2018 Honda Civic Type R Review
Isaac Bober’s 2018 Honda Civic Type R Review with pricing, specs, performance, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.
In a nutshell: Mental Type R badge has been slapped on the new-generation Civic to create a hyper hot hatch.
2018 Honda Civic Type R
Pricing $50,990+ORC Warranty 5 year/unlimited kilometre Safety five-star ANCAP 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) Weight 1393kg Fuel tank 47 litres Seats 4 Thirst 8.8L/100km Spare Tyre repair kit
WHILE THE TYPE R badge was first slapped onto an NSX, it was the DC2 Integra Type R that established the badge. It was also the very first press car I ever test drove… well, that’s not quite true, a Transit van was first, but I choose to remember the Integra Type R.
That car was the benchmark by which I measured all other performance front drive cars, including subsequent generations of Integra Type R and Type S. Once the Integra vanished, it was left to the Civic to carry the Type R badge forwards. And, after reading glowing reviews of the third-generation Civic Type R from overseas (Australia only got the third-generation variant), when I first blasted one around the Adelaide Hills I came away utterly disappointed. That Type R seemed like a bodge job of bits and pieces slapped onto a shopping trolley. Enter the fifth-generation Honda Civic Type R via the 10th generation Honda Civic.
What is the Honda Civic Type R?
Honda calls it the ultimate in Civic performance. But that’s kind of stating the bleeding obvious. Based on the current fifth-generation Civic which arrived here last year, the Type R gets a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder with a weapons-grade 228kW and 400Nm of torque. And, while it looks, if you squint, like the garden variety Civic, this thing has clearly been tuned for performance from the get-go… indeed, it’s almost as if Honda started with its vision of the Type R and worked backwards to come up with the regular Civic so complete is the step up from Civic to Civic Type R. Of course, that’s obviously not the case, with the Civic Hatchback and Type R variants being developed in tandem – it was the largest global project for a single model in Honda’s history. That’s an impressive pub fact; even more so when you consider it’s not an SUV…
The Type R certainly looks every inch the aerodynamically tuned hot hatch with its scoops and fins and large rear wing. The look has copped some criticism from journalists who clearly don’t know what they’re looking at. Yes, I’ll admit the wing does look a little too large, but the rest of the car is pure function with all the fins and scoops and that giant rear wing intended to keep the car sucked onto the road when you’re driving it like you stole it… on a race track.
Even when it’s not providing downforce and is just parked outside your house it doesn’t come off looking boy racer. Perhaps the best way to describe it is simply to say that it looks purposeful.
What’s the interior like?
Well, of course, the interior is smattered with red, be it red stitching on the seats or red inserts on the dash. But it’s the grippy red seats you’ll notice first. Like the rest of the world, in the time since the original slim-hipped seats of the Integra Type R, the seats in the Civic Type R are broader to accommodate meatier behinds. I remember my father moaning about not being able to squeeze into Integra’s Recaro bucket seats; he had no such problem in the Civic Type R.
That’s not a criticism. The seats might allow for a broader beam but they’re no less grippy and once you’ve plonked yourself into them then you’re stuck there. And I mean that in a good way. These might be fake carbon-fibre backed, but there’s decent padding and more than enough adjustment to make them as comfortable whether you’re thrashing the thing through a twisting section of road or just schlepping down the highway. And that’s no mean feat. That said, getting in and out can be a little, ahem, interesting for blokes as you try and swing your leg out over the side bolstering…
The dashboard is cleanly laid out with all the controls within easy reach of the driver. If You’ve sat inside the latest Civic then the interior of the Type R, except for the seats, will feel very familiar. The materials aren’t overly luxurious to the touch, but you don’t expect that in a lightweight hot hatch. Rather you want sturdy controls that get the job done.
The infotainment unit runs Apple CarPlay and Android Auto making it very easy to use if you don’t fancy exploring the native infotainment and sat-nav functionality. To remove potential distraction, the system is set up to switch off music when reversing while some other functions are disabled from use, even by the passenger, unless you’re stationary and the parking brake is on. I tended to use CarPlay while I had the Type R and it worked well except for the odd occasion where after moving from reverse back to first-gear the screen would go black and CarPlay would switch off. To get it back on I had to delve into the Home function and then get CarPlay going again from there; this happened a handful of times only and has never happened to me in regular Civics, so tend to think the infotainment system in the press car I was driving maybe just needed a reboot.
The touchscreen isn’t overly sensitive to the touch, occasionally needing an extra stab to activate a menu item, but there are shortcut buttons on the side of the screen and on the steering wheel to make it easier to deep dive.
There’s good storage space in the front of the Type R, with room for your phone and coffee cup storage too. Those looking around for USB/12V outlets will need to bend down and look beneath the storage tray at the base of the centre stack; there’s a double tray with a hole in the back of the top tray for you to feed your charging cable through and keep a chord tangle from, well, tangling the gear lever.
There’s an electric park brake and the R+ controller which allows you to tweak the car to suit your mood and the driving location; what a more comfortable ride for heading the shops, then choose Comfort, want to let your hair down then bump the switch to Sport or, if you’re feeling adventurous, to R+. This tweaks the steering weight, ESP threshold allowing for more slip in R+ and also the adaptive dampers.
The back-seat space is like that of the garden variety Civic and, when I say similar, I mean not quite the same. See, the rigid plastic case on the back of the front seats allows for cocoon-like front seats but eats into rear seat leg space. That said, I set the front seat to suit myself and could sit in the back seat comfortably and my two kids (9 and 6) had no problem in the back of the Civic Type R. Getting in and out of the back is easy and the doors are light to open and close.
