Honda Civic Type R review: Finally on U.S. shores


  • Pinterest

What is it: The hottest of the front-drive hot hatches, the all-new 2017 Civic Type R is the fastest, most powerful Honda, and the first-ever Honda Type R model to be sold in America.

Key Competitors: Ford Focus ST, Volkswagen Golf GTI,  Subaru WRX

Base Price: $34,100 As-Tested Price: $34,100

Highlights: Honda’s 2-liter turbo four, making 306 horsepower in this configuration, manages to drive the front wheels only without requiring a death grip to counter torque steer; the result is magic.


Our Opinion: More than anything else on the market, the Civic Type R is a departure from the its base-model stock. The Civic Si feels…well, like a fun, punched-up Civic. The Type R is a whole ‘nother beast. Unlike the Impreza/WRX/WRX STI, Golf/GTI/R or Focus/ST/RS triplets, there’s no linear progression from not-too-hot to bonkers here; it transforms the competent but quotidian platform upon which it is based completely.

Am I complaining? Hell no. Give me more expectation-defying cars like this. Whatever preconceived notions you might have, though, know that you’ll need to recalibrate them before you jump in; this is a big departure from the great and famous Hondas the preceded it. America never got the Civic Type R before this model, but something like the Acura Integra Type R, or maybe an older Civic Si, gave us a certain set of expectations: Beautifully engineered handlers built around beautifully engineered motors that traded torque for sky-high redlines. In other words, cars that had at least a vague philosophical connection to Honda’s motorcycles. There was a simplicity, and an elegance, to the way these vehicles were built and the way they operated.

This Type R, on the other hand, is a thoroughly modern performer. It has a lot of power and it can do extraordinary things, but it leans on modern tech, like adaptive shocks and dampers, to make the whole package tractable. In no sense does the Type R embody a “less is more” philosophy, and except for the stick shift and front-wheel-drive configuration, nothing about this screams “old-school Honda.” Its powerful, responsive 2.0-liter is turbocharged, and it makes absolutely no attempt at restrained styling (I genuinely don’t mind the Gundam-like looks in small doses, but the longer you stare, the more overdone it looks…and what’s up with all the fake vents?).

In our big first drive, we explored the Type R’s track capability and found it to be anything but wanting. I’m pleased to say it’s also an enjoyable (if stiff) street car, too. Unlike some track stars, it’s fun to drive hard, but also satisfying to bomb around in — you don’t have to go 80 mph to have a blast. But you can go that fast — or considerably faster — because it’s just a rock-solid vehicle all around. Great brakes, too. It helps that the shifter, which is about as good as anything currently on the market, makes running through the gears a joy at any speed.

And there’s something cool about the fact that, at a time when the competition is going all-wheel drive, Honda decided to put all 306 hp (and 295 lb-ft of torque) down through the front wheels only. I’m curious about how this setup performs in warmer weather; I experienced no torque steer when launching the Type R during my time behind the wheel, but it was cooler, and the tires didn’t always bite the pavement instantly. Will I have to wrestle with the wheel more if the rubber gets warmer? Apparently not, if our previous review is to be believed.

I realize that a lot of you reading this aren’t going to be able to get over the looks. I get it, to an extent. But know that you’re missing out on a really unique, marvelous and fun car if you let that turn you off entirely.

–Graham Kozak, features editor

2017 Honda Civic Type R Drive Review

The Honda Civic Type R is now the best front-wheel drive car on the planet. It’s better than the VW GTI and the Focus ST and the Mini Cooper S and the old MazdaSpeed3. Of course, it’s about eight grand more than the GTI and Focus ST, so that will have to be factored in at some point. Just not now.

Everything about the Type R makes the driver want to go faster. First, there’s the speed, obviously, that Honda somehow puts to the pavement without torque steer. The MazdaSpeed3, the previous FWD champion, would rip the steering wheel out of your hands if you didn’t have a good grip while launching. I’ll throw it to Warner’s Type R first drive story to explain it better than I could:

“Honda credits this [lack of torque steer] to what they call a dual-axis front-strut system. In basic terms, the hub has additional ball joints to separate the steering from the drive, which mean motions from the steering system play a significantly smaller role in how drive torque gets to the wheel.”

All of that means that this car rips off the line. You can also thank a smooth-but-decisive clutch engagement and a short overall clutch stroke for that. Normally I say I want the engagement point to be low in the stroke, but the whole movement on the clutch only feels like five inches or so anyway, so anytime you snap off it, you’ll be in gear. The stickshift throw is short and perfect, too, right up there with the MX-5 in terms of feel. I was actually jamming it so fast I reinjured, or at least reaggravated, my right wrist injury.

The brakes are perfect, too, with about a half inch of play before clampdown, and the steering feel, with those 245/30R-20 Continental SportContact 6 tires is also one of the best in the post-hydraulic era.

This car LOVES being at the limit, which isn’t easy to do on public roads. There are a few wide sweepers on my way to work, and I doubled up, hitting a few turnarounds to take them again and again. It feels so controllable, even as the front tires are slipping outward. You can just modulate the throttle in millimeter increments, feeling the front end push out, then tuck back in.

The styling is wild, to say the least, overwrought both inside and out. But so is the Subaru WRX STI, and so was the Mitsubishi Evo. I think in black it might look better, hiding some of those styling pieces. I do appreciate, however, that the big wing doesn’t sit right on the horizon in the rearview like the aforementioned Subaru.

So, does it compete with the STI/RS/Golf R because they’re closer in price and output, or does it compete with the Focus ST/VW GTI because it’s front-wheel drive? I think it’ll probably steal a few sales from all of them. It’s one of the best cars I’ve driven.

–Jake Lingeman, road test editor

On Sale: Now

Base Price: $34,100

Powertrain: 2.0-liter DOHC turbocharged I4, FWD six-speed manual

Output: 306 hp @ 6,500 rpm; 295 lb-ft @ 2,500-4,500 rpm

Curb Weight: 3,117 lb

Fuel Economy: 22/28/25 mpg(EPA City/Hwy/Combined)

Options: None

Pros: The best front-drive car on the market

Cons: Overwrought exterior design places it squarely in the boy-racer camp

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



Check Also

Honda’s New Smart Car And Motorcycle Just Blew Away Everyone At CES

Meet Honda’s new self-balancing motorcycle that can follow you around.

[Hyundai All-New ELANTRA] Product Information Film

From sporty and future-oriented design to the driver-focused technology features, Experience the New Hyundai Elantra’s ...

2017 Los Angeles Auto Show | Toyota

WATCH the #FTAC reveal from #LAAutoShow SUBSCRIBE: About Toyota: We’re in the business of making ...