2017 Honda Civic Type R new car reviews

By now you’ve surely read the multitude of reviews of the New Honda Civic Type R that landed around the web at 12:01 a.m. this past Wednesday. That’s the moment the media embargo lifted and auto journalists were allowed to flood the info-sphere with driving impressions and specs on the first Type R-badged car in the U.S. since the legendary Acura Integra Type R–which arrived here more than 20 years ago. The new Civic Type R is also the first Honda-badged Type R vehicle ever officially sold in the U.S.

Heck, the moment that Honda lifted that embargo, you may have even joined us for our live broadcast with driving impressions. Like the rest of the writers at the Montreal-based media preview, we were eager to tell folks about the Honda’s new hot hatch.

The difference is, when it comes to the Civic Type R, so many of them missed the point entirely.

Other staff views

J.G. Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak
Production/Art Director

Let’s start with a little of what the Type R is: It’s a 306-horsepower, four-door-plus-a-hatchback Civic that got around the Nurburgring faster than any other production front-wheel-drive car in recorded history. Far from being a Civic with a body kit, the Type R uses a 2.0-liter intercooler turbocharged and direct-injected engine that is from an entirely different engine family than is used in the rest of the Civic lineup.

While the body preparation is not as radical as the Integra Type R–which employed tricks such as reinforced body shell and thinner glass–the Civic Type R does employ specific additional use of body adhesives to increase chassis stiffness over regular Civic hatchbacks. The car also receives equipment that increases the user experience without unnecessarily increasing mass.

So many of the reviews we’ve read, though, disparage the Civic Type R for what it isn’t. They moan and bellyache about the lack of features like heated power seats, which they feel should be present in a “premium” automobile. Or they’ll point out the lack of a sunroof, or the fact that the rear seat is only a two-place unit with a molded divider instead of a heavier three-place bench.

I hope these people are never again allowed to wear an SA-rated helmet in anger.

With the exception of the styling–which I’ll address in a minute–the Civic Type R is a largely unimpeachable high-performance front-drive automobile. Specs and market positioning encourage a direct comparison to the Focus RS and Golf R, and despite the Civic’s lack of AWD, it compares more than favorably.

First, the lack of AWD also means the lack of several hundred pounds of mechanical equipment. The Civic Type weighs in at a touch more than 3100 pounds dripping wet with all mats, cargo covers and tools in place. That’s a few hundred pounds less than its market competitors, and we like that math.

Second, the ergonomics and human factors of the Civic Type are exceptional–especially in comparison to the downright ill-fitting interior of the Focus. The Civic is easy to enter or exit–even with a helmet on–and the interior is airy and reminiscent of Hondas of yore, back in days before side-impact crash standards raised window and dash heights to claustrophobic levels.

The seats are as close to perfect for a wide variety of body types as any we’ve seen. Why do you need power adjustment if they work fine without being adjusted?

Yes, the styling is–to put it mildly–controversial. There’s a lot going on visually both inside and especially outside the Civic Type R. Anyone raised on a steady diet of Macross anime will instantly recognize the creases, angles, points, protrusions, scallops and edged swoops of the Civicic’s many, many (many) visual complications.

I'm not saying that’s an entirely bad thing, mind you. I’ll reassure you that it looks better–and better proportioned–in the flesh than it does in photos, but there’s still a LOT of information for your eyes to take in. All that detailing is, however, largely functional. Splitters, ducts, foils and channels direct air to where it can do the most good (or at least do the least bad), and were designed primarily by the performance department and not the marketing department. (We’re sure the marketing department didn’t complain much, though.)

But for those of you who discount the car for being “too ugly,” we kindly request you get over yourself, let go of your clutched pearls, and join us on track. The Civic Type R is sheer delight to destroy apexes with, and one of the easiest cars to jump into and go fast we’ve ever driven.

Three preset modes are available from the stability and traction control selector switch. Comfort and Sport are fairly self explanatory: Comfort is comfortable, while Sport firms the dampers, provides more steering resistance and a slightly more aggressive throttle actuation curve.

The most track-focused mode, which Honda calls +R, disables or seriously diminishes the electronic nannies, firms the chassis and steering even further, and provides extremely aggressive and impeccably timed throttle blips for the automatic rev-matching on downshifts of the six-speed manual.

In +R mode, computer stability intervention in nearly transparent on track. In an autocross situation, where weight must be occasionally transferred in more dramatic and unnatural fashion, there’s still perceptible intervention, but Honda does provide for an “all-off” configuration as well.

On a faster road course, we’d probably opt for the +R mode and see lap times just as fast or faster as with everything off. It’s a system that works with the driver, not against him or her.

Chassis-wise, the Type R impresses, especially in transitions. Like all front-drive cars, understeer is as available as you’re willing to make it by throttle application, but it’s benign and can be used to easily and precisely adjust the line of the car during cornering without undue penalty on momentum.

