Adaptive suspension makes this one ludacris Civic.
— Tochigi, Japan
Full disclosure, I was given reign of the new Civic Type R for two laps on a closed test track at Honda’s Tochigi proving grounds and this is what I can tell you from that brief encounter.
It started off comically enough when I walked over to the left side of the car only to have the Honda engineer who was to accompany me point out that I was going to the wrong door. We’re in Japan, this is a right-hand drive local market Type R—doh, I knew that.
As I swing open the door, I’m greeted by red. Oh so much red. The sport bucket seats are covered in a red suede-like material with black accents. The dash and rest of the cabin opt for blacks and greys tastefully splashed with red. The cockpit is very much Civic, but the use of carbon fibre and brushed metal accents scream performance variant.
A performance variant is what the Type R technically is to the regular Civic, with an upgraded chassis and powertrain, but oh what a glorious creation this is.
As I depress the clutch and press the push-to-start button, the turbocharged 2.0-litre motor turns over with a very satisfying growl. It’s perfect. It’s just enough to make you smile, but not so much that you’d be that guy. Gear lever in my left hand—remember I’m seated on the right side of this car—I slot the short throw shifter into first and I’m off.
I ask the engineer seated next to me if he wants me to hold back at all. In that very Japanese way, he says a quiet no and gives me a slight bow. “Ha! They screwed up!” I think to myself, but then I get to the first corner and immediately realize that the car is far more capable than I am.
Though surprisingly, it’s not front-wheel drive understeer that concerns me as I push hard into the corners. With these tires gripping so well and the car refusing to break from my line, I wonder if I should’ve said yes to the helmet they offered me as images of me rolling over flow through my mind. I know technically I should understeer long before I roll over, so that’s more a silly notion than an actual possibility, but damn, this car corners like a champ.
All 295 pound-feet of torque rolls on in a linear wave between about 2,500 and 4,500 rpm, if there’s turbo lag, it’s barely perceptible. The Type R is capable of FWD power and power delivery in a manner I’ve not experienced before. There's also 306 horsepower, not that I was able to really ring all of it out.
I take it a bit easier through the latter half of my first lap and start thinking about the ridiculous machine I’m driving. I mean, this is a reasonably priced car (indicators are that it’ll be low-mid-$40k, official pricing is TBD), has five doors, it seats four adults, has space in the hatch for stuff, or my dogs, comes equipped with all manor of modern safety tech and built by a manufacturer renowned for some of the most reliable vehicles on the road today. But it set a new Nurburgring lap-record for the fastest front-wheel drive production car, and out here, on a track, I can’t imagine anyone will find this lacking on a public road.
So I slow it down, try to put myself in the shoes of someone driving around in regular day-to-day traffic. I’m in Normal mode after all, and honestly, it’s already as sporty as heck this way. Besides the seats being firm, and hugging my somewhat oversized frame a touch too tightly, I can’t think of much else. A proper test drive on actual streets will surely tell us more, but that’s another story, for another day; stay tuned.
As we come around to my second, and last, lap, the engineer tells me we should try the +R mode, and toggles the switch to engage it.
Jesus, Mary, Joseph, Buddha, Kali, Allah, Tom Cruise… what in all things holy has Honda done with the Type R to make it do that. The adaptive suspension takes the car from insanely good, to can-we-still-calling-this-a-Civic levels sharpness.
I’m not skilled—or brave—enough to put this car through it’s paces, at least not in the span of my last lap. All I can tell you is this: you will likely not find this car wanting should you find yourself in one. Not least of which if your primary use for it is as your daily driver.
I can’t tell you what it’ll be like to live with this car, my time was too short to evaluate it for that. But, it’s a Civic in a lot of ways, filled with Honda good sense. You won’t be charmed by quirkiness and personality, this isn’t a hot-blooded Italian in heels, the Type R will be predictable and safe, but should you want to get crazy, it will deliver, and deliver every, damn, time.
Watch for our full first drive review of the North American-spec Civic Type R later this month.
Photos: Kanishka Sonnadara / Motor1.com; Honda