The middle seat isn’t really a seat; it lacks the shape of the two outboard seats, both with ISOFIX, and the rake on the roof means anyone taller than 5-foot-nothing will bump their head against the roof. There are no rear air vents (like other Civics) and no rear USB outlets, or back seat pouches or a fold-down armrest; remember this thing is aimed at keeping weight down and fripperies to a minimum. Luckily, the dual-zone climate control is powerful and cools the cabin down quickly.
The boot offers anywhere between 420 and 1209 litres depending on whether you choose to fold down the 60:40 split-fold back seats. There’s a roller-style cargo blind which is a lot cleverer than at first it seems. It’s only about a foot-wide and when you first look at it, you can’t quite figure out how it will cover the space. But it does. And the fact that it retracts into itself means that it doesn’t get in the way, or need to be removed when you’re loading bulky items or folding down the rear seats.
There’s no spare beneath the boot floor, only a tyre repair kit – have you ever used one? Share you story and leave a comment below because there is a knack to using a can of goo to limp to a tyre repair centre.
What’s it like to drive?
This is the best bit. First things first, though. If you’re expecting a bit of a manic VTEC motor in the theme of yesteryear where there was a noticeable step up in intensity from something like 5500rpm then look away now. Sure, peak power of 228kW arrives at a very high 6500rpm while peak torque of 400Nm is grunting away from 2500-4500rpm, but on the way to those peaks there’s no moment where you stop and go, oh, my, here it comes. But that doesn’t matter.
Because so meaty and muscular is this engine and, indeed, so flexible is it, that it’s got its own personality and a very likable one that doesn’t let you pine for the opportunity to wring the thing’s neck that the old-school Type R machinery did. This muscular flexibility has allowed the new Civic Type R to currently hold the title of the fastest front-driver around the Nurbirgring in Germany, a generic benchmark of performance, with a time of 7min43.8secs. That’s quick.
Interestingly, a colleague the other day mentioned how much he enjoyed the Type R but noted a torque hole low in the rev range. Clearly, we drove different cars because this thing’s ability to chug along in third gear at low speeds would have an old-school V8 feeling jealous. You don’t need to drop down a gear to keep the Type R hard-charging.
That said, don’t expect to be body-slammed into the seat when you floor the thing at, say, 2500rpm, rather, the Type R will begin to accumulate speed with a growl from the exhaust and, before you know it, you’ll be bumping into the horizon. And that’s what I meant when I said this isn’t a manic old-school Type R engine where you hang around waiting for it to get jiggy… this thing offers muscular and deceptive in-gear acceleration.
One of the things I like most about this engine is its sound… it’s not loud, just growly and menacing… my son loved rocking up to school in it, watching his mate’s mouths fall open as we strutted past. And that’s another thing about this car that I didn’t mind in the week that I was driving it, but could get old if I were to own one, and that is just how much attention it draws. I haven’t had anyone try and race me off at a set of traffic lights in years, but that was made up for in my week with the Civic Type R.
The manual gearbox was another Integra Type R delight with its shift that felt like it had been hewn from granite. It was sharp and precise and perfect. The shift in the Civic Type R isn’t quite as good as that, but it’s pretty darn good. The shift is quick and well weighted with a snickety metallic sensation to it and it’s well matched to the clutch action.
Downshift the transmission and the Type R will auto-blip the revs which sounds cool but if you like your manual cars you might get a tear welling up in the corner of your eye as I did – after both the car and I blipped the throttle for the downshift. Blipping the throttle on a downshift is one of life’s true pleasures when driving a manual car, but it’s not something you want or need to do all the time… the Type R does it all the time, so, you can look a little dorky pulling into, say, a supermarket car park. This is something I could live with, though.
The brakes are nice and progressive and incredibly strong; even after two spirited laps of our test loop the brakes felt excellent.
There’s no doubting the Type R’s ride has been tuned for performance and while leaving it in Comfort does take the harder edges off bumps and ruts in the road, you can feel a little jiggled on less than perfect roads. That’s not to suggest the car feels skittish or that it bumps off undulations in the road, not at all. The active dampers do a good job of absorbing the worst of the road while still retaining razor-like control over the car when you go from, say, a straight line run into a tight corner at speed. There’s virtually no bodyroll and grip that seems like it’ll last for days. And the acceleration out of dry corners, thanks to the limited-slip differential is immense and there’s only minimal torque steer noticeable only when booting the thing out of the tightest of corners.
The steering too is sharp and feelsome whether you’re in Comfort or R+ and, even in R+ while the weight increases and the sensitivity too, it never feels twitchy.
This is a hot hatch that doesn’t try to be a ‘playful’ sort of hottie where you’re always balancing the thing between grip and slip, rather it’s a clinical execution of a hot hatch. It’s got grip and grunt to spare and constantly feels ready for action. This thing is my new favourite hot hatch and one of my new all-time favourites.
What about safety features?
The Civic family, including the Type R, gets a five-star ANCAP rating. The Type R also gets Honda’s full active safety suite, called Honda Sensing which includes forward collision warning, forward AEB, lane departure warning and lane keep assist, active cruise control and road departure mitigation, as well as a limited-slip differential, and standard fare, like six airbags, ABS and traction and stability controls.
So, what do we think?
The new Honda Civic Type R hasn’t supplanted the original Integra Type R and that’s only because it’s such a different kind of car. And when I say different, I mean that in a good way. This thing’s engine is epic, the sound is epic and the way it grips and goes around corners is epic too. That you can fit the family in the thing and all their luggage too, means the Civic Type R is one of the most practical performance hatchbacks on the market… if you need some extra justification to get a purchase across the line at home. You’re welcome.