In fast transitions, the Civic Type R really shines, though. With the tendency for modern cars to get more and more top-heavy as additional structure and safety gear are added above the belt-line, so many cars suffer from nervous moments as they pass through the neutral point from hard cornering in one direction to hard cornering in the other. The chassis want a moment to stabilize as it passes through that neutral point, lest all that high-placed mass develop some momentum and just force the car offline as cornering loads build.

That’s not so with the Civic Type R. It changes direction willingly and aggressively–maybe like no front-drive car in decades. Were someone to evoke the CRX as a frame of reference, we would not say they were entirely without a point.

There’s also a conspicuous lack of torque steer–due in no small part to Honda’s dual-link front suspension design that places the kingpin angle directly inline with the center of the front tires. It’s a clever design that produces some solid geometry and excellent performance.

Questions and connivery still about, however. First, because of high demand, dealers are slapping the first batch of 2017 Civic Type Rs with some heavy stick-it-to-you premiums. Yeah we understand capitalism and all, but come on, guys. A $10,000 premium on an $33,900 seems excessive. (By the way, we’re told that each Honda dealer in the U.S. has been promised at least one of the 3000 or so 2017 models that will be brought into the U.S. from the plant in the U.K.)

Second, for our crowd, much of the Civic Type R’s appeal will be made or broken by where it ends up on the competitive spectrum. For SCCA autocross–which seems like the natural habitat of such a creature–we’re guessing it will follow its market competitors the Focus RS and Golf R into the B Street class, where it will battle the aforementioned hot hatches as well as the Honda S2000, BMW 1 Series M and non-Z06 C5 Corvette. Examples of all of these cars have won major events this year, so maybe the Civic will add even more competitive diversity to an already varied class.

In an autocross venue, the Civic Type R does have a couple inherent advantages it may be able to maximize. It’s one of the lightest cars in that field–especially compared to its hot-hatch competitors, and tall, 20-inch-diameter wheels and a not-overly short gear set combine for a 64 mph top speed in second gear. That means a minimal amount of worry about ever having to upshift to third, and the assorted on-course complications that come with such an action.

For general track enthusiasts, though, the Civic Type R will be a willing and fun partner. Split-folding rear seats and a hatch mean exceptional cargo capacity–easily enough for a set of track wheels and tire and tools–and the big 13.8-inch front rotors with four-piston Brembo calipers look like they should mean exceptional brake performance. We saw no signs of fade during repeated journalist lapping sessions, and if car writers can’t kill something, it may very well not be killable.

So we beg our colleagues to judge the Civic Type R on its merits, not some perceived lack of equipment that the car has no business needing or wanting. You don’t fault a shark for not having wings, because it’s already awesome at sharking, which is the whole point of being a shark. But, yeah, if you want to whine about the lack of seat heaters, go for it. You can tell us all about it if you can catch us by the next corner.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens
Editorial Director

Is the Civic Type R a tenth of a second quicker or slower than the Focus RS? Does one pull a hundredth of a g more than the other?

Honestly, I don’t care. Here’s the biggest surprise here: For all of the performance offered by the Civic Type R, the car is totally, totally usable as a daily driver. And this is coming from a guy who has daily driven Civics on race-valved shocks.

Twenty years ago we got our first taste of the Type R, and I totally fell for it. In fact, I tried to buy our press car. I was told that I couldn’t so, soon after, we bought a new Civic Si instead. It was the more practical daily driver, anyway.

So fast forward to a totally new incarnation of the Type R. I’ve been a Civic Si fan all these years and really like the new car. How would the Type R compare? Yes, it’s faster, And, yes, it’s more extreme looking. But holy cow does the Type R still make a fine daily driver. The suspension is crisp and competent, but it doesn’t beat you up.

My ’86 Civic Si wore 60-series tires from the factory. The Type R rides on 30-series tires. The Type R’s ride is amazing subtle. True, Florida roads are better than other state’s, but it’s an impressively smooth ride.

So I’m looking at the specs right now. The Type R’s 2.0-liter turbo engines makes 306 horsepower at 6500 rpm and 295 lb.-ft. of torque from 2500 to 4500 rpm.

For a comparison I pulled an old issue of Car and Driver. It features a comparison between the Nissan 300ZX Twin Turbo and Dodge Stealth R/T Turbo. Both are powered by turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 engines. The Z makes 300 horsepower at 6400 rpm and 283 lb.-ft. at 3600; the Stealth produces 300 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 307 lb.-ft. of torque at 2500 rpm.

Yay, technology. The Type R isn’t peaky or pesky. It just makes turbo-six power. All the time. Oh, and it doesn’t torque steer, either.

We’ve already track-tested the Type Ro, so I’m looking at this one as a daily driver. Whether or not it works comes down to two easy questions: Can you handle the extreme looks of the Type R as well as the $10,000 price premium?

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Comments
mazdeuce
mazdeuce MegaDork
6/16/17 4:06 p.m.

Thanks for the write-up. I want one.

Driven5
Driven5 Dork
6/16/17 5:09 p.m.

