Type R Life: 5 Things to Love About Dailying Honda's Hottest Hatch
In the last year or two, few performance cars have been talked about as much as the Honda Civic Type R. You can chalk that up to the wild looks, the fact that it’s "only" front wheel drive in a segment dominated by all wheel drive and the fact that it’s the first Civic Type R ever sold in America. It’s a car that everyone has an opinion on, be it incredible praise or pure hatred—with very few falling into the middle ground. From seasoned journalists and racers to everyday people out on the street, it’s a car that always gets a response from those who encounter it.
By now everyone is probably familiar with the Type R’s track credentials. It’s currently the fastest front wheel drive car ever to lap the Nurburgring and can run with sports cars costing double its price. But what’s it like to live with one day in and day out? I can tell you a bit about that, because I bought one.
For the last two months a Rally Red 2018 Civic Type R has served as my daily driver, kid-hauler, backroad fun car and soon to be weekend track machine, and I’ve gathered up some observations after putting about 1,500 miles on the British-built Japanese hot hatch. Here five of the big ones.
1. Bang for the Buck
Should you find a Civic Type R available at MSRP, you get an incredible amount of car for the money. Yes $35,000-$36,000 is a lot of money for a Honda Civic, but at this price the car still undercuts all of its competition by at least a few thousand dollars.
For the money, you get a car that delivers impressive performance (306hp and 295 lb-ft of torque), a ton of practicality and even decent fuel economy (22 mpg city/28 mpg highway). Every Type R comes equipped quite well, and there are no options or trim levels—at least right now. In addition to the engine, brakes, adaptive dampers and other performance equipment (like fully functional aero), you also get LED headlights, keyless start, navigation, dual zone climate control and other creature comforts that make the car easy to live with on a daily basis.
Based on the historic resale value of similar Japanese performance cars, I’d expect the Civic Type R to hold its value quite well, which is something you can help use to justify the idea of dropping 35 grand on a Civic.
2. The Engine & Gearbox
On paper the Civic Type R is not unlike its competition in terms of power output and delivery, but Honda has done a great job of making the whole package work in a way that’s hard to describe without driving it.
No, the Civic Type R is not like the Type Rs of old with their screaming naturally aspirated engines that rev to the stratosphere. But you can still find some of that old rev-happy Honda charm in the Type R’s 306hp turbocharged K20C engine.
While many modern turbo engines run out of steam well ahead of their redline, the Type R happily pulls up to its 7,000 rpm redline, which makes it a lot fun to go through the gears. Speaking of going through the gears, the Civic Type R’s six speed manual gearbox is a joy to use. The shifter is precise and slick like the great Hondas of past, and it features auto rev matching that can make even the most rookie drivers feel like a seasoned pro when they are on the track or just going to grab some milk. Don’t worry purists, you can still turn it off you’d like.
3. SUV-Like Space
One of the things that often gets overlooked when people talk about the Civic Type R is just how practical and spacious it is. We are talking passenger room and cargo space that can beat some small SUVs.
The cabin is plenty wide, meaning you won’t be rubbing shoulders with the person in passenger seat, and even more impressive is the rear legroom, which is easily enough for full grown adults—and for those who have to haul around a car seat like I do, that fits easily as well.
The rear hatch area is generous as well, even more so than my old Golf GTI, and if you fold the rear seats down, your Nurburgring record-holder can also haul plenty of stuff back from those big shopping trips to Costco or IKEA. Combine that with all of the nifty storage compartments that the regular Civic is known for, and it's easy to make the argument that the Type R does the family car thing quite well.
4. Causing a Scene
Depending on your personality, this could be a good thing or a bad thing—but in my experience the only thing that gets more attention than the Civic Type R is a high dollar supercar.
Every time I go to get gas I’ll usually be asked about the car, people will check it out in parking lots and I’ve gotten a ton of questions about it at. Some of them are from people who know exactly what the car is, while others have no idea what they are looking at and want to know what the winged monster is.
Now if you have an introverted personality and just want go about your drives quietly, then you might not enjoy all of the attention, but you’ll never forget that you’re driving something “special." It should also be said that while the internet is full of negative reactions to the car’s styling, all of my in-person interactions have been from people who dig it. It's not even from just younger people, but curious gearheads of all ages and backgrounds.
5. It's Fast AND Fun
Above all though, the thing I like most about the Civic Type R after driving it for two months is the way it combines both fun and performance. These days there are lot of cars that are incredibly fast but feel sterile in their personality, and the Type R is not one of those.
Yes it’s pretty quick in a straight line, and yes it has a ton of grip, great brakes and the other stuff that makes a car go fast, but it’s also incredibly fun to drive—and not just when you're running flat out.
Despite its high level of performance, there’s a certain playfulness to the Type R that makes it fun in many different situations. I consider the Ford Fiesta ST one of the most fun cars built in the last 10 years and the Type R feels like the same formula in a more powerful, more spacious package. That’s why I still find myself looking for random reasons to drive it two months on.
Of course no car is perfect, and the Civic Type R has plenty of things that could be improved to make for an even better experience—and I'll be aiming to address some of those in the future via the aftermarket, but out of the box it's hard to ask a for a whole lot more. First up is a track day to get some impressions on the car in stock form before the upgrades begin.