Honda's sixth generation Civic Type R offers a more elegant take on wild hot hatch performance. Jonathan Crouch drives it.
Ten Second Review
Honda has re-imagined what kind of car its Civic Type R hot hatch can be. Yes this sixth generation version is faster, grippier and more exciting-sounding than its wild predecessor. But it's also more elegant and easier to live with. A difficult combination to perfect.
Honda has now been making high performance Type R models for over a quarter of a century. And it wants to reward itself with the quickest, the most focused and the most thrilling car ever to bear this famous badge. Welcome to the sixth generation Civic Type R.
Yes it's still the very fastest front-driven production car you can choose, but this time round, the extreme looks of the old 'FK8' model have been dialled back a little. Don't be deceived. Honda describes this replacement 'FL5' design as 'the fastest, most addictive yet secure and rewarding to drive model in Type R history'. This is officially the sixth generation version of this design, but Honda has actually used its famous Type R badge eleven times since it first appeared back in 1992, six times on the Civic. The engine of the most recent 'FK8' model we referenced earlier (a car launched in 2017) reappears again here because combustion powerplants are no longer developed from scratch in this new EV era. But it's been heavily evolved and will fittingly close the chapter on Honda fossil fuel engine design. There'll never again be a Civic Type R quite like this one. Let's take a closer look.
Everything at first glance might seem familiar here but on closer inspection, everything is also quite different. Yes, the basic four cylinder 2.0-litre VTEC engine is essentially the same, but it's been thoroughly re-worked, primarily with a more compact turbo featuring stronger, lighter blades. This reacts faster and builds up boost pressure quicker. Honda claims an improved power-to-weight ratio, more torque and a higher top speed from what is now one of the most powerful engine-per-litre packages in the class. All good. So you can expect a useful increase in the previous 'FK8'-series model's performance; think 5.4s for the 0-62mph sprint and a top speed of 171mph. Output is 329PS, with 420Nm of torque. Rivals think you need 4WD to deal with this sort of performance, but the Civic Type-R is still defiantly front-driven.
Honda reckons the biggest gains over the previous model lie with chassis rigidity and handling performance - namely the updates made to steering and suspension. They're aimed at making the car more engaging and the driver feel more confident. Camber rigidity, which enhances front-end response, is up by 16% courtesy of significantly revised suspension geometry. Also crucial are the wider 265-section 19-inch Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres. The Brembo brakes have also been upgraded - mainly in terms of cooling, so they'll last longer on track days. An added duct in the front wheel arch and a set of vents behind it work together to push cooling air towards the discs - and pull hot air out.
There's also an upgraded exhaust, with improved back pressure to help with the faster turbo response. This Type R should offer richer aural fireworks too, thanks to a sound synthesiser which activates with the fieriest 'R+' drive mode. Or you can enhance the sound in the new 'Individual' drive mode menu, where the steering, adaptive dampers, rev match system and engine response can all be adjusted separately.
Design and Build
After the extreme look of the previous 'FK8' Type R model, this one seems almost understated at first glance. Take another look because in its own way, it's as vividly motorsport-developed as any predecessor. Take the re-designed rear wing: yes it's smaller than the previous model's, but it's also far more intricate, with die-cast aluminium supports that take up less surface area, leaving that free to generate more downforce - 900Nm of it at 124mph since you ask. Less is more beneath the more subtly-flared arches too, with the alloy rims reduced in size from 20 to 19-inches but gaining wider and grippier 265-section tyres.
The triple-pipe rear exhaust is different too, two smaller pipes now sitting either side of a larger one, with all of them packed into a re-designed rear diffuser. Civic Type R loyalists will also note the bigger, lower front grille and the added front bumper vents. The revised bonnet improves engine cooling and is now fashioned from aluminium to save weight - which is also why the tailgate is now made of resin. More importantly, the wheelbase is 35mm longer than the previous model and the body shell has 38% better structural rigidity.
