Up: Looks insane, rev-matching, exclusivity, price is right
Down: 4-doors make it look awkward from the side, too many fake vents
Neutral: The Type R makes you feel more special than its competition.
Question: What has three more miles to the gallon than a Ford Focus RS, two more LED headlights than a Volkswagen Golf R, and one more horsepower than a Subaru WRX STI? The answer is the 2017 Honda Civic Type R. And to add to the list of top trumps, the all new Type R is the only one of the four that comes with three damping modes, 20″ wheels, rev matching, and 12 speakers! It seems to be the new king in the hot hatch circuit except for one minor detail… it’s the only one without all-wheel-drive. Bummer. But hey, it does have one more inch of headroom than the Focus RS!
Wow, there’s another new Honda Civic on the road. Big hairy deal, why should I care? Well for us normal people, and I know you Honda fanboys (and fangirls) are ready to lash out, the Type R actually is a big deal for the car scene in the United States. Hondas have been wearing the Type R badge since the early 90s on cars like the Civic, Integra, and NSX and they were always the lightest weight, highest performing, and most unobtainable vehicles in the range for us. However, America was briefly blessed with one Type R vehicle and it is still one of the most sought after vehicles in the “tuner” scene: the 1997, 1998, 2000, and 2001 Acura Integra Type R. Now, nearly 20 years later, the 2017 Honda Civic Type R is sold again on U.S. soil and fans couldn’t be more excited.
But in the crowded streets of modded Civics and Integras, how does one know if they’re around a true Type R? Before the 2017 model the easiest way to assume a Type R is authentic are the red Honda badges, the Championship White paint, limited options, unique wheels, and the “Type R” stickers on the rear quarter panel. The rest is primarily under the hood or in the suspension. For us, the Integra Type R had 25 more horsepower than the GSR and held the record for most power per liter in naturally aspirated car. Sadly, due to theft and the increasing availability of “Type R” lightweight parts, an unmolested Integra Type R is nearly impossible to find in the states to this day.
Fortunately there is no mistaking the new Civic Type R for an Si, a Hatchback Sport Touring, or one with “Type R” parts. If you’ve ponied up the $34,000 for a 2017 Type R there will be no one who can doubt that you have one. There are so many exclusive pieces on this car that I will probably fail to mention them all. The first thing you will notice are the hood scoop and the wing, that’s a given, but Honda really went all out with the minor details. There’s the unique front and rear bumpers with active (and some fake) aero, unique 20″ wheels with wider 245 mm tires, red slotted Brembo brakes in the front, (fake) carbon fiber body kit with red accents all around, three tailpipes, and a body colored vortex generator at the top of the hatch. Hell, the body itself is wider than a standard Civic! Also, true fans will say the only color a Type R should be is Championship White but I prefer this Polished Metal grey (insert winky face).
On the inside Type R owners are treated to even more exclusive goodies. The first thing you’ll notice once you open the door are the exclusive red suede Type R racing seats. They are super supportive and comfortable but my back did get sweaty even with the air on. Once you’re seated you get an array of Type R goodies at your fingertips. There is (fake) carbon fiber trim which looks really cool, a red and black leather wrapped steering wheel, full touch screen infotainment center, digital gauges with impressive animations and tons of performance monitoring settings, an aluminum shift knob attached to a short-throw shifter, 12 premium speakers, and a Type R numbered plate on the center console; this one is R-03534. If you really want to experience the interior and all of the crazy settings, check out my full walkthrough in the video below!
Make no mistake though, this isn’t a stripped down race car. One of the Type R’s most impressive offerings, which we can thank government regulations for (boo!), is the safety features. If I would have told a Type R owner in 1997 that their car would have a three backup camera modes, full voice activated GPS systems, and an arsenal of electronic acronyms such as ACE, VSA, EBD, TPMS, and i-SRS, they would say I’m crazy. But I’m not. I drove this Civic Type R all day and usually forgot I was in the world’s fastest front-wheel-drive production car! It can be very deceiving.
So what’s it like driving the first ever 306 horsepower 2.0 liter turbocharged VTEC engine to it’s fullest? Amazing. I haven’t driven the new Focus RS or 2018 STI yet, but I used to own a MK6 Volkswagen GTI and this blows it out of the water. Forget about 0-60 times, the 2017 Civic Type R focuses more on getting to 100 mph and staying there without breaking a sweat. The front wheel drive system, limited slip differential (LSD), and computers are so advanced in this car that the only time I made the tires slip was a pull from 0 and it was more of a short chirp than a squeal. The Type R’s speed is really impressive for a car under $40,000.
Then there’s the handling. In comfort mode the Type R is basically a Civic LX with a 306 horse power plant under the hood. In sport mode, which is the default when you start up this car, there are two things I really noticed. The first was the electronic steering was noticeably, for lack of a better term, heavier. There was more resistance when turning the wheel but the car pointed exactly where you wanted to go. The other feature was the awesome rev-matching system. (This is also active in comfort mode but you won’t notice it until you drive aggressively.) You simply will not find rev-matching in a car at this price point. The way it works is if you’re cruising and you decide to make a pull or pass someone in the slow lane, you drop the clutch, shift down, and the computer puts the engine at the higher revs it should be when you lift up on the clutch. This can help shave seconds off of lap times!
For the coupe de grace, there’s what Honda calls +R mode. To know +R is active, the gauges turn a more vibrant red and there are two red bars above the speedometer that flash when its time to shift. The suspension gets even stiffer, making it the only hot-hatch with three damping settings, the steering gets even firmer, and the rev-matching becomes more aggressive. The Type R is now showing that the “R” stands for racing. To be honest, I did notice things sharpen up but I didn’t have a race track available to me to really notice a large difference between the +R and Sport modes. Since the Type R has a 6-speed manual transmission, all of the power is always available to you. I’m certain that where +R mode really shines is on race day.
Upon returning this 2017 Honda Civic Type R back to its owner, I now have a new found respect for Honda. I’ve always been more of a Subaru fanboy and we specialize in teasing Honda owners. Although the Civic Type R doesn’t have all-wheel-drive, I’m certain it outperforms an STI spring through first snowfall. There are a couple of design choices I could live without, such the huge fake rear bumper vents and the decision to make this car 4-doors, but I also understand that it has to compete in the American market. The 2017 Honda Civic Type R needs to be fast, practical, affordable, and unique, and it checks off all of those boxes with ease.
A special thanks to Tyler Swanger and Vern Eide Honda for letting me drive this 2017 Honda Civic Type R! If you are interested in your own Type R, or any Honda, he’s the guy to see.