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2021 Honda Civic Type R Review: One Last Lap

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Auto123 reviews the 2021 Honda Civic Type R.

It’s been five years now that we’ve in our midst this demented pocket rocket whose joy at scooting around in urban traffic is surpassed only by the thrill of a day at the track. The time has come, however, to say goodbye to the current Civic Type R. Recall that this is the first generation of the model to be offered in North America, even though it has been in existence elsewhere since the mid-1990s.

The Honda lineup’s resident bad boy had a army of passionate fans, fed endless discussions and debates and even enraged many a household the windows of which may have shook as a Type R tore down the nearby highway. But above all, this Civic succeeded most at winning over hardcore Type R fans. Meaning those who wouldn’t hesitate to have a Type R imported from Japan, right-side steering wheel de damned. Heck, it even won over cynical members of the automotive press. Like me for instance.

2021 Honda Civic Type R, profile
Photo: V.Aubé
2021 Honda Civic Type R, profile

For this last date with the model’s fifth generation, I came up with an informal top 7 of the best qualities of the pocket rocket. But lest you worry, know that Honda is already at work on Gen 6. For now, the Type R is almost out of stock at Canadian Honda dealers, but down the road there will definitely be a follow-up for the North American market.

Here then are the seven biggest reason why you should consider the 2021 Honda civic Type R as your Sunday transportation, or even for the day-to-day.

Honda Civic Type R 2021, engine
Photo: V.Aubé
Honda Civic Type R 2021, engine

An incredible powertrain
The heart of the Type R sits between the two front wheels of this FWD car. A 2.0L 4-cylinder engine delivers 306 hp available as of 6,500 RPM, and maximal torque of 295 lb-ft, available as of 2,500 RPM. This formidable turbocharged unit follows Honda tradition in being extraordinarily smooth-running, although with turbo compression added to the magic formula.

Now, it’s true the car lacks the raw qualities of its naturally aspirated ancestors, but when Honda engineers get the mandate to deliver performance, they enjoy – almost – carte blanche. The result is probably the finest engine currently available in the Honda repertoire. To wit, the Acura RDX gets a lot of love from drivers and press since its overhaul, and it uses a less-explosive version of the same engine.

2021 Honda Civic Type R, gear shifter
Photo: V.Aubé
2021 Honda Civic Type R, gear shifter

A manual gearbox
I can’t say it often enough : Honda’s manual transmissions are among the best in the industry, right up there with those produced by Porsche, Mazda and BMW. Light and precise, this manual gearbox also gets more enjoyable the more you use it. Thee heel-toe manoeuvre is easy as pie, and so is shifting. Frankly, I think many Type R drivers change gears more often than others simply because it’s such a joy. Plus, that little aluminum gear knob right between the two front-row passengers begs you to cradle it.

2021 Honda Civic Type R, driver's seat
Photo: V.Aubé
2021 Honda Civic Type R, driver's seat

The driving position
Sure, if you look in the back, you’re reminded of the Type R’s modest beginnings. But who cares, really. In front, the enveloping seats keep occupants snugly in place when cornering. While they’re not power-adjustable, it’s still really easy to find the right driving position - an important consideration for a sports car. The steering wheel is exclusive to the Type R is pleasant to hold, although your hands can slide on occasion. I would recommend a pair of gloves designed for the activity if you’re going to spend a day on the track. It’s a modest and worthwhile investment to make that will help maintain control.

2021 Honda Civic Type R, front
Photo: V.Aubé
2021 Honda Civic Type R, front
2021 Honda Civic Type R, lower console
Photo: V.Aubé
2021 Honda Civic Type R, lower console

Three drive modes
The Civic Type R also adds a measure of personalization with drivers able to choose from three  drive modes : Comfort, Sport et +R. Comfort mode doesn’t suddenly turn the car in to Acura RL, but it does make for a less arduous experience for your back on pockmarked roads. The +R mode, conversely, cancels out comfort considerations in favour of settings that make the car react instantly to the lightest driver commands. Which leaves the Sport, certainly the most livable and enjoyable choice for day-to-day driving.

2021 Honda Civic Type R, cargo space
Photo: V.Aubé
2021 Honda Civic Type R, cargo space

Practicality
The Type R might be focused on aerodynamics and performance and such, but it remains a compact hatchback car, and that means it offers a large, practical cargo area for when you go to your favourite large-surface furniture to stock up on piles of boxes and planks and stuff, or head off for a camping weekend.

2021 Honda Civic Type R, exhaust pipes
Photo: V.Aubé
2021 Honda Civic Type R, exhaust pipes

10.0L/100 km? Really?
Ok, obviously fuel economy is not front and centre on the minds of Type R buyers. They probably haven’t checked the Canadian Energuide to see that the official rating is 9.6L/100 km (combined). But that’s pretty good. I recorded an average of 10.0L/100 km, and frankly for a nervy 306-hp car that’s begging you to drive it aggressively, that’s downright outstanding!

2021 Honda Civic Type R, front grille
Photo: V.Aubé
2021 Honda Civic Type R, front grille

A high-performance bargain at $46,000 and change
Honda has produced several notable sports cars over the years, and the Type R is a card-carrying member of that group. The $46,000+ starting price attached to it means it will scare off budget-conscious buyers, for sure, but given the level of adrenaline it delivers, the Type R is, in my view, one of the best cars of its time. This is a car, then, that will retain a high resale value over time, and it’s a car that delivers the goods every time its owner takes it out on the road.

There’s one caveat to all this, and that is that the 2021 edition is entirely sold out, according to the Honda Canada website. That said, nothing’s stopping you from giving your local Honda dealer a call to see if they still have any stock, or from trying your luck on the used-car market. You never know!

2021 Honda Civic Type R, rear
Photo: V.Aubé
2021 Honda Civic Type R, rear

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