The Honda Civic Type R finally made it to Canadian soil last year after what seemed like an interminable wait. The only car with all-wheel drive in its segment, the Type R is nonetheless an absolute bullet of a car to drive around day to day.
This year, the only change of note being brought to the version presented to Canadian consumers regards the colours on its chassis. For 2018, the Civic Type R is, finally, available in Rallye Red, a colour that adds just that much more aggression to a car that already has it in spades!
I recently had the opportunity to retake the wheel of the car, a year almost to the day after first doing a first drive. I wondered, as I settled in, whether the hot new colour would influence my impressions of the most dynamic model in the Honda lineup.
A hell-bent expression
Choosing a colour is a highly individual choice, obviously. Some like to get noticed – hence the existence of yellow – while other prefer to blend in – hello white, grey and black. I’m part of the latter group, I must confess. However, there are cases where an attention-grabbing look wins me over. Take the Type R – its new colour suits it perfectly, perhaps because it attenuates the many red-coloured details splashed here and there around the exterior. Maybe it’s also because of the badging, which is… red, of course!
Still, the new colour scheme doesn’t change much when it comes to the very busy contours of the Civic Type R. The heavily-populated hood is still there, as is the air vent on it, while the wheels are still a massive 10 inches in diameter! The underskirts also contribute to the special character of the car, while the small spoiler spanning the rear window and the huge one on the tip of the trunk tell anyone and everyone that you’re really serious about aerodynamic performance at high speeds. Last but not least there are the three exhaust pipes – yes, three! – sticking out from the lower rear end.
Honda, renowned engine builder
Honda’s return to F1 might not be going exactly according to plan – results with McLaren have been pretty mediocre – but the manufacturer’s engines have earned a reputation for being indestructible and technologically at the cutting edge. The 2.0L 4-cylinder turbo that sits between the front wheels of the Type R produces a whopping 306 hp at 6,500 RPM, while torque maxes out at 295 lb-ft. And unlike Volkswagen with its Golf R, for example, Honda offers just the one transmission for its hot hatch – the good old 6-speed manual gearbox!
To live up to expectations – and these are sky high – the Type R gets Brembo brakes, aloig with front four-piston calipers biting into 350-mm ventilated discs; the rear 305-mm discs are larger than on the current model.
The adjustable suspension does its best to make you forget those big tires as they careen over our rough Canadian roads. In Comfort mode, the Type R does a relatively good job absorbing bumps and cracks, but switch to +R mode and that comfort level disappears as the car becomes ultra-responsive to very one of the driver’s gestures. As is so often the case, the best medium is the Sport mode, which adds notable sportiness to the driving dynamics but keeps the ride from becoming unpleasant for bums and backs.
Sitting in a race car… designed for the road!
Ok, I admit, the Civic Type R is not spec-ed for a specific racing series. But, it gets pretty darn close to that. The front-row sport seats provide enough support for taking corners at speed, and in general they’re very comfortable. Unfortunately, the rear bench is less welcoming, but hey, we’re talking about a Civic here, not a Bentley! In any case, racy as it is, the Type R is as practical as any other Civic hatchback.
The steering wheel is a pleasure to hold, but the pièce de resistance is the brushed-aluminum gear shifter. It handles precisely and nimbly, and its position is simply perfect. I recently drove a Porsche 911 Carrera T equipped with a shortened shifter that, in my opinion, is the best stick to manhandle on a track. The Civic Type R is not in the same category as the 911, but the manual gearbox of the compact hatch is, I think, just behind the Porsche’s in terms of precision and ease of use.
When accelerating, the front axle of the Type R still tends to twist due to minimal torque effect, but it’s light years removed from front-wheel drives of the past that obliged the driver to hold on to the wheel for dear life. Need I mention that the Civic Type R is fast? It is, very much so. The sound it produces is maybe not as muscular as what’s spit out by the Focus RS (which is enhanced via its speaker system, by the way), but it’s still notably more guttural than what you get out of the Civic Si.
While the behaviour of the Type R at high speed is worthy of the badge, what’s even more impressive is its ability to be quite docile when driving in the city. In that environment, the Civic type R drives like… a Civic!
The last word
Easy it might be to drive, but it’s also true that the Civic Type R is (really) not for everyone. Its performance capabilities are those of a true sports car, and a novice driver could easily be overmatched by its capacities. As for the price point of $41,090 (before delivery fees), let’s agree that that in itself is not for everyone.
In the end, the Honda Civic Type R is one of the most exciting cars to drive on the market, in any category. Great news for the purists!