There isn’t much stopping the Civic Type R from being the definitive hot car to have this summer.
MONTRÉAL, QUÉBEC – Through no exaggeration, this is one of the most anticipated cars of the last few years. Honda has been teasing the possibility of a hot version of the popular Civic (reviewed here) for many years, as the Type R has consistently been sold in other markets around the world. To add to the popularity of the latest Civic, new for the 2016 model year, Honda has finally obliged to the wants of enthusiasts and tuners, with the hottest Civic to be sold in Canada to date. We were part of a small group of media invited to drive the 2017 Honda Civic Type R on the track as a first drive.
Even at first glance, there’s no mistaking the Civic Type R for anything but a tuner special. With a center-mounted exhaust below the rear diffuser boasting a triple pipe setup, a prominent wing on the rear hatch like the Subaru WRX STi (reviewed here), and 20” alloy wheels, the car looks mental. The wheels are painted black with a racy red lip around the outer edge of the rim, and do very little to conceal the big Brembo brake calipers behind them. There’s a scoop on the hood and the entire body of the Civic Hatchback (reviewed here) has been tweaked and modified, to significantly differentiate the Type R from its “normal” siblings. The Type R is only available in hatchback form; those looking for a coupé or sedan body style with additional performance will have to opt for the Si.
The interior of the car is no less special than the exterior, with extremely well bolstered red seats, finished in faux-suede and offering extra side support. The Championship White (Honda purists will remember this colour from the Integra Type R) vehicle matched with the red seats looks stunning, and is a real throwback for those of us who grew up in the performance heyday of the Honda brand. The center console armrest is finished in a faux-suede too, with red stitching that is very visually appealing.
The rest of the cockpit offers similar cues, like red accents on the steering wheel and throughout the dashboard, and carbon fiber look trim on the dashboard. Ergonomics are key with a car as focused as this, and the Type R doesn’t fail in this regard. The driving position is perfect, and visibility is good too. Fit and finish of the materials is perfect, typical for the Honda brand, and it’s no surprise that the cabin is a delightful place to spend many hours.
Under the hood is the first application of Honda’s new turbocharged inline four-cylinder. This motor has all the latest goodies like direct injection and of course, Honda’s signature VTEC. It dishes out a healthy 306 horsepower at 6,500RPM and 295 lb-ft. of torque with a peak between 2,500 and 4,500RPM. The 9.8:1 compression ratio and all other factors contribute to a seriously fast car; the fastest Civic ever sold from the factory. In fact, a pre production mule of the Civic Type R set a lap record for a front-wheel-drive car on the Nurburgring, a feat previously held by the VW Golf GTI Clubsport.
306 horsepower may seem like a lot for a front-drive car, and the setup is even more curious considering the Type R is destined to be cross-shopped with hot all-wheel-drive entries such as the Ford Focus RS (reviewed here) and the Subaru WRX STi. The Civic does exhibit torque steer on full throttle acceleration, but it’s a serious blast to drive. Turbo lag is minimal and the Type R feels seriously fast, especially at peak RPMs. The only available transmission is a six-speed manual with a good short throw shifter – Honda excels at making a precise manual box.
Along with a helical limited slip differential, there is a three-mode adjustable drive system, which offers “Comfort”, “Sport”, and “+R”; each with varying degrees of aggressiveness. These presets adjust variables including the adaptive damping system, automatic rev-matching of the transmission (no thanks, I’ll do it myself!), and response from the electric steering and throttle. In its most aggressive setting, the Type R is a force. The steering has incredibly crisp turn in and response, with some actual feel through the electric power rack.
Ride quality is rock hard when the active dampers are in their firmest setting – this is absolutely beneficial when hammering around the racetrack or even on your favourite side road. When using your Type R to commute to the office on that lazy Monday morning, the “Comfort” setting quiets things down and essentially tames the little beast. Well, beast may be a bit of an overstatement for a factory-tuned Civic, but it’s certainly in all aspects a car whose bite matches its bark.
Honda rates the Civic Type R at 10.6L/100km city, 8.3L/100km highway, and a combined rating of 9.6L/100km. Our first drive was majority track driving, and hence is in no way a proper indicator of what kind of real world efficiency to expect – this will come next month as we conduct a proper week-long road test of the vehicle on our own test loops. We anticipate the car sitting pretty close to 10L/100km in overall driving with a slightly spirited attitude. Thanks to the turbocharging and high compression, the Type R is required to take premium 91-octane fuel.
Any initial gripes we found with the car are minimal, such as the presence of an electronic parking brake rather than a conventional lever. This setup is standard on all manual transmission variants of the new Civic, but it’s still a bit disappointing to see. Additionally, we know that Honda loves to avoid all-wheel-drive on their affordable performance cars, but it would have been nice to see this added in considering the tough competition from Subaru and Ford in this segment and price point. Still, the Civic Type R’s chassis is excellent and displays immense balance even at the limit, without getting too squirrely.
There isn’t much stopping the 2017 Honda Civic Type R from being the hot car to have this summer. Demand at the time of this writing is so high that there are plenty of dealers across North America that are selling the cars commanding prices well over the MSRP of $40,890. No options are available on this model; it only comes one way. Honda anticipates bringing about 1000 Civic Type R units to Canada between model years 2017 and 2018. After our brief first drive, it’s very clear to us that the new Type R is just as capable as Honda promises, and we have faith that the new turbo motor will have Honda’s proven reliability for years to come, and these cars will hold their value notably well.