With 197bhp and a screaming VTEC engine, the Civic Type-R was a revelation when it was launched in 2001. Competitively priced and driver focused, it shook up the hot hatch market and soon became a very common sight on the UK’s roads.
Styling wise the ‘bread van’ or MPV look didn’t do it for everyone, but it’s one of those shapes that grows on you and looks a million times better lowered on a set of decent wheels. But it was the engine that made the Type-R. Honda’s K20 unit is a peach. It may do without a turbo and only get a 2ltr capacity, but it’s a screamer.
Around town it’s pretty ordinary, but get it into the VTEC zone and it comes alive like a little race car. Add to this a fantastic gear change and a howling sound track and the CTR will put a smile on your face. Curiously this is also part of the problem. If you’re not in the mood for a cross country blast involving plenty of gear changes, the low torque can become tiring.
Inside you get cheap plastic, excellent seats and an oddly positioned gear lever. But you soon get used to it. The CTR was refreshed in 2004 and the final models came fully loaded. JDM models are particularly sought after as they came with a diff, which transformed the handling. These are easy to spot as they were only available in white.
Although mainstream car mags thought the CTRs chassis struggled and the steering was a bit dead, a few well chosen upgrades will sharpen it up nicely. A lot of bang for your buck.
Honda Civic Type-R EP3 stats (2001-2007)
Engine: 2ltr 4-cylinder iVTEC
Top speed: 146mph
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
The Honda K20 engine is pretty bomb proof, as long as you watch the oil levels. If pressure is too low, the VTEC won’t kick in. If it’s been regularly serviced, big miles aren’t a problem. A rattle from the engine at 3-4k rpm is likely to be a heatshield, which is an easy fix.
Some cars suffer from steering rack failure and some 04 cars had an issue with synchro on 2nd gear, which should’ve been fixed under warranty. Interiors can get tatty quickly and driver’s seat bolsters get worn down.
HONDA CIVIC TYPE-R EP3 TUNING
The biggest improvement you can make is to fit a diff. The frenzied nature means that damp second gear corners are tricky at best and plain scary at worst. A diff will control some of the madness and get you out of trouble.
It’s no surprise that the JDM versions, which came with a diff command a premium. Engine wise an induction kit and exhaust will help it breath, while throttle bodies will give an extra kick (at the expense of fuel economy). One of the most effective upgrades is a Hondata ECU which alters the VTEC point so it comes in earlier.
This makes it easier to drive without having to thrash the nuts off it so much. If you want more power a supercharger can give around 300bhp. Having tested lots of ’charged EPs, we can recommend them. If you still need more power, a turbo is the only way to go.