No, I’m not writing this for SEO hits. Well, not just for SEO hits. Bear with me here; I know the new 2018 Honda Civic Type R will be a hell of a lot of fun to drive, I just don’t like it. At least from an aesthetic perspective, and that’s an important one. To better explain why, let’s take a walk down Civic Type R memory lane.
The 6th-generation ‘EK’ Civic provided the basis for the first ever Type R model just about 20 years ago. You likely drove it while playing the first Gran Turismo, along with the JDM Civic 3-door hatchback called the SiR, of which it was specifically based on. Just like the Integra Type R of the time, you got a car with a ported-by-hand B16B engine, limited-slip diff, up-rated close ratio transmission, and weight-reduction measures such as the removal of sound deadening materials. Styling was subdued, but practical and purposeful. Outside, most examples you’ll see were white. Inside it was quite red, featuring a great Momo wheel. Notice the word “subdued”.
Nothing about the 2018 Type R is subdued.
Generation two, the EP3, transitioned its manufacturing to the same little UK town that brought us BBC original The Office. Swindon. Could the Brits build a better CTR? The European and JDM 2nd Gen models were all built here, and featured a 2.0L i-VTEC engine (K20A2) but only the JDM version had the limited-slip and red Recaro’s like you got in Gen 1. The home market car also featured a bit more power, and a more track focused chassis. But this is about looks, and while the next generation hatch wasn’t quite as trim and fit looking as the first go-round, it was still simple and clean in pristine white.
Ah generation three, this is where things got a little sideways depending on your perspective. The FD2 Japanese market cars were built in Suzuka and were based on the Civic sedan, and not the hatchback. I always thought that the the 3rd gen Civic was a very handsome car, so it’s not a huge deal. But hot hatchbacks are typically supposed to have a hatchback, so this wasn’t necessarily popular.
The JDM version, also called the FD2 had the 2.0 L K20A I4 engine which once again a bit more potent than the EDM model. Chassis rigidity and overall performance of the CTR continued to improve, with the addition of four pot Brembo callipers and 225/40 R18 tires. You’ll also notice that familiar subdued styling and the ever present white and red theme.
Depending on your point of view, the egg-shaped EDM version, called the FN2 and still built in Swindon, was the iteration of the CTR that saved the hatchback layout. Personally I find it a bit oddball, and while this is counter to my entire argument, it looks better with the wing.
Now from a styling perspective this is where thing start to go downhill in my opinion, and likely resulted in the thing that is coming to our shores soon. The K20C1 Direct Fuel Injection 2.0-litre VTEC Turbocharged engine from the 4th Gen FK2 model was the first CTR to feature factory forced induction and it’s a pretty solid mill to put it mildly. Built fully in Swindon again, and featuring a sweet limited slip and 6-speed manual, progress was continued onward and upward in the performance department. The 2016 version even set the FWD Nürburgring record. However, from a looks perspective, Honda was starting to jump the shark. Whereas the rest of their lineup was going full Toyota, the CTR started to head a bit too Subaru. Big wings, scoops, and diffusers. This wasn’t my Civic Type R from the late 90s.
Clearly an evolution of the previous car, but with three central exhaust pipes, and a gigantic wing; plus whatever those things are on top of the car. Vortex generators on steroids I guess. Up front, it’s OK, but I don’t love it. The latest generation Civic is quite attractive, but it’s like they felt the need to add more scoops and slats and anger to the car. From every angle it’s full agro.
Still not as bad as the view from behind.
Of course perhaps the final USDM version, slated to debut in New York next month, will be a bit less ostentatious. I doubt it though. We’ll be there covering it live, so keep an eye out. I can’t comment on the whole 306hp to the front wheels. My Focus ST seemed a bit overpowered to be FWD, but if anyone can tame the beast and make an amazing front drive car, it’s Honda.
So to sum up.
First Gen – Genesis
Second Gen – Chunkier Genesis
Third Gen – Hatch Confusion, Still Good
Forth Gen – Hmm
Firth Gen – Phil Collins
Styling is subjective, and with hot hatchbacks that are encroaching, or surpassing $40,000 it’s a tough game. It’s the classic Goldilocks syndrome. It’s no secret that I think the Golf R is way too tame. It’s a great car to drive, especially on long trips that get us banned from VW press loaners, but a run-of-the-mill GTI looks hotter. And this Type R is way too much, especially when you look back at how attractive CTRs of yore looked.
So what’s the “just right”. For me, it’s still the Focus RS.
What say ye internet? Do you like the 5th Generation Civic Type R or not?