The great Honda Civic Type R vs. Ford Focus RS debate

Comparing specs for the two freshest hot hatchbacks to land in America.

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For Honda enthusiasts in the US, the debut of the 2017 Civic Type R at the Geneva Motor Show is significant. Previous generations of Honda's halo performance sport compact were sold in major markets like Japan and Europe, but not in America -- leaving Honda fanboys and fangirls here out in the cold. The arrival of the latest Type R is different because it will be hitting showrooms here late this spring.

The wait for the new Civic Type R is almost over.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The first Honda Type R model to officially be sold in the United States lands at a time where there is a good number of formidable opposition in the track-bred compact car class. While the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution has faded away, old segment stalwarts like the Subaru WRX STI and Volkswagen Golf R remain. Then there is the Ford Focus RS, which is itself a newer entry to the US market after years of terrorizing European streets and race tracks.

The Roadshow staff happens to think extremely highly of the RS, having done plenty of smokey drifts in one and even pitting it against a more expensive thoroughbred performance machine in the BMW M2. With some details of the production Civic Type R in hand, we couldn't help but draw some comparisons between the Honda and the Ford.

Similarities are vast with both being five-door hatchbacks powered by a turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Both feature good old fashion six-speed manual transmissions, adaptive suspension systems and Brembo front brakes. Each car will cost enthusiasts roughly the same amount of money with the RS starting at $36,120, while Honda is saying the Type R will begin in the mid-$30,000 range.

Comparison shopping

Model Base price Drivetrain Output Tires Curb weight
Honda Civic Type R mid-$30k 2.0-liter turbo I4,
six-speed manual
306 hp,
295 lb-ft
Continental ContiSportContact 6, 245/30 R20 n/a
Ford Focus RS $36,120 2.3-liter turbo I4,
six-speed manual
350 hp,
350 lb-ft
Michelin Pilot Super Sport, 235/35 R19 3,434 lb

Better than the Type R with all-wheel drive?

Nick Miotke/Roadshow

There are, however, some differences between the two hot hatchbacks. While the Focus adopts an all-wheel-drive system to get power to the ground, the Civic is simply a front driver. The less hardware intensive drivetrain should help the Honda weigh in a bit lighter than the Ford, but you can't help but wonder if there will be torque steer and understeer issues.

The Civic Type R has quite a bit of power coming from its 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, too, with 306 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. In a straight up arm wrestling match, the Focus RS' 2.3-liter turbo four does best the Honda with 350 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque.

Tire choice and size differ, too, with the Ford coming standard with 19-inch Michelin Pilot Super Sports. The Honda, which follows in the footsteps of its Acura NSX supercar cousin, selects Continental as its tire supplier and gets 20-inch ContiSportContact 6 rubber.

While all this comparing and contrasting specs is fun, we won't be able to draw our full conclusion on how the new Civic Type R stacks up against the Focus RS and the rest of the segment until we actually drive it.

We hope that happens real soon.