At the 2018 Texas Auto Roundup I had the pleasure of driving menagerie of great cars around the track at Eagle’s Canyon Raceway in Decatur, Texas. As the day wore on and the laps added up, I made a short list of the cars which were most exciting to drive. The 2018 Civic Type R has to be among the top three.
In a previous article, I said the 2017 Civic Si could be the best Civic yet. Well That was before I had a turn in the 2018 Type R. I drove it and the 2018 Golf R practically back to back. Honda’s Type R is the clear winner for fun. However, the Golf may be a better choice for those who appreciate a less shouty aesthetic. While the Type R is $10k more than the Civic Si, it seems like a bