It's a little late in the game. Who am I kidding, it's super late, the game is almost over, and I'm the last to arrive. I'm referring to Honda's Civic Type R, which at this point has been available for almost a year and only recently were we given the chance to borrow a few press vehicles to get a feel for the Type R. Granted, the media waiting list is pretty much never ending, but I was really hoping to get behind the wheel of the FK8 much earlier in the year for a full review, especially after being given a chance to see the car before anyone else in the U.S.
Since that time, there have been approximately 989,000 reviews online and in print from editors, bloggers, and vloggers of varying levels of experience. It's not a bad thing, but having read thousands of lines of text in regards to Honda's hottest hatch to date, I really haven't been swayed one way or the other, and maybe that's a good thing.
A portion of my reluctance to latch on to any one specific opinion on the car probably has something to do with my having driven and reviewed a number of cars — mostly Honda — in the past, and 9 times out of 10 I completely disagree with the flow of opinion that often times seems half-cocked and off the mark. And whether it's the guy harping on the fact that the wing's center portion flexes when he slams close the 50-plus pound hatch, or those vehemently trying to convince you that Honda should have gone with an AWD platform, my intent with my short visit from Honda's golden child wasn't to pick the car apart in order to sway you, but rather to get a feel for it in the real world and give you my honest opinion on its strengths and weaknesses.
Then it hit me; why go on and on with just my thoughts when I could reach out to a few friends here at the office to give their two cents? I threw the keys to some interesting characters here at the TEN/Discovery offices, some of which are far removed from the Honda world, and simply asked them to tell me how they felt about the car the moment they stepped out of it.
Super Street Network Content Director, Social Media Manager
I'll kick things off. Having been a Honda enthusiast for the past few decades, I've seen the Type R hype come and not really go with the ITR, which still to this day carries tremendous value and regard. I've always experienced the incessant toying with the emotions of U.S. Honda fans with the possibility of a CTR over the years as we watched other countries get the good stuff. Now that it's here, part of me is excited while the other part is somewhat disconnected.
On the positive side, the number of steps taken forward in not only producing but harnessing the grunt of Honda's most powerful Civic is remarkable. When the specs were first introduced, the naysayers told you it wasn't enough torque. We've heard it countless times with every iteration of the Civic's heart, and for some reason people still equate the amount of torque a car "should have" to that of domestic engine output. They're entirely different animals and the relation is apples to oranges. Still, for those who noticed the significant increase in torque as compared to previous models were adamant about how torque steer would likely take the FWD 5-door into different lanes anytime the gas pedal was mashed. One trip around the block will tell you the exact opposite. The amount of control at full tilt gives you confidence, and in turn urges you to exit turns with far more throttle than you would expect. And yes, you or your friend has a K20-swapped Civic EH (though you call it an EG) and it will beat the FK8 in the quarter mile and 0 to 60. The difference being that this car is street legal, under warranty, meets modern safety requirements, and has the creature comforts that '90s Civics don't. Beyond that, forget about the Nurburgring numbers, we've seen 4 of these on track, in person (3 of them at our events), and they've delivered with nothing more than springs, wheels and tires, like the Raceline CTR that barely missed the top spot during FF Battle 9.
Sure, none of that matters. You want the raw, unrefined feel of a lightweight car with a highly capable engine, and that mid-'90s hatchback with a swap is what you're after. No power windows, power steering, and in many cases, no back seats or carpet. I know the feeling, and I've been there, and simply put this car isn't for you. Instead, it will fall into the hands of the enthusiast that once had fun in a modified Honda or the one looking for a new part-time car with a special touch, rather than the crowd that prefers to buy an older, lighter chassis and throw countless paychecks at it over time, rather than all at once. I tend to fall somewhere in between in that I don't have a problem with change and can accept newer Hondas won't look like 5th and 6th gen. models because Honda leaning on a style from two decades ago is ridiculous. So is the idea of AWD, simply because a large group of digital web dwellers (bench racers) want it to be a stoplight grand prix champ. The loudest of the bunch are typically those who have never owned a modified Civic, have no intention of owning a Civic, but for some reason are the most vocal about their displeasure with its direction.
After a week with the FK8 I think Honda nailed exactly what they were after. The car drives extremely well, begs to be pushed, and exudes more confidence than I think I've ever experienced in a FWD car. The ride is rougher than any other stock Honda you're likely to come across, even in comfort mode, and once you get into Sport and R modes it gets effectively more aggressive. That ride lends itself to handling that — well, you've read about it a thousand times, but the Type R gobbles up turns exactly as promised. I will say that once you get into the R mode, the steering stiffens up considerably, making the car feel heavier than it actually is. Most likely an effort to help shore up the torque delivery and keep you in control, it took some getting used to and I wasn't completely on board, but I get it.
The look is extreme and a bit too much for my taste and I ran into the same issues Mike Febbo did with everyone and their grandmother trying to egg me into a street race. The car begs for attention and one of my neighbors, a die-hard hot rod domestic guy with a beautiful classic hot rod in his garage summed it up best with, "This thing looks serious. I heard these are pretty quick...it's just too bad everyone knows it from a mile away."
Overall rating: Thumbs up. I loved driving it, but probably wouldn't buy one. I prefer building older chassis and making them my own. Still, Honda did an incredible job with this car and I'm still in awe about its power delivery and control.
TEN/Discovery Tech Center Manager
You won't find Jason stuck behind a computer screen or jockeying a cubicle like most of us on the day-to-day, but rather under a domestic project car or truck making magic. He runs TEN's Santa Ana office Tech Center and it's rare to find him without a wrench in his hand. Beyond the constant projects, installs, and full blown ground-up builds for events like SEMA, Week to Wicked, and Hot Rod Power Tour, he happens to own an 800hp project car of his own. So what does a domestic car builder that avoids FWD cars like the plague have in common with the Civic Type R? Absolutely nothing, which is exactly why I wanted his honest opinion on what he liked/disliked about the Type R.
"Well, first of all, that automatic downshifting blip was pretty cool. The car handles good through the turns being that it's front wheel drive and I'm not used to that.
"However, I thought it lagged a lot in between gears. Like when I'd redline it and go to shift, it would just take quite a bit of effort to get back some of that power. Also, does anyone make a shorter throw shifter for that car? Because it definitely needs it. Overall though, for a little car, it moves. Again, I liked the automatic downshift rev match, the way it handles so well and the user selectable driving modes is pretty cool as well. Still, the lag in between gears was a bummer. Obviously I would never buy one but I can see the appeal of this car if that's your thing. There's a lot going on with the outside of it but the performance is surprisingly really good for a little car."
Overall rating: "Thumb half way up/down. Would never buy one of these, obviously, but for what it is, I was pretty impressed."
TEN/Discovery Graphic Designer
I've only known Warren for the better part of 2017 but judging by his modified 9th gen Si sedan, I knew right away he was a Honda guy. We'd talked at length about the CTR in the past, and I had a feeling his eyes would light up when I told him to take it for a spin. I wasn't wrong. Here's his take:
"The shift modes are great and you can totally feel the power shift in each mode. Even though I didn't take it on a track or freeway, the back roads were great to really test the power, braking, and ride comfort. What can I offer in regards to some sort of improvement? Not much. The price is a bit high for Civic drivers. Hardcore Type R enthusiasts will buy it anyway and just eat Cup O' Noodles until it's paid off if they have too, lol! Driving it you can still feel the road, which I love, but can see how others wouldn't. I was expecting the Comfort Mode to change the ride and make the suspension considerably softer, almost like in a standard, non-lowered car, but it remained quite a bit stiff. The bucket seats felt great minus the fact that my elbows kept hitting the side bolsters. That would be fine in terms of racing or tracking the car, but for everyday driving that might get annoying for me.
"The gearing was quick/short, and I loved it! Between gears felt very responsive and not much of a dip in power like in my '14 Civic Si. It did feel like there was a slight lag when starting off in 1st gear, but I wasn't punching it too hard either when leaving a light. I love the Type R motor and exhaust sound. Even though you can hear it in the car, it's not bad at all and just adds to the sportiness. Besides, it's a track car out of the box so you should be able to hear it. The shifting was smooth and easy even though it sits higher than my Si, but I like it because with the 10th gen. the armrest doesn't get in your elbow's way. I love the fact the steering feels stiffer in the Type R mode, which makes it feel more stable, but that's from a person who didn't have power steering back in the day. It didn't feel squirrely when you take off. It feels like the power sticks to the ground. Everything is easy to reach and see, I'm only 5' 6", so visibility is better than I expected, especially if I add a Broadway mirror.
"Overall, I love this car! Now I don't think I should fork over the money for that Hondata in my current Si. I don't think it'll be enough to give me that same Type R feeling! I am seriously considering a CTR purchase now."
Overall rating: "THUMBS UP! TWICE!"