Sounds like a genuinely great enthusiast car. Any word whether the CTR will have the R-Comp tires used for its record breaking Nurburgring run available as a factory option, or will it be getting an asterisk next to that achievement?

rwdsport
rwdsport Reader
6/16/17 5:49 p.m.

It's funny because back when the ITR was new a lot of people bought them (and were unfortunately sold by uneducated salesmen) because they thought most expensive = best integra. That is quite far from the truth, as it was the loudest and most brash and led to a lot of trade-ins, returns and slow sales due to the Spartan/harsh nature of the car. Which is ironically the reason the car is so sought after now. That is what I think of when I see the complaints about the lack of heated seats in this Type-R.

That being said, it is quite fugly in my opinion. I always think "Quality and class never scream for your attention, they whisper" and the design language on this car is much too aggressive albeit quite functional as I understand (the drag coefficient is impressively low). And I do miss the natural aspiration as well (having never driven any of the turbo Hondas). Hondas have never been about being absolutely the fastest but moreso about the total experience. I bought my new FA5 (8th gen) over the WRX despite it being slower because it was a more engaging drive. I liked the VTEC kick, the tiny 2000rpm power band and playfull chassis that could be coaxed to oversteer by trailbraking unlike the plowing WRX. That is what I will miss the most. The simplicity and total joy of handling a scalpel rather than working a sledgehammer.

JG Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak Production/Art Director
6/16/17 6:36 p.m.
rwdsport wrote: It's funny because back when the ITR was new a lot of people bought them (and were unfortunately sold by uneducated salesmen) because they thought most expensive = best integra. That is quite far from the truth, as it was the loudest and most brash and led to a lot of trade-ins, returns and slow sales due to the Spartan/harsh nature of the car. Which is ironically the reason the car is so sought after now. That is what I think of when I see the complaints about the lack of heated seats in this Type-R. That being said, it is quite fugly in my opinion. I always think "Quality and class never scream for your attention, they whisper" and the design language on this car is much too aggressive albeit quite functional as I understand (the drag coefficient is impressively low). And I do miss the natural aspiration as well (having never driven any of the turbo Hondas). Hondas have never been about being absolutely the fastest but moreso about the total experience. I bought my new FA5 (8th gen) over the WRX despite it being slower because it was a more engaging drive. I liked the VTEC kick, the tiny 2000rpm power band and playfull chassis that could be coaxed to oversteer by trailbraking unlike the plowing WRX. That is what I will miss the most. The simplicity and total joy of handling a scalpel rather than working a sledgehammer.

It's more of a throwback than you're giving it credit for. I mean, there's never going to be another Integra Type R (Or Mustang Cobra R, or M3 CSL, or so many other decontented wonders), but for 2017, it's well done. Civilized enough you can live with it, edgy enough you know it's not screwing around.

I'll agree a little on the power curve. I didn't get into it much because of space limitations, but the torque curve is flat. Dare I say, too flat. On one hand, it doesn't penalize you for small mistakes in cornering speed since there's almost always plenty of torque on demand. On the other hand, it doesn't reward you as dramatically for getting it right.

Still someone asked me on the live show if I'd pick a CTR or a Focus RS if you were handing me the keys. I'd take the Civic in a heartbeat, just on superior ergonomics and usability alone. I wold love to get one out on a big, grippy, imperfect track like Sebring. I think it would surprise a lot of people in "fast" cars.

As to the tires, the Nurburgring record wasn't exactly on R-comps (they were Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s), but they were stickier than the US-spec OEM rubber. A set of Hoosiers probably drops another 15-18 seconds. The US-spec Contis probably lose 8-10 seconds the other direction.

JG Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak Production/Art Director
6/16/17 6:36 p.m.

PS: Yes, that derp face in the lead photo is being made by internet sensation Doug Demuro.

Shaun
Shaun HalfDork
6/17/17 12:06 a.m.

"I wold love to get one out on a big, grippy, imperfect track like Sebring. I think it would surprise a lot of people in "fast" cars."

And that is exactly why people Love older Honda's. Sounds like a return to form.

drdisque
drdisque HalfDork
6/17/17 12:51 a.m.

I'd be more enthused if it was wearing smaller wheels. There's no reason it needs 20" wheels with the ridiculous tire size 245/30R20

DrBoost
DrBoost MegaDork
6/17/17 5:44 a.m.

It's just too ugly. I understand tht it has great performance numbers, but it's so overstyled it makes the C7 look good. I mean, if Sandra Burnhardt was a good cook, you still wouldn't be seen with her. Why are there square yards of honey-comb plastic on the bumpers? That ugly spoiler flexes like Arnold did in the '80s. It's just ugly. Then there's the performance deficit against its competitors. Yes, a deficit.
Now who's wearing pearls ;)

Feedyurhed
Feedyurhed SuperDork
6/17/17 6:14 a.m.

Yep, pretty busy and over styled but I like it a lot. It's on my short list.

etifosi
etifosi SuperDork
6/17/17 8:21 a.m.

I think this car looks better, now that I understand the designers were going for the "pediatric brain tumor" look.

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