1. It has big shoes to fill
If you didn’t go near the outgoing Honda Civic Type R on grounds of its challenging styling, you were not alone. Angular, awkward and downright daft from some angles, the last hot Civic was not a pretty car.
But it was awesome.
The FK8 Civic Type R arrived in 2017 and promptly made everything else looks soft, dull and slow. Even as the hot hatch war heated up, with cars like the ludicrously powerful AMG A45 S and the talented Hyundai i30N, the Honda reigned supreme. When the Mk8 VW Golf turned up in GTI and R guises, the Civic – by then no spring chicken – proved superior to a quite embarrassing extent.
Awesomely agile yet stable, adjustable yet confidence-inspiring, the Type R also boasted the best gearshift action, pedal weights and steering feel this side of a Porsche Cayman GT4.
Now, as Honda celebrates 50 years of the Civic and 25 years of the Civic Type R, there’s a new Civic Type R. It had better be good.
2. It doesn’t rip up the Type R playbook
Reckoned to be Honda’s last purely combustion-engined hot hatch (black armbands all round), the new Type R is a very logical combination of the new eleventh-gen Civic platform and many of the oily bits from the previous FK8 Type R, albeit uprated.
The new Civic bodyshell means increased structural rigidity, more efficient aerodynamics and, crucially, infinitely prettier and less challenging styling.
That said, the Type R remains bold. There’s a huge rear wing and generously flared wheelarches. (Though at 19 inches in diameter, the wheels are smaller than before, for reduced unsprung mass.)
3. It’s about marginal gains
Tweaks to the turbocharger housing and the turbine itself, not to mention a new free-flowing exhaust, gently lift power and torque over the previous car. Honda’s being typically coy but expect something like 325bhp and 310lb ft of torque.
Small increases, yes, but the FK8 was already indecently quick and, with its revised manual gearbox, the new car promises to be usefully quicker. Indeed, Honda reckons the new Type R eclipses the stripped-out and hardcore Limited Edition version of the outgoing car, helped by ditching the FK8’s average Continentals for more serious Michelin Pilot Sport rubber this time around.
Elsewhere the cooling systems, both for the powertrain and the brakes, have been re-worked to keep temps under control. The Type R retains the FK8’s excellent Brembos, with their two-piece discs, but with even better pedal feel.
4. It’s proudly front-wheel drive
As cars like the Audi RS3 and AMG A45 S demonstrate, four-wheel drive becomes essential as power creeps towards the 400bhp mark. But the new Honda is front-wheel drive, and plays a very different game.
As the FK8 proved, traction from a properly sorted front-drive hot hatch can be incredibly strong, in the dry at least, and going without the additional driveshafts and differentials four-wheel drive demands brings one huge advantage: reduced weight. And less weight means more speed. The FK8 was as quick around a circuit as a Porsche Cayman S, and the new car’s already set a front-drive lap record at Suzuka. It will be no slouch.
5. You’ll need to be patient
The new Type R doesn’t reach Europe until early next year, and will likely cost in the region of £40,000. If that sounds expensive, bear in mind the VW Golf R is a £42k car these days. Given Honda’s going hybrid and electric, this is likely the ultimate expression of Type R. Form an orderly queue.
Honda Civic Type R: £40,000 (estimate), 320bhp turbo inline four, 5.7sec 0-62mph (estimate), 170mph (estimate)