2021 Honda Civic Type R Limited Edition review: Sharper on the track, but still great on the street
The Civic Type R Limited Edition is a screamin' little hot hatch that's a serious track weapon. Lighter and sharper than a standard Type R, this small-batch Honda can outrun sports cars costing twice as much, and best of all, none of this added performance comes at the expense of daily-driving comfort.
A quick history lesson: After the Type R launched in 2017, Honda used it to set a blistering 7-minute, 43.8-second lap of the Nürburgring Nordschleife, making this Civic the fastest front-wheel-drive production car to run the infamous German course. But then the Renault Megane RS Trophy-R came along and trounced the Type R's record, beating the Civic by 4 whole seconds. When the Type R Limited Edition debuted in the before-times of early 2020, a Honda executive told me it was born out of the desire to reclaim that FWD hot lap title. And following the Type R LE's recent record lap at the Suzuka Circuit in Japan -- where it beat the Megane Trophy-R, by the way -- Honda's confident the 'Ring crown will soon belong to the Civic once again.
In order to shed time while shredding laps, Honda opted to cut weight rather than boost power. The Limited Edition's 2.0-liter turbo I4 carries over from the base Type R unchanged, producing 306 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 295 pound-feet of torque at 2,500 rpm. The 2021 LE's six-speed manual transmission, limited-slip differential, suspension hardware and Brembo front brakes are all identical to those on the 2020 Type R, too.
Instead, Honda cut 50 pounds out of the US-spec Civic Type R by deleting the rear wiper, removing the cargo cover, fitting lighter-weight BBS wheels and removing a whole bunch of sound-deadening material -- 28 pounds worth, in fact. That "US-spec" qualification is important, by the way; Limited Edition models sold in other markets drop an additional 30 pounds thanks to the removal of the audio system and air conditioning.
Now, before you bitch about the US not getting the full Limited Edition lightweight experience, here's another history lesson: When Honda launched the track-ready S2000 CR in 2007, the radio and air conditioning were optional, but only a super-duper-small percentage of Americans ordered the CR this way. So unless you're planning to use your personal CTRLE to set a lap record, which you aren't, maybe just crank some tunes and enjoy the cool breeze of your AC. Americans always think they want a stripped-out car until they actually have to live with it.
Because it's lighter, the Limited Edition has slightly different adaptive damping and electronic steering calibrations than a standard Type R. The dampers keep the Civic controlled while accounting for the trimmer body, and after driving a Limited Edition back to back with a Type R Touring on track, the steering tweaks are really noticeable. Turn-in is much sharper with quicker response, but there's still tons of feel and feedback through the wheel. I'm into it.
Off the track, the changes are less obvious, but nevertheless appreciated. You'll feel the sharper turn-in, but the retuned adaptive damper settings don't really alter (read: ruin) the Type R's ride quality in the city or on the highway. Honestly, the Limited Edition just helps reinforce what makes the Civic Type R so great to begin with: Lots of turbo power, a slick-shifting six-speed stick and an incredibly capable front-wheel-drive setup. This all makes for a seriously chuckable little hot hatch. The Type R has always been a giant-slayer -- you can chase down Porsche 911s on mountain roads all day long -- and the Limited Edition is no different.
The lack of sound-deadening material does result in a lot more cabin noise, but it's not that big of a deal. Comfortable and nicely appointed as it may be, the standard Civic Type R isn't exactly a serene highway cruiser, so I don't think most people will notice the added roar from the wind and tires.
As far as creature comforts are concerned, the Limited Edition has everything you'll find on the normal Type R Touring. The sport seats are as supportive as they are cushy and a 7-inch central touchscreen has embedded navigation as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. You get a whole mess of driver-assistance features, too, including forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise control. The only thing that's missing? Heated seats. Still. Sigh.
Honda will build 1,000 examples of the Civic Type R Limited Edition for global distribution, with 600 available in the US. They're all painted Phoenix Yellow and will have a serialized plaque on the dash.
With a $44,950 price tag (including $955 for destination), the Limited Edition costs $6,500 more than the 2021 Type R Touring. That's likely easy enough for a serious fanboy, collector or track rat to swing, and as is the case with all Type R-badged Hondas, the 600 US-spec cars will surely be sold in short order. Thankfully, the Type R Touring offers 98% of the experience, so if you can't snag one of the Limited Editions, there's still plenty of hot hatch greatness to go around.