2018 Honda Civic Type R Review
Paul Horrell’s 2018 Honda Civic Type R Review with specs, performance, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.
In a nutshell: Hugely anticipated Civic Type-R is the hottest front-drive hatch of all. Blistering-fast round a track – and huge fun – but it also manages some more comfort than previous Type Rs for when you’re not driving it like you stole it.
2018 Honda Civic Type-R
PRICE Not Supplied for Australian market WARRANTY 3 years/100,000km ENGINE 2.0L turbo petrol POWER 235kW at 6500rpm TORQUE 400Nm at 2500-4500rpm TRANSMISSION 6-speed manual DRIVE front-wheel drive DIMENSIONS 4557mm (L), 1877mm (W EXC MIRRORS), 2076mm (W INC MIRRORS), 1434mm (H) TURNING CIRCLE 11.78m TOWING WEIGHT N/A KERB WEIGHT 1380kg SEATS 5 SPARE No THIRST 6.4L/100km combined cycle FUEL petrol
TYPE R HONDAS have always been cult cars, even in places where they’re not sold. That’s because Honda doesn’t just take a regular car and stuff in a bigger engine, fatter tyres and tauter springs. They engineer thousands of obsessively-detailed little tweaks. So Type Rs feel special from the get-go.
Honda Australia hasn’t released pricing or the final specification list for the Civic Type R but we do know that while other markets will get two variants, we’ll only get the one.
What is it?
This new Honda Civic Type R builds on the all-new 10th-generation Civic. That’s a good place to start when building a sporty car, because compared with the previous generation it’s lower and wider. It also has a proper multi-link rear suspension rather than the simpler torsion beam of the ninth-generation car.
It looks outrageous. Depending on your taste that’s outrageous in a good or bad way. At least it’s not some ill-conceived bunch of boy racer Manga tack-ons. The whole lot has real purpose and effect, either to cool the engine and brakes, or pin the car to the road and improve its grip and straight-line stability. It’s the only hot hatch to have actual downforce at speed.
The engine is a 2.0-litre with low-inertia turbo. The transmission is a super-precise manual, turning the wheels through a limited-slip differential. The 20-inch wheels encircle potent Brembo brakes. Adaptive damping means the suspension can in theory allow a useful amount of pliancy over slow-speed city bumps, but still keep control of the body during rabid racetrack swerves.
What’s the interior of the new Honda Civic Type R like?
As symbols of the sportification of the Type R, the cabin wears the almost inevitable red stitching, red seatbelts, red motifs on the dials, fake carbonfibre and so on. More usefully, the big seats support your torso and legs superbly, and have enough adjustment for most drivers.
Another Type R signature is the solid aluminium orb atop the gearlever – it leads you to expect more precision than a soggy plastic knob, and the mechanism itself fulfils the promise.
Between the instruments is a screen with R-specific functions such as a set of shift-up lights, a g-meter, power and brake pressure and more. Choose between them or the usual functions of trip computer, music readout, navigation arrow and so on.
Otherwise the facia design is as per the regular Civic, and all very practical and carefully made. Mind you the angular styling and multiple finishes does lend it the air of a stack of 1990s Japanese consumer electronics.
What’s the infotainment like in the Honda Civic Type R?
A central screen takes care of infotainment. It runs Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard. The screen is about mid-field for responsiveness, and not too opaque in menu structure given the number of options you can configure. Sensibly, many settings can be altered only when the parking brake is on, to save you from distraction. Fortunately hardware switches and rotaries control most climate settings, and radio volume and track have switches on the steering wheel.
What’s the passenger space like in the Honda Civic Type R?
Beneath the climate controls is a tray for your phone, optionally fitted with wireless Qi charging. Otherwise a slot in the tray lets you feed your USB cable down to a socket in another tray beneath the first one. I’m a bit of a car-cabin neatness fetishist, so anything that tidies away the cable is good to me.
The back is OK for legroom, though not as good as the standard Civic because the huge front seats are thick and have rigid plastic rear shells – fake carbonfibre as you’ll have guessed.
It’s really only comfy for two, because of the scalloped shape of the seat bench and back, and because if you move your seating position outboard you’ll strike your head on the rather low side rail. That’s the penalty of the gen-10 Civic’s slinky silhouette. The Type R has a 60:40 split fold, but no centre armrest unlike other Civics, and no seat back pockets. Like other Civics it also does without adjustable rear vents.
