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Car Review

Honda Civic Type R (2017-2021) review

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Published: 16 Dec 2022
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Driving

What is it like to drive?

Staggeringly good. The fact an engineer thought the FK8 Civic’s gearshift wasn’t quite perfect enough, and found a way to fix it, is important. Because it sums up the whole car. The updated Type R drove as spectacularly as ever while somehow feeling marginally sharper and more precise in ways we’d not thought important. Or possible.

You'd approach a corner, getting forceful but measured braking no matter how dimwittedly you stamp on the pedal, then bleed carefully off and back to the throttle as you turn its beautifully weighted steering wheel (later wrapped in Alcantara) before aggressively getting on the power at the merest sight of the exit, as its front differential doggedly drew you out of the turn before you fired up the road via two or three exquisite gearchanges. Again, no matter how ham-fistedly you rowed the stick around. Then you look at the number on the TFT dials and think “better calm down a bit now…”

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Sounds mad!

Doesn't it just. Grip was outrageous but not at the expense of some interactivity, and the car’s traction was unwavering (unless the weather was awful) without ever seeming ruthless in the way tenacious four-wheel-drive stuff can sometimes feel.

And every control was sooo precise and perfectly judged. Criticising the Civic Type R is tough, and you almost need rivals present to provide some context; a quick Golf would ride a bit more comfily, a Hyundai i30N would more happily act the fool at ‘normal’ speeds. And with so much power – and supreme ability to put all 316bhp of it to good use – the Civic’s performance wasn't always what you’d call attainable.

You sound like you're clutching at straws.

Oh we are. The FK8 Type R was always satisfying however you chose to drive it, and while it perhaps felt a little less relenting on rough roads (especially after its update), its damping always had a bit of comfort to spare. There was a genuine character change between the Civic’s Comfort, Sport and R+ modes, and the fact the car defaulted to Sport each time you nudged it into life felt about right.

Comfort’s biggest asset was the way it quelled the exhaust note on a motorway cruise, while R+ wasn't necessary to wake the Type R up on a great road. But it did add some tangible excitement, not least in its more aggressive rev-matching on downshifts (which could be turned off, too).

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So a car for all seasons, as it were?

It was a brilliantly judged package that would please anyone, whatever they thought of the looks. Which brings us to another point of nerdiness to note: the Sport Line, regular Type R and Limited Edition each got their own tyre to reflect how they’d likely to be used, with a Michelin Pilot Sport 4, Continental Sport Contact 6 and Michelin Cup 2 fitted respectively.

That’s probably responsible for the bright yellow Limited Edition’s biggest shift in character: we tried it for the first time on a sodden, narrow race circuit and it wanted to oversteer on every corner. Never a Type R trait before, but an absolute bundle of fun given how much information was drip-fed to you from every one of the Civic’s controls.

And when we ventured out onto the open road it still felt like a very special thing, though we can’t help but wonder why Honda stopped at ditching the air con and stereo and didn’t lose the rear seats too.

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