Inside of course, the MK11 Civic cabin architecture is quite different from the old car. And of course is finished quite differently to an ordinary e:HEV Civic. The instrument screen is bespoke, as is the 10.2-inch central infotainment monitor. There's also red Type-R trim, a silver metal gear knob and track-style sports seats with suede-effect upholstery. You sit a little lower than in the previous model too. As with an ordinary Civic e:HEV, there's reasonable space for a couple of adults in the back seat. And a very decently-sized 410-litre boot. It's up to 1,212-litres with the rear seat folded.
Market and Model
You'll need to budget for a spend of around £47,000. That gets you all the main equipment items you'll want. There are lightweight 19-inch alloy wheels shod with Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres and featuring performance-tuned Brembo brakes. Plus there's a triple exhaust system, adaptive dampers and a driving mode set-up with a fiery 'R+' setting for track work. Talking of track work, in testing, this MK6 model rounded Japan's 2.2 mile Suzuka circuit in 2 minutes 23.120 seconds, setting a new lap record for front wheel drive cars. Honda is eyeing the Nurburgring Nordschleife record for front-driven models too.
Back to spec. Infotainment and connectivity benefit from a much improved voice command system, the Honda 'Personal Assistant'. This is basically a next-generation voice control system in that it can respond to multiple commands: for instance "OK Honda, find me an Indian restaurant with WiFi and free parking". With this car, Honda is also offering the latest version of its Honda+ smartphone app, which includes remote vehicle locking and unlocking, plus 'intelligent geofencing', which alerts an owner if the vehicle breaches a pre-set 'geofence' zone. Plus there's the ability to send journey information from the app to the car's navigation system.
Safety-wise, there's the latest version of Hondas 'SENSING' camera safety package. This gives you a 100-degree front wide view camera, enhanced recognition technology, blind spot information, low speed braking control and Lane keep assist.
Cost of Ownership
If, as is very tempting, you thrash this Civic Type R absolutely everywhere, then you might as well stop reading now because nothing we're likely to say in this section will have any real-world relevance. You certainly won't get anywhere near the quoted fuel and emission stats - WLTP-rated at 34.4mpg on the combined cycle and 186g/km of CO2. With the previous model, we never managed much more than about 20mpg throughout our tests.
What else? Well a front wheel drive car with this kind of performance will always eat its way through front tyres at a higher rate than normal, despite the efforts of Honda's 'Dual Axis Strut Front Suspension' system in resisting torquesteer. You'll probably be buying brake pads on a reasonably regular basis too, especially if you plan to take your Type R on track. A service every year or 12,000 miles is recommended and many customers will want to budget ahead for scheduled maintenance with fixed-price scheme called 'Five'. It includes five years' worth of maintenance, an extended warranty for this period and roadside assistance breakdown cover should the unexpected happen. This can be transferred to a new owner if you sell the car before the service plan has expired.
The three year 90,000 mile warranty is better than the package you get from many competitors too. In addition, surface corrosion is covered for three years, exhaust corrosion is covered for five years, chassis corrosion is covered for ten years and structural corrosion for twelve years.
As Honda intended, this is indeed the most complete Civic Type R yet. Previous models were fine for a blast but difficult to live with compared to obvious rivals. As the more mature look suggests, this sixth generation model is different, but even so, its racing instinct and competitive DNA have been perfectly preserved. Which is deeply impressive. This isn't the fastest, the grippiest or the most extreme hot hatch you could choose. But if you want the ultimate shopping rocket experience, it's still the one you might prefer when the tyre smoke clears.
It's still incredibly fast, it now sounds even better and there's more cornering traction than you'd ever believe would be possible from a front-driven hot hatch with this kind of power. If you choose a Civic Type R, it'll be because you've remembered why just why it was you wanted a hot hatch in the first place. And you'll revel in the extrovert, intoxicating driving experience it offers. There's nothing quite like it.