Theres a big boot (from 420-1209 litres), covered by a brilliant roller blind. Brilliant because it rolls from left to right, which means it doesn’t get in the way when the seat folds. On the other hand as a blind not a shelf it lets in road noise from the rear tyres, unless the boot has some sound-absorbing luggage packed in.
What’s it like to drive the Honda Civic Type R?
Some numbers to set the scene: 272km/h top speed, 5.7sec 0-100km/h, seven minutes 43.8sec around the Nurburgring Nordschleife. If you study the game of two-wheel-drive hot-hatches you’ll know this is premier-league stuff. But what makes it great is the sharpness of it all, the way the steering, clutch, gearbox and brakes all make a quick-witted match, free of slop or slack. The diligence of team R engineers resonates through its every move.
The engine spins to 7000rpm, which is high for a turbo if not very high at all for a historical Honda. It hits its maximum torque as low as 2500rpm, so it can climb hills vigorously in the upper gears. But turbo lag means that if you suddenly floor it at 2500rpm, you don’t get much of anything. things start to get truly lively above around 3500rpm, but even beyond 4000rpm there’s still a slight delay. Once charging though it really does fly, careering at the redline without let-up or hindrance.
On empty Autobahns I regularly saw 200km/h plus tax. It was rock-stable, so all those wings and flicks must do their job. The serving-platter brakes never gave me a moment’s doubt, either hauling down when a trucker decided to indicate into my lane, or at the end of a racetrack straight.
Other than the captivating Audi RS3 five-cylinder and the smooth six-pot in BMW’s 140i, you won’t find a more charismatic hot-hatch engine. It sounds raspy and purposeful all through the range, without any artificial enhancement through the speakers.
A mode-switch can call up ‘comfort’, ‘sport’ or something called ‘+R’. As you’d expect they alter the throttle map, steering weight, ESP thresholds and most significantly the damper settings.
It’s obviously been tuned for sport (the default) or +R modes – in comfort it can feel a little under-damped while still firmly sprung. But this mode does make it habitable in town or on a highway by knocking the edges off bumps and high-frequency vibrations.
I’d rather sport mode softened off more in straight-line running, because I found myself often switching between modes. But the chief engineer told me the dampers need to be prepared to firm-up sharply if you suddenly turn or brake. Hmmm, other makers manage dampers that can go from soft to firm in an instant…
Wide-awake steering is super-direct. Once in sport or +R modes, there’s no sneeze factor but unlike the Focus RS it stays just the sensible side of twitchy. The low centre of gravity, stiff anti-roll bars and electronically controlled dampers mean none of you input is lost to body roll. Ask for a change of course and it’s happening, clean as a whistle.
From apex to exit, cornering is wonderfully confident. On a racetrack at the absolute limit, it’s not as throttle-adjustable as other hot hatches, although if you disable the electronic stability in +R mode, you can let the tail shift a little around without wagging the dog. Mind you in +R there’s no need to switch off; if you drive cleanly you can go ruddy fast and revel in the precision and control.
The limited-slip diff gives remarkable traction out of tight bends. Thanks to a double-axis-strut front suspension (again, nothing in common with your civilian Civic) not much torque steer corrupts the experience. That said, wet roads would doubtless mount a more serious challenge to the front tyres.
What about the Honda Civic Type R’s safety features?
Basically it’s got, or can be specced with, everything the workaday Civic gets. Under that tricerotops bodywork of fins and scales and vents lives the regular ANCAP five-star rating.
The brakes are magnificent as is the ability to swerve out of trouble. But of course there’s no getting away from the fact the Type R encourages you into going fast enough to bring trouble closer. Active safety aids include: radar cruise control; front collision warning and front collision mitigation by braking; lane keeping assist and lane departure warning; cross-traffic warning when reversing and blind spot warning; traffic sign recognition; and reversing camera.
Some of those are optional in Europe where we tested the car and Honda Australia hasn’t announced full spec or prices as I write, though you can reserve a Type R already.
What do we think of the new Honda Civic Type R?
It looks like madness, and you’re always drawing attention to yourself. Don’t like that? Get a Golf R. The aero does have a real effect at racetrack speeds, if not on the road. The engine and chassis are an absolute hoot. But the joy of a hot hatch over a sports car is you also get five-door practicality, decent safety features and the promise of Honda reliability.