Super Street Network Online Editor
Daily driving an RSX Type S and having served as the editor of Honda Tuning once upon a time, Bob has been around Hondas for a number of years. He was the editor that I answered to during some of my freelance years, and today he's my right-hand man on the digital side of the Super Street Network. Here are his thoughts:
"So the car's kinda ugly. It's got a massive C-pillar blind spot over your right shoulder, and damned if that combo speedo-tach doesn't take some getting used to. But boy, does she love to go fast; regardless of driving mode, this machine is a grip beast that can scoot with the best of them, especially around the twisties (and even in light of the beat-up press car we had). The hatchback's quickness and road holding personally reminded me of the time we got our hands on a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX MR way back in the day and the almost-reckless joy that car elicited without any modification — the same feeling comes through in the Type R. Unadulterated good times, just watch the lane changes."
Overall rating: "Thumbs up. I'm not sold on the look but it goes and it goes well!"
TEN/Discovery Advertising Sales Account Executive
A longtime sales rep, Derrick is a hardcore car enthusiast. He currently owns a stable of domestic cars that includes multiple Mavericks and a GTO, as well as an Aussie-built Holden SS that he's supercharged and plumbed for nitrous. And though he's daily-driven a Honda Pilot for years and had occasional spats with press cars that have passed through the offices, that's about as close as he gets to the Honda brand.
"Best thing is the trans — it shifts great and isn't at all notchy. I think the throw could be a tad shorter, but compared to other cars I have driven it's nothing really to complain about and I like it! Obviously, it corners great! The car feels solid and very well balanced. It brought flash backs of driving a '97 [Integra Type R] press car back in the day. But one thing this Type R doesn't have, like the 195hp '97 R, is torque steer. It's almost non-existent in this model even at 100 more horsepower. I guess the Dual Axis suspension really works! For a FWD with 300-plus hp, I have to say Honda did a great job with that. And given that the brakes were shot in the press car, it still stopped well, almost like a Porsche Caymen S to be honest. Inside, I liked the dash and the display, also the steering wheel feels really good.
"Blind spots are horrible, though. It's a given that most new cars are built this way and have blind spot monitors for that. Still, I would like to see myself what is going on while driving.
"The power band is much better than any previous generation Civic I've driven. However, out of the box it just needs more torque. Maybe I am just too used to cars that have a power band of torque equal to horsepower...LS power forever (eat that, Honda fan boys, lol!) However, I can see with some mods and a tune this thing could really open up.
"The seats could get tiring while sitting in LA traffic. On the track I get how these seats can be great, but how often would one take this on the track? Also the seats look a bit too boy racer to me. The older DC2 used to say Recaro on them. You were proud they not only were Type R seats, but that they were also Recaros and it was a clean look. This Type R just says "Type R," like you don't already know that, and unfortunately it reminds me of the NOPI years with a plethora of knockoff seats, mufflers, and key chains with the word "Type R" on them. I don't know, it just looks cheap to me. My last bitching point about the seats is that the adjustability should be better and more refined. I get the whole non-powered seats to save weight but it felt like I was trying to adjust seats in my old Nissan Sentra.
"Out of the box it's a good car if you can get past its looks. There is just too much going on. I understand how everything is functional but how often will someone actually utilize it? I would love to take this car on the track instead of ripping it around the streets looking out for cops in Irvine lol! My suggestion for Honda is to offer something like this Type R but toned down so it's a little more on the sleeper side, sort of like the 8th gen. Mugen Civic. Given when you drive it you don't have to look at it, so maybe I could just pretend I am driving something that looks better or just stick to my Holdens."
Overall rating: "Thumbs half up/down. Wouldn't buy it, but Honda did a good job with this car and the power delivery is spot on (but still needs more torque!)."
european car editor-in-chief
There's no one in our offices more qualified to give you feedback on a new model than european car's editor-in-chief, Michael Febbo. He's driven quirky little electric cars, countless high-end exotics, and even full-blown racecars. He has far more track miles than anyone in our group, and much like Jason and Derrick, he's about the furthest thing you'll ever find from being a Honda guy. This is a long one, but it's also incredibly informative and gives you a broad look at where he feels Honda delivered, and where it fell short with the CTR:
"Deciding between all-wheel drive and front-wheel drive must have been tough for Honda, but ultimately I believe it made the right choice. Right out of the box, it delivers a feeling of being on the limit and being a little ragged when pushed — you don't get that in either a GTI and especially not in the Golf R; both cars having a lot more chassis and brakes compared to power levels. To get there in a GTI isn't hard but quickly levels out the price difference between it and the CTR and will also cost you your warranty. The AWD Golf R starts out more expensive and requires considerable investment to get to the 450-500hp range to get the same experience.
