There's no other vehicle quite like a hot hatch. Enthusiasts love cars like the Volkswagen Golf R and Ford Focus RS for their combination of practicality and performance. You can be a hero on a back road and still load it down with passengers and groceries. For years, most hot hatches were forbidden to Americans, only accessible in video games or the pages of Euro and Japanese motoring magazines. That's not so much the case anymore.
Unlike some of the competition, the Honda Civic Type R sends all 306 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque from the turbocharged 2.0-liter (built right here in the U.S.) to the front wheels. Honda engineers have worked magic on the suspension and steering, alleviating torque steer while saving a significant amount of weight versus the all-wheel-drive Golf R or Focus RS. It also undercuts the base MSRP of those two by a significant amount.
Associate Editor Reese Counts: I've been looking forward to driving this car for a long while. I love hot hatches (I'm a former GTI owner) and welcome any newcomer to the segment. Competition breeds innovation. I've followed this car for years and ogled every single one I saw while visiting Europe or Asia. I was disappointed by the Civic Si (it's not special enough and not that much better than the regular Civic), so I was hoping the Type R could make amends.
I was a little worried about sending all that power to the front wheels (I still remember the steering wheels in the Saab 9-3 and Mazdaspeed3 kicking and fighting your hands), but that concern seems for naught. Whatever Honda engineers did, it works. Even in the cold and wet, torque steer was nonexistent. The engine feels smooth and strong throughout the rev range, if a little generic. Hondas used to have a certain peaky character. You had to wring their necks to set every last pony free. Now it just feels like every other turbocharged 2.0-liter. Still, it does have Honda's nearly perfect shifter to help set it apart.
The ride feels firm but not terrible. A bit more sidewall would help as the tires look like they are just painted on the wheels. The seats are supportive, and I love the red upholstery and seat belts, especially in contrast to the Aegean Blue paint. Yes, the styling is over-the-top with the wide fenders and comically large rear wing, but it's all part of the Japanese charm. Leave conservative and clean styling for the Europeans.
I like the car, but I don't know if I love it. Dollar for dollar, I'd save a bunch and go with a Volkswagen Golf GTI. That car is nearly perfect and feels far more refined than the Civic Type R. Yes, it's down on power and yes, not quite as focused or sharp, but it's a better overall package. Really though, you can't go wrong in the segment. There's a car to suit every type of buyer.
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- Engine 2.0L Turbocharged I4
- Power 306 HP / 295 LB-FT
- Transmission 6-Speed Manual
- Top Speed 170 MPH
- Drivetrain Front-Wheel Drive
- Engine Placement Front
- Curb Weight 3,117
- MPG 22 City / 28 Highway
- Base Price $34,775