The latest Honda Civic has been a wonderful return to form for Honda, who made its bones on smartly designed, efficient and fun-to-drive small cars. Honda’s new Civic Type R takes the latest generation models intrinsic goodness, adds some crazy anime-inspired boy-racer bodywork, and seriously upgrades the powertrain and suspension to match. The CTR, as it’s known among enthusiasts, is a very different sort of Civic, a high-performance hatchback designed to take on the Ford Focus RS, Volkswagen Golf R and Subaru’s venerable WRX STI.
Unlike those cars, however, the Civic Type R is actually still front-wheel drive. With 306 horsepower from its 2.0-liter turbo four, not being AWD sounds like a recipe for torque steer, but Honda’s suspension and driveline engineers have proven to be quite clever. This is one of the finest-handling and most entertaining front-wheel drive cars ever made. Starting at $34,100 before options and delivery, the 2018 Honda Civic Type R isn’t cheap, but it is electrifying.
It took quite some time for Honda to finally bring a Civic Type R to the US, but when it did, Americans were left staring down one of the best driver's cars in ages. It quickly launched itself to near-deity status among Honda fans and critics alike. So, where could Honda possibly go from there? For the 2020 model year, the automaker did some nipping and tucking that, in nearly every way, somehow made this already-great hot hatch even better.
The biggest gripe I hear about the Civic Type R, regardless of model year, focuses on its hyperstylized aesthetics. There's no getting around how garish this five-door is, because no matter the angle, your eyes will gravitate to yet another oddball vortex generator, dive plane or intake duct. While some of the vents are, in fact, largely for show, there is a fair bit of actual engineering tucked away in here. In the 2020 refresh, Honda enlarged the grille to let more air across an improved radiator for better cooling in high-performance situations, but that had the downside of reducing downforce, so the automaker also adjusted the front spoiler to make up for that. Some new body-color pieces help break up the dark masses of monotony on the lower parts of both bumpers, but to be honest, most folks won't notice anything's changed outside.
The Type R's interior receives some more notable updates, for better or for worse. The steering wheel is now wrapped in Alcantara suede, which provides a nice grip but will certainly wear to an iffy patina in time, especially if your hands tend to be sweaty -- it should help in winter, though, since cold leather is never fun to touch. The interior isn't too much different from the Civic otherwise, sharing the same excellent build quality and unique dashboard layout, albeit with some red accents and faux-carbon-fiber trim. The seats, which are specific to the Type R, provide excellent bolstering and are mighty comfortable for long stretches. It is, however, a major bummer that the front seats aren't heated, considering literally every one of the Type R's competitors figured out how to jam some elements into the cushioning. As a Midwesterner, sometimes I wonder if Honda thought about places outside California when assembling this thing.
The Good ~ Outstanding driving dynamics ~ Best shift linkage in the industry ~ Proper daily livability
The Bad ~ Polarizing styling ~ No heated seats ~ Sound synthesizer is just the worst
The Bottom Line The Honda Civic Type R hit the ground running, yet somehow, it's picking up the pace.
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