"For me, a close relationship with any car starts with the steering. This was a little bit of a let down in the CTR in terms of driver feedback. From my limited knowledge of the car, I understand Honda is employing a zero or near-zero scrub radius front strut suspension. The scrub-radius — the distance between the tires center of contact with the ground and the intersection of the steering axis with the ground — is responsible for a large part of steering feel. At the same time, it is also one of the main culprits of torque-steer, which explains the design choice in a FWD car delivering 295 lb.-ft. of torque. On top of that, the variable assist electric power steering isn't adjustable independently of the driving mode (at least I couldn't figure it out in my half hour with the car) so in Sport or R Mode, the steering becomes syrupy and slow, making the car feel heavier and less responsive. Even more detrimental, it adds more noise to a system already low on signal level. With that said, the steering action is precise and accurate; there is very little steering gain and it is obvious the front structure is more than adequately rigid. The performance is definitely there, it just doesn't have the feedback I'd hoped for. Still, don't let your friends with BMW F8X M3/4s drive the car; it'll hurt their fragile egos.
"Unlike many of the cars in the competitive set, Honda has smartly equipped the CTR with a real mechanical limited-slip differential — are you listening VW? I own a MK7 GTI, it has a very complicated, heavy, and expensive active limited-slip diff, it doesn't work any better than the CTR's. Between that, the suspension geometry and Continental tires engineered specifically for the car, it puts down power beautifully with no noticeable torque steer, and believe me I tried. In first gear, in either a straight-line or turning, it will spin both front tires, but it accelerates where pointed and doesn't tug at the wheel. That tire spin disappears quickly in second. I don't know what the 0-60mph time is for the Type-R, but my guess is that it is well south of my flashed GTI, and I'd bet most of that is in the 0-20mph range.
"The manual transmission in the Type-R has better feel and actuation than anything short of a 6-speed Porsche. The shifter feels as authentically mechanical as a Snap-On 1/2-inch drive ratchet with perfect weighting and throw lengths ideal for spirited driving. The clutch travel is short and a little light, but there is plenty of feedback on engagement. If more manufacturers sold manuals like this, industry take rates would be a lot higher than 8 to 10 percent.
"While this is a 2.0-liter turbo, like everything from a Focus ST, MINI Cooper S, Golf R and even BMW 230/330 it feels completely different. The competition in this category is focused on delivering torque peaks as low as 1500 RPM. The consequence is big power delivery in the bottom end, but running out of breath well before redline. The CTR engine doesn't have much torque down low and even at the beginning of the mid-range there is still a decent amount of lag; the payoff however is an engine that spins and pulls enthusiastically towards the top-end. It doesn't feel like a naturally aspirated twin-cam in an old GSR or Type-R, but it feels like what I imagine a Honda turbo engine should. Besides — having to work to keep the engine on boil is just more of an excuse to use the manual transmission as much as possible. Like most modern turbo engines, it sounds OK at best; although it does make all the whoosh and poosh turbo noises you would expect from an aftermarket intake.
"As a whole, everything gels together nicely. The CTR turns in eagerly and will hold a constant radius without having to make adjustments. The suspension is stiff in every mode, but probably not out of place on a car like this. The power delivery, with the turbo spun-up, is linear and smooth. Around town it is predictable and doesn't hit you with all-or-nothing torque like some modern turbo engines — like BMW. Even the brake pedal actuation is firm and predictable."
"So why am I not running to a Honda dealer right now to trade in my GTI? It comes down to me being too old for this car, in several ways. The first thing is the styling. Honda claims everything on the car is functional. Really? Even those giant fake grilles in the rear bumper? OK, all the Type-R specific parts are functional, but that doesn't make them any less ridiculous looking. Styling is subjective, so to each their own. What I can't get past is the reactions of other drivers. Not even 60 seconds from pulling out of the driveway, a guy in a 20-year-old Maxima is trying to race me; then its muscle cars, then teens in econo-boxes, then middle-aged guys in minivans. I just want to get where I'm going. I can't handle every drive being the next F&F sequel. Lastly, my tuned GTI has the rawness of the CTR, but it still has all the refinement of the stock GTI as well. When I want to I can take it to the track and beat on it all day; when I just want to commute, it's quieter, more comfortable, and more refined than the Type-R. It also just disappears into traffic. There was a point in my life where this car would have been very desirable; that time is gone for me. Now I can appreciate the CTR for being as great as it is, but I wouldn't own one."
Overall rating: "Thumb up. Not something I'd buy, but Honda's done some great things with this car. However, I'll stick to my GTI."