The Civic Type R is more than just clever engines, but that’s a good place to start. Honda knows a thing or two about bolting a screamer together, and this 2.0-litre turbo VTEC in the Civic Type R FK2 represents the culmination of years of surprising valvetrains and revving to the sky. It’s astonishingly good – a turbo motor that’s eager to rev out stratospherically, with sufficient torque to fill in the gaps; Honda claims a top speed of 167mph and a 0-62mph time of 5.7s. On the launch, a certain British magazine brought some timing gear along and actually figured it at 5.3s. It’s got comfortably north of 300hp, and all the torque comes in at just 2500rpm. Oh, and you can only get it with a manual gearbox. This makes us very happy indeed. Proper car.
All of this otherworldly horsepower would be pointless if you were just spinning it all away, of course. But even a limited-slip differential won’t always save the day. The Mk1 Ford Focus RS back in 2002 came with an ATB LSD, but it did little to help with traction or road manners. All the contemporary road tests agreed that ‘Crikey, this is a bit lively’, as journalists emerged blinking from cornfields, trying to work out how they’d got there from the road that’s on the other side of a hedge.
What is the Honda Civic Type R FK2 like to Drive?
Thankfully, Honda was on top of this. The Civic Type R FK2’s LSD is better behaved and makes sure all the power’s in the right place. But the best thing about it is that it’s not annoyingly intrusive. We tried our very hardest to break the limits of logic with this Type R, and on the rare occasions that we did manage to force it into a smidge of understeer, the diff just pulled it back into line, and the thing carried on. Not in a wrenching-the-wheel-about way, just as if it was saying: ‘Come on now, sir, we really ought to be pressing on’. Magical. It’s as if Jeeves is under there with a hefty spanner.
This power delivery and unwillingness to understeer are aided by some pretty natty suspension tech in the Civic Type R FK2. The Dual Axis Front Suspension System does clever things with angles and triangulation, while the adaptive dampers work cleverly to keep the car planted. We’ll be honest, we were taking the mickey with it a bit, trying to unsettle the thing, but it just wouldn’t come undone.
We found a section of tight hairpins up a steep hill and drove up and down, over and over, as fast as the car would go. We were trying to see where it’d come unstuck, as well as provide some suitably leaning cornering angle shots for the photographers lurking nearby. But it just doesn’t lean – it corners totally flat. It’ll let you playfully wag the tail a little if you fancy, but on the whole, it just wants to get to the horizon as quickly and vivaciously as possible.
Inspired by Motorsport
All of that suspension trickery is neatly augmented by a very smart aerodynamic package on the Civic Type R FK2. While it may look like there’s a lot going on visually, every bit of external addenda is necessary to keep the Type R sucked to the road. Developed with Honda’s WTCC team, the aero all works together to create negative lift. And we tested this aerodynamic effect as hard as we could. We wanted to find a jump to get all four wheels off the ground, but it just wouldn’t leave the Tarmac. The aero is astonishing.
The brakes are pretty savage too. A set of mighty Brembo four-pots at the front clamping 350mm discs – so good, they could genuinely ruck up the road like a poorly secured rug. That complex of hairpins was an excellent test; having pounded up and down that winding hill, as fast and hard as we could push the Civic, the brakes were stinking mightily.
We decided to stop for a bit and let them cool down, pretending to have at least some semblance of mechanical sympathy. But you know what? They never faded, not even a tiny bit. We mentioned this to a race instructor later on as we prepared to unleash the Type R on the mighty Slovakia Ring. “Yes,” he said, “we’ve found that with the demo cars here too. Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden have been giving these cars hell here for days, and it’s a punishing circuit, but the brakes just will not fade. They’re incredible. And I’m not from Honda, so I don’t have to say that.” We later went out for a ride with Shedden and can confirm that he wasn’t giving those brakes any quarter. But they didn’t mind a bit.
The +R Button In The Civic Type R
Special mention must also go to the +R button. When you press that, the engine’s torque-mapping shifts to a more aggressive curve. Throttle response increases. Power steering assistance decreases. Dampers become 30% stiffer. The Civic Type R FK2 is, in short, a riot of detail. The gear shift has a 40mm throw, so shifts are super-short; the quad exhausts ape those of the Subaru WRX STI, a keen price rival that feels surreally outclassed next to the CTR. The 235/35 R19 Continentals were developed specifically for this car’s outrageous abilities; the damping is just as supple as it is stiff, so the brilliant handling isn’t supplemented by being on first-name terms with a chiropractor. This is, in essence, a supernaturally good car, and we should all be thankful that it exists.
Tech Spec: Civic Type R FK2
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo K20C1
Transmission: Six-speed manual gearbox
Max Power: 310hp @ 6500rpm
Max Torque: 295lb ft @ 2500-4500rpm
0-62mph: 5.7 seconds
Top Speed: 167mph
Weight (Kerb): 1380kg
Emissions (CO2): 170g/km
Price When New (OTR): £32,960