2017 Honda Civic Type-R: VTEC just kicked in…hard

Posted by Wheels On Edge about 5 months ago
2017 Honda Civic Type-R

Type-R: It’s a name that carries a rich legacy in the automotive world. For Honda, it represents the pinnacle of performance and engineering on the road and on the track. It’s been 20 years since Honda teased Canada and the United States with the now legendary Integra Type-R. Made only in limited production, it vanished almost as quickly as it arrived. Honda hasn’t given North Americans a Type-R vehicle since – until now with the brand new Honda Civic Type-R. Does it live up to the hype and the precedent set by its ancestor? We put it to the test.

The first thing anyone will notice about the Type-R is the way it looks. Sharp angles, vents, ducts, aerodynamic fittings and a massive rear spoiler add to what is already a dramatic design. Our example, painted in Honda’s iconic Championship White, further accentuated every bold angle of the vehicle. The Type-R sits on black 20-inch wheels with bright red Brembo brake calipers behind them. Red pinstripes adorning the wheels and various aerodynamic accessories complement the well bolstered red Recaro seats on the inside. The dashboard is trimmed with more red striping and faux-carbon accents as well as a Type-R badge with a serial number, indicating the vehicle’s limited production. Our test car was serial number 25.
Sharp angles, vents, ducts, aerodynamic fittings

The Type-R is certainly unmistakable, and not just in looks alone. The Type-R is practically a Civic in name alone. It may be based on an economy hatchback but the way it drives is nothing short of sublime. Honda’s engineers have managed to hide all the inherent handling flaws that a Front-Wheel-Drive configuration presents. During more ‘spirited’ driving, FWD vehicles have a tendency to pull to one side. It’s a jarring and sometimes terrifying phenomenon called torque steer, and in a Front-Drive vehicle, it’s almost unavoidable at speed. But Honda’s engineers have managed to tweak and work the handling and suspension to eliminate virtually all of it. The Type-R is composed, nimble and shockingly sharp no matter how hard you throw it into a corner or mash the throttle on the straights. It’s a Front-Wheel-Drive car, but it certainly doesn’t feel like it. 
The Type-R is composed, nimble and shockingly sharp

The Type-R rides on grippy Continental Sport Contact tires. The 20-inch rubber was co-developed by Honda engineers and Continental. They won’t be cheap to replace, but the astonishing grip they produce keeps the car poised and planted on the road surface – even with traction control disabled. The slick shifting 6-speed manual is a joy to use when paired with the 306 horsepower turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. By default, it’ll automatically rev-match upon a downshift, raising the engine’s RPM’s and drastically smoothening out the shift. You can disable the feature through the (sometimes clunky) touchscreen in the centre console for an even more engaging experience. 

You can drive the Civic Type-R in three modes: Comfort, Sport (Default) and +R mode. Most of our driving was spent in +R mode, where the steering, adaptive suspension and throttle response is at its crispest and most aggressive. Upon switching to +R mode, the gauge cluster is bathed in ominous red backlighting – a sign of the good times ahead. Fuel economy can reach as good as 8.3 L/100km – a far cry from the 6.0 L/100km attainable by the base hatchback. But it’s unlikely a car like this is purchased for good fuel numbers. While Honda recommends premium gasoline in the Type-R, it is not required. Regular or mid-grade can be used in a pinch. 
Comfort, Sport (Default) and +R mode

From the inside, the Type-R doesn’t bathe you in luxury as one might expect from a nearly $41,000 vehicle. The dashboard is virtually the same plastic dashboard you’ll find in the base civic hatchback, complete with the clunky touchscreen interface. You won’t get much in terms of noise dampening, or even certain creature comforts like heated seats. But Type-R models have never been about comfort. They were originally designed with an emphasis on lightweight precision performance for the race track. While the focus has since widened to include street use, that original mantra is still apparent. Plus, with a roomy back seat and massive trunk, the Type-R is still very practical.

Honda has sold the Civic Type-R, and other Type-R designated models overseas for years now. But here in Canada, we’ve only had one taste of it 20 years ago with the Acura Integra Type-R. But even though it’s a vehicle two decades old, the old Integra is still regarded as one of the finest Front Wheel Drive vehicles in the world. With the new Civic Type-R, Honda has lived up to and surpassed the legacy left by the old Integra. It’s not just a street car though. Right out of the box, the Type-R is race ready. In fact it holds the Front-Wheel-Drive lap record on the famed Nurburgring with a time of 7:43, beating the last record held by the Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport S. That’s also faster than its competitors including the Ford Focus RS.
The Type-R is still very practical

The bold and almost outlandish styling of the Civic Type-R is a polarizing point to potential buyers. It makes competitors like the Focus RS and Subaru STI look downright tame. We’d argue the looks suit the nature of the car and regardless, it doesn’t take away from what is a monstrously fun, sharp and engaging driving experience. With a waiting list extending to next year, it seems like buyers aren’t too bothered by the opinions of jaded internet users for the time being. We’ll have to wait and see if the Type-R can maintain the hype during its lifetime. But for the time being, we’re happy to welcome the Type-R name back to North America and we hope it’ll stick around longer this time.

Written by Shane Kalicharan
Tags:
2017 Honda Civic Type-R, Honda Performance, Brembo, VTEC Turbo, Integra

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