC engine when I want it but remains tractable in peak-hour traffic. It also has seats made for Caucasian bums (and double-wishbone front plus independent rear suspension, if that matters). Realistically, a VTEC only feels impressive when it hits the power-band because it is so pathetic until that point. A good engine will have good low-end torque, complemented by good high-end power, allowing it to work for the driver in any situation.
  • Adrian
    Adrian says,
    4 years ago
    Attn Honda: Please, please, please, get rid of this and bring in a real Type R, the FD2R !!
  • jrgti says,
    4 years ago
    Errrr.......I know little about cars but this reviewer says the IVTEC engine is better than the GTI TSI engine.
    I am perplexed when I compare them with the specs. The GTI has pretty much the same engine as an Audi Sportback S3. It delivers more torque from a wide rev band starting from a low 1700rpm. It is slightly more powerful.
    So why??

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