When the FK8 Civic Type R launched back in 2017, the world saw a resurgence from Honda and it quickly snatched the hearts of many reviewers across the world, myself included. While the looks were divisive, one thing that couldn’t be denied was just how brilliant of a hot hatch it was. Fast, agile, practical and somewhat affordable meant it universally was handed the title of the best FWD hot hatch. With such pressure to deliver an upgraded package, the FL5 Civic Type R has a lot to live up to. Thankfully, it does just that. In fact, if Porsche was to build itself an RS hot hatch, it probably wouldn’t be too different to this.
About the Honda Civic Type R FL5
Under the bonnet is a developed version of the FK8 Civic Type R’s K20C1 engine. Better cooling, a new exhaust system and a reworked turbo and ECU, means power is now at 315hp and 310lb ft for US customers, and 330hp and 310lb ft of torque in Europe and Japan.
In terms of performance figures, it doesn’t matter where you live in the world, 0-62mph is achieved in 5.4 seconds with a top speed of 171mph. That’s 3mph up on the FK8, and 0.4 seconds fasted to 62mph.
While performance is similar, Honda has spent its time working on the chassis. There’s a longer wheelbase, wider tracks and a strengthened chassis to increase rigidity. Lower suspension arms improve camber rigidity some 16% while the rear body rigidity is up 15%. All in all, it’s clear that Honda wasn’t interested in improving straight line performance, after all it’s limited by it’s front wheel traction. Instead, its interested in how it handles, how it makes the driver feel, and the way it can go around a track.
Honda Civic Type R FL5 handling
Behind the wheel, I could feel the car was stiffer than the previous generation almost immediately. While the FK8 undoubtedly felt slightly busy on a bumpy road, when pressing on, its damper compression smoothed out a lot of the harshness. In the FL5, this isn’t so much the case. You feel every bump, which on a typical British back road, makes for an uncomfortable ride. For the most part, it’s not an issue, you never feel out of control. What it does show was just how brilliant the FK8 was.
While the Honda Civic Type R FL5 introduces an individual drive mode for the first time in a Civic, meaning you can soften the suspension and have the engine in its sportiest setting, it never really settles down. With smoother roads in the US, I suspect this would be less of an issue. But in the UK, where the back roads are poorly surfaced, you always feel the harsher ride.
That being said, if you ignore the ride quality and focus on the way it can travel around a corner, you immediately notice where the improved rigidity has its benefits. The front end is beautiful agile, wanting to dart into each corner, and sometimes catching me slightly off guard with how close I could get the front wheel to the edge of the tarmac. The rear wants to follow suit, too, with some slight lift-off-oversteer, you can encourage the rear of the car and rotate on tighter corners.
It’s the epitome of a hot hatch. It’s eager to be driven hard, and when pressing on steps into a world of its own. You can feel its been designed from the ground up as an all-conquering hot hatch, up their with some of the greatest of all time.
FL5 Civic Type R engine and gearbox
The engine itself is a masterpiece. While it’s no screaming VTEC from the 2000s, it wants to pull right the way up to its redline, with a thumping great 310lb ft of torque to shove you along the way in the mid-range.
It’s certainly no slouch, with in gear acceleration particularly impressive thanks to a slight increase in boost pressure. Naturally, though, it doesn’t feel too dissimilar to the FK8 in that department. But, we’re talking about small differences in performance figures. Unless you had official timing equipment, you’d be hard pressed to notice the differences.
As you’d expect, the gearbox on the Honda Civic Type R FL5 is a tight box with perfectly weighted changes. It feels mechanical, precise, but not so raw that it becomes a nuisance around town. Honda has also reworked the auto-blip feature, so now its sharper than ever and can be used no matter which drive mode you’re in.
Lack of noise
Sadly, it’s becoming common practice for manufacturers to fit the quietest exhaust system they possibly can without compromising performance too much. The FL5 suffers the same fate as the FK8; it’s quiet, and gives off a whooshing sound rather than a raucous four-pot. The triple-exit exhaust makes a return, with the central pipe controlling drone noise at speed, which it does a great job of doing. The noise isn’t so much of an issue for us modified car fans who like to tweak our exhaust systems, but for otherwise wanting to retain full warranty, that could be frustrating. Milltek already have an exhaust option for you daring FL5 owners, though.
Following suit with the more generic Honda Civic models, the interior of the Civic Type R has received a healthy update. It sees a return to physical climate control buttons (the FK8’s climate control was controlled via the touchscreen infotainment system). The infotainment screen is new, and produces a much sharper image with a rapid interface. Simplicity shines through hear. There aren’t too many things going on, with just the option to adjust drive modes on the console that houses the gear-lever. Buttons on the steering wheel allow you to control the media, make and end calls, as well as cruise control. The steering wheel itself is finished in Alcantara and has a beautiful grip to it. It’s thick, but feels oddly nice to touch.
Naturally, the red Recaro bucket seats are spot on. There’s not much to say here. Honda and Recaro have churned some of the comfiest, well-supported performance seats for any car over the years. Not only do they look the business, but they’re comfortable, adjustable, and supportive.
Honda Civic Type R FL5 practicality and economy
For those interested in the FL5’s more practical side, after all, it’s a big car (almost the same size as a BMW M3 now…) the Civic Type R could be treated as a family car. It has plenty of room for five adults, ISOFOX points for children, and a practical-sized boot that offers easier loading by a retractable cover. Cargo space is up 203 liters on the FK8, and now sits at 1,212 liters in total.
In terms of economy, Honda quotes a combined MPG figure of 29.4 US MPG / 34.4 UK MPG. Across the week that I tested this vehicle, I achieved closer to 21.6 US mpg / 26 UK. More spirited drives saw the economy dip below 20mpg.
Honda Civic Type R FL5 pricing
Sadly, this is where my biggest issue with the Civic Type R lies, the list price. In the US, prices start at $42,895, while UK customers will have to pay £46,995. Whichever way you look at it, that’s an expensive car. A few years ago that would have almost seen you behind the wheel of a BMW M2 or into an entry-level Porsche 718 Cayman. Not least what that sort of money could land you in the used car market.
While the Civic Type R has undoubtedly turned into a more premium car, with an interior now to suit, it feels expensive for a hot hatch. It certainly doesn’t give you the same feeling as being sat behind the wheel of Porsche’s Cayman.
Honda’s latest Civic Type R FL5 is fantastic to drive, good to look at, and a wonderful place to sit. While its price tag is a little steep, in a world of increasing normality and underwhelming hybrids/EVs, the fact that Honda is willing to give us an all-guns-blazing hot hatch with real-track prowess, complete with bodykit, bucket seats and a six-speed manual gearbox is enough for us to be excited about.
It continues to be the benchmark for fast front-wheel drive cars, and even gives the bigger, more expensive hyper-hatches in the form of the Audi RS3 and Mercedes A45 AMG something to think about on a twisty track.
It’s grown over the years, and now is the biggest and heaviest its ever been, but that hasn’t been at the expense of driving performance. Its agile, grippy, and eager to rev. Thankfully, Honda has nailed it once again, and the Civic Type R FL5 continues its reign as the hot hatch king. Dare I say, this is one of the greatest hot hatches of all time.