Honda’s highly-acclaimed Civic RS Turbo has been the alpha of compact sedans pretty much in any market it’s sold. Ironic considering it only has a 1.5-liter VTEC engine. Sure, having a turbo has a lot to do with giving it best-in-class levels of power and torque (174hp/220Nm), and hand in hand with that, performance.

Now imagine swapping the 1.5-liter motor and slipping in a high-performance 2.0-liter VTEC engine with a bigger, more badass turbo cranked to provide boost to the tune of 310 horses and a stunning 400Nm of torque—enough to rocket this originally relatively humble Japanese compact sedan to the fastest-ever lap time (7 minutes 43.8 seconds) for a front-wheel-drive production car at the legendary Nurburgring racetrack in Germany.

Of course by now you know I’m no longer talking about the Civic RS Turbo, but the Civic Type R—Japan’s most fearsome front-drive four-door super-sedan.

Civic on steroids

It’s easy to identify a Type R. Just look for a Civic on steroids. The Type R’s aggressive front end with those gaping air intakes, the bulging flared fenders, the enormous rear wing, the roof-mounted vortex generators, the huge 20-inch alloy wheels (with 245/30 tires), and the big red Brembo brake calipers are the Superman equivalent to the regular Civic’s Clark Kent persona. The front and rear bumpers and the side skirts sport carbon fiber trim and red accents. The Civic Type R is also equipped with a new lightweight aluminum hood with hood scoop to provide more air to the turbo. And to aid the Type R’s massive airflow, three fully functional tailpipes are positioned at the center of the car. Main tailpipes on either side deliver exhaust from the engine, while a unique, smaller center tailpipe controls the sonic tone of the engine. Similar to previous Civic Type R models, it is adorned with Honda’s famous red ‘H’ badge. You simply can’t miss a Type R, even if you miss the car’s hatchback rear, which is in contrast to the regular Civic’s traditional trunk.

Surprisingly versatile

Ironically, the Type R’s large rear hatch gives it vastly better cargo-carrying versatility than its strictly four-door siblings. You can fold the rear seats down and slip in pretty much anything through the enormous rear opening—provided of course it fits under the car’s roof and rear hatch (it’s still no wagon).

But cargo-carrying functionality isn’t the Type R’s reason for being. It’s to rocket forward as fast as possible, corner as hard as possible, and brake in as short a distance as possible. And the Type R does this extremely well (Nurburgring lap record, remember?).

Phenomenal world-class performance

Abetting this super-Civic’s phenomenal performance is a short-throw six-speed manual that is further enhanced by a rev match control system, which enables the car to sustain maximum power during gearshifts and helps keep the chassis balanced during apex-strafing runs. The rev-matching function can be switched off, for those who take pride in matching revs with superb heel-and-toe downshifts.

The Type R’s prodigious power is transmitted to the front wheels through a helical limited-slip differential (LSD), further enhancing the car’s strong cornering grip.

The super-sedan also features a race-tuned chassis, suspension, and steering setup for true racecar-like handling and high-speed stability. The Type R sports ingenious torque steer-reducing lower-arm-type front MacPherson struts. At the rear, a multi-link suspension helps the Type R improve its stability when braking as well as reducing the vehicle’s body roll when cornering.

The Type R also features a revised four-wheel Adaptive Damper System, and to help the driver manage the car’s mind-boggling speed potential, the front brakes are equipped with ventilated and cross-drilled 350mm disc with 4-piston Brembo calipers.

The Civic Type R’s surprisingly heavy but feedback-rich variable-ratio Electric Power Steering (EPS) carries an individually calibrated setting for each of the three selectable driving modes: +R, Sport, and Comfort. Each driving mode sets the adaptive dampers, steering force, gearshift feel, and throttle response of the car differently to give the driver’s demand in a push of a button. The Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) system is retuned for +R mode to focus on acceleration and performance, allowing the driver to maximize the car before activation of the VSA.

Performance without the punishment

Yet another surprise is that, even at Sport or +R, the ride is not punishingly hard. You feel the dampers stiffen up and the throttle response become more instantaneous, but the car never feels darty, nervous, or too intense. It just seems even more confident.

Needless to say, the Sport—and especially the +R—settings are way overqualified for Metro Manila traffic. Even in “Comfort,” the Civic Type R will handily outperform the vast majority of cars on the road.

Throttle response is instantaneous, even in Comfort mode. Peak power is achieved at a high 6,500 rpm, but there’s a wealth of torque available from as low as 2,500 rpm all the way to 4,500, so that incredible push in the back is available with just a tap of your right foot.

Sophisticated, feature-rich interior

Inside, the new Type R presents a sophisticated, premium ambience with striking suede-effect red-and-black fabric trim for its Type R-specific bucket seats. The steering wheel boasts red leather inserts and hexagonal stitching, while the dashboard panel’s carbon center inlay is surrounded by red pinstripe trim extending into the side door panels. On top of those upgrades, an exclusive Type R serial number plate is placed near the gear lever and a Titanium Type R spec shift knob.

An instrument display layout provides vivid clarity and highly intuitive user interface. A 7-inch full color TFT Type R-spec instrument panel with red illumination includes virtual gauges and a switchable section that can display a variety of different function readouts including Driving mode display (+R, Sport, Comfort), LED gearshift indicator light, Turbo boost pressure gauge, throttle/brake input display, G-Meter, and lap time recorder. Gran Turismo PS4 players will feel right at home.

On top of the center console sits the touchscreen with advanced display audio and navigation. Control functions for the A/C and reverse camera display with dynamic guidelines are also integrated on this panel. This panel also offers an enhanced intuitive operation and full smartphone integration with iPhone connectivity via USB or Bluetooth.

Comprehensive safety and convenience

The Type R is equipped with front and side airbags, side curtain airbags, Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA), Hill Start Assist (HSA), and ABS with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD). Other convenience and security features such as rain-sensing front wipers, Walk-Away Auto Door Lock, Speed-Sensing Auto Door Lock, and Smart Entry System with Push-Button Start comes standard.

VERDICT

Honda brought in 100 units of the Civic Type R (in Championship White and Rallye Red) last year. Despite a steep SRP of P2,980,000, all were sold by the time they reached Philippine shores. That’s testament to the car’s superb value, not just in terms of collectability, but in sheer outright performance. The Honda Civic Type R is simply one of the world’s greatest cars—ever.

Specifications
Engine 310ps/400Nm 2.0-liter turbo petrol inline-4
Transmission 6-speed manual
Drive Front
Suspension Independent lower arm-type MacPherson struts/Multilink
Brakes Vented discs with ABS and EBD
Tires 245/30R-20
L x W x H 4,577 x 1,877 x 1,434mm
Wheelbase 2,700mm
Features  7” touchscreen multi-info 8-speaker audio system with USB/Bluetooth connectivity and HDMI port; auto-dimming rearview mirror; auto-on/off and auto-leveling LED headlamps; LED foglamps and taillamps; rain-sensing wipers; front, side and curtain airbags; speed-sensing auto door locks; Smart Entry system; Agile Handling Assist; Electric Parking Brake with Auto Brake Hold
Price P2,980,000
Test: Honda Civic Type R
Design9.5
Build Quality9.5
Driveability9.5
Performance10
Value For Money9.3
9.6Overall Score

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One Response

  1. jgeorge

    “the original VTEC provided a nice slap in the butt once the needle hit 4000rpm. Unless you”re talking about VTEC-E on a SOHC motor that kept one of the intake valves closed until 3500rpms, most VTEC systems were only active 5200rpm+ IIRC, but it”s been a while since I was heavily into Hondas.