This is it. This is really it! Finally, after 20 years of impatience, Honda has released the Civic Type R on us. While the folks across the pond have been enjoying this hot hatch for a couple decades, this is the first one to come to North America. Officially, of course. Straight from the good folks at Honda, we took 2017 Honda Civic Type R number 26 for a week’s ride. Based on the 2017 Honda Civic hatchback, the Type R has been lightened, stiffened and injected with as much Honda racing tech as street laws allow. This car is a delight to drive, impressive on the track, with enough practical elements almost to pass as a daily driver.
One of the best features of the 2017 Honda Civic Type R is the big noisy bit out front. At a mere 2 liters of displacement, this VTEC turbo is producing an improbable 306 HP at 6,500 revolutions. Torque is even more mind blowing. Honda managed to reach peak torque, all 295 ft-lbs of it, between 2,500 and 4,500 rpm. This means but one thing: acceleration from any gear, at any RPM. Few cars accomplish acceleration, in final gear, from 60+ mph like this Type R. It’s a high-revving engine, too. It’s very comfortable riding to 4,000 rpm before you need to shift. If you follow the Formula inspired shift LEDs, you’ll hit 6,500 before you change.
The engine is a marvel to behold. Pushing limits is actually where it prefers to be. Under the right conditions, this little 2 liter will happily blast you around a track. Power travels through a six-speed manual gearbox; a rarity in today’s market. Clutch action is tight. Travel from gear to gear is short. It’s easy to find most gears after a few runs. Given how high the engine likes to rev, most city driving is actually done no further than third or fourth. 40 mph (65 kmh) gets about 3,000 on the tachometer in fourth, just shy of 4,000 in third. Shifting higher is really only a fuel mileage thing.
Inside, Honda has stuck to the philosophy of “less is more”. The 2017 Honda Civic Type R contains similar equipment to the base level Civic Hatch. Rear seats have been lightened by eliminating the center armrest, reduced padding, and simplifying cloth materials. Front seats are red leather suede with Type R embroidery. While tight, they’re not horribly uncomfortable. Faux carbon fiber abounds on the seats and accents. Despite the simplified interior, the Honda Civic Type R still has a full featured infotainment system including 546W of audio power and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay come standard. There’s a full-sized hatch in the rear to boot.
Exterior styling, in a word, is shouty. Aggressive aerodynamics all around do contribute to downforce at higher speeds. Honda has built on the strong lines of the standard Civic, turning the 2017 Honda Civic Type R into a very good-looking vehicle. Wide, 245/30 ratio Continental Sport Contact tires stick to the road. Handling is rail tight.
Performance is boosted by three driving modes: Comfort, sport and +R. Comfort soften suspension and throttle response to take the bite out of city roads. In sport, the 2017 Honda Civic Type R stiffens steering and suspension. Flick up to +R to tackle track days, maximizing engine response, suspension stiffness and steering input. In reality, most of our test was in sport mode. If you find yourself buying a Type R, it’s not for comfort mode. Buy a Civic Hatchback Sport instead.
Where the 2017 Honda Civic Type R really shines is the track. Here you can really appreciate the sum of its parts. It holds turns at speed and accelerates out fast. The engine revs high, encouraging you on to push it. The whole car isn’t satisfied until the best lap has been set.
The not so good
Those looking to find a track car that doubles as a daily driver might not be satisfied with the 2017 Civic Type R. While sharing many of the attributes of a Civic Hatchback work in favor of the Type R, it’s not perfect. Comfort mode does take a lot of the bite out of ride harshness, but it can’t do anything about the racing seats. Their stiffness caused ride fatigue on long hauls. Because the steering wheel doesn’t adjust, drivers have to adjust themselves to it. This is made challenging given the limited adjustment options the manual seat has.
An otherwise delightful little gearbox is not without a strange little quirk: The transition from first to second is awkward. Experienced manual drivers will feel the clunk, while new ones might even grind the gears. It takes a bit of adjustment, but eventually the shifting flows smoothly. Speaking of shifting; positioning is a bit of an issue. Given the stationary nature of the steering wheel, drivers of non-standard sizes might find the gear selector an odd angle.
Equipping the 2017 Honda Civic Type R with Continental racing tires is great for the track. On warm, sunny days, it’s great around town, too. But, if the clouds come out, or you dare go for a drive in the mid fall, don’t expect traction. With so much low-end torque spooling through those front wheels, the summer tires simply can’t hold on. Under these conditions you’ll see a lot of the traction control working, without effect, to reduce spin.
Should I buy this car
There are a lot of good hot hatches on the market, many of which have been in North America before. This gives the 2017 Honda Civic Type R a rarity value you won’t find. As a performance car, it’s excellent. The shouty exterior design will be too much for some, but Honda made sure the body kit isn’t cashing cheques the engine can’t handle. With the Type R, Honda again shows that they have the best performance engine designs out there. For members of Civic nation, their mecca vehicle is finally here.
It was worth the wait.