2018 Honda Civic Type R Review
Peter Anderson’s 2018 Honda Civic Type R Review with pricing, specs, performance, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.
In a nutshell: Honda’s headbutting hot hatch took a holiday from the Australian market in its last iteration, but it’s back with a bigger, flatter forehead for a more effective Glasgow kiss. While away, it bulked up, got a few new tattoos and invested heavily in CrossFit to deliver a powerful, front-wheel drive hatch with dramatic looks and a chassis so sharp you’ll get a papercut on your brain thinking about it.
Pricing $50,990+ORC Warranty 5 year/unlimited kilometre Engine 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol Power 228kW at 6500rpm Torque 400Nm at 2500-4500rpm Transmission 6-speed manual Drive front-wheel drive Dimensions 4557mm (L); 1877mm (W); 1421mm (H) Kerb weight 1393kg Fuel tank 47 litres Seats 4 Thirst 8.8L/100km Spare Tyre repair kit
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THE TYPE R is the third Civic in around twelve months, starting with the capable sedan, followed by the just-as-capable hatch. The Type R is based around the hatchback but is bewinged, bespoilered and, er, bananas.
What is the Honda Civic Type R?
Armed with a new turbocharged 2.0-litre engine, rolling on huge 20-inch alloys, the Type R has a dramatic road presence, including an STi-rivalling rear wing that is so big, you don’t even see it in the rear vision mirror (but also generates downforce, or at least “negative lift”) over 100km/h. It still a Civic, though, meaning a nose with about seventeen lines too many and those mad rear lights. Although, in fairness, those lights disappear under the rear wing.
The prominent aero bits on the front and sides looks the business though but is out of danger as the Type R is barely lower than the Civic RS.
What’s the interior like?
The basic Civic’s interior is a clever place. There is storage everywhere, with a deep central console that holds two snap-in cupholders and more besides, a two-deck arrangement that hides away cables and USB ports but has a place for your phone. All up, the car has six “beverage holders” for its four seats – the middle is sacrificed for a more shapely pair of outboard backside-holders – meaning that four of those six are the door-bound bottle holders.
Comforts include dual-zone climate control, a very pleasant cloth and alcantara-style trim and some carbon bits and pieces to amp up the sporting cred.
Added to that is Honda’s excellent new media system which also has CarPlay and Android Auto while also sporting a not-too-shabby basic interface. The requisite Bluetooth and USB (two ports up front) are along for the ride as well as the ever-baffling HDMI.
Goodness, there’s a lot of red in here, though. Seatbelts, flashes on the wheel, dash and doors and the customary red background version of the Honda H. The seats are particularly loud, but that’s easy-fixed by sitting on them. If you’re genetically blessed with reasonably slim hips and a minimalist backside, these are fantastic seats. Holding you in all the right places without going all Harvey Weinstein on you, they keep you well tied-down. As an added bonus, they’re 5.5kg lighter than the standard seats.
What’s it like to drive?
Not as manic as I expected. My dreams before the drive (no, really) were filled with a rock hard ride, steering you have to fight (like the riotous-but-tiring Focus ST), manic whooshing and pshawing engine and a generally nervous, toey experience. Past Type Rs were cars you really had to want and given most of the buyers were younger, most of them didn’t mind the rotten, harsh ride and constant need to have it revving harder than a Rolls Royce turbofan just to back it into a parking space.
The new Type R brings itself into day-to-day contention the way a Golf GTI or RenaultSport Megane does by having a compliant ride when you want it, courtesy of a set of three driving modes. Australian Type Rs have never had a Comfort setting and the car is much better for it. We started off in the middle of Hobart’s small CBD, but it still presented enough of a challenge for the old Type R. Left in Comfort, the dribble through bad-for-Hobart traffic and up over the Tasman Bridge was better than bearable, it was good. Not CR-V comfortable, obviously, but the firmness had the edges knocked off it meaning it was sporty-comfortable. That impression is probably helped by the snug seats.
Turning off the highway and into one of the three or four roads used as Targa Tasmania stages, I switched up to Sport. The electric steering weighted up, probably a little too much, but nothing you can’t handle. At the same time, the dampers get a bit more serious about their job and the throttle becomes as responsive as a car dealer towards the end of quarter who’s one sale off his bonus.
The 2.0-litre turbo may not sound like much in the cabin (those three exhausts are hilarious and about as mad mid-90s Honda as it gets) but what it lacks in sonic excitment it more than makes up for in power and torque. The Type R is a dead-set rocket. When you’re pouring 228kW through a pair of 245/30s, you’d expect to be entering the ring with a cage fighter high on ice, but it’s nothing of the sort. Front grip is fantastic and predictable, the Type R rocketing out of corners with barely a slip or chirp, its helical limited slip diff putting down the power the way a similarly-equipped Megane does.
Confidence-inspiring is an understatement. These roads are patchwork, bumpy and minimally-maintained, but not once did the Civic threaten to spit us off the road. It seems a huge amount of work has gone into the way the car responds to bumps and even going that step further to R mode failed to trigger a chiropractor’s appointment.
A good number of Type R owners will take their cars to a track, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. After 350km, 330 of which were tremendous fun the rest highway, I pulled on a helmet and hit Hobart’s Baskerville raceway. It’s a short, tight track with an amazing downhill then uphill sequence capped by a terrifying and exhilirating blind left over a crest and then a clench-your-cheeks downhill left on to the back straight. Perfect, in other words, to let some caution escape into the breeze knowing you’ve got a bit of space.
Again, the Type R impressed. Over-ambitious corner entries meant the Civic’s rear would slide just a little to bring the nose in the way you want without needing either a) to correct or b) call an ambulance, the car drifting neutrally across the tarmac. Having recently driven the same track in an all-wheel drive machine with more power and torque, the Civic was unquestionably the better car, the LSD free of the AWD car’s power-on understeer and that seemingly interminable wait for the power to head to the rear wheels. That car was pretty good on the road, but again, the Civic is better if harder.
What’s more, when the understeer does eventually arrive, it’s not sudden and even better it’s mild. You have to be driving quite badly or far too fast for the corner to get it. The Continental SportContact tyres give you plenty of warning, without hysterical squealing or chattering. And when you’re getting it all right, it’s just so rewarding, going where you point it and pulling well over 180km/h on the back straight. And at the end of that straight, the big Brembo brakes (with drilled front discs) handled a repeated pounding with little fade.
It’s delicious fun. Like its Euro rivals, the Civic Type R is for juvenile delinquents and grown-ups too (let’s face it, with a $50k-plus price tag, grown-ups can afford it). It can swallow people and things handles the town tarmac tolerably but will put a stupid grin on your face when you want.
What about the safety features?
The Type R hits the road with six airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, all the usual stuff. Honda steps it up with what it calls Honda Sensing, which adds forward collision warning, forward AEB, lane departure warning and lane keep assist, active cruise control and road departure mitigation. The Civic range scored five ANCAP stars, which is as good as it gets.
So, what do we think?
This car is all about Honda’s long-standing sporting cred and after the enforced holiday, has some work to do to win back hot hatch sales. It does the sporty stuff really well, but some of the more practical stuff too – despite a firecracker engine, you still get capped-price servicing for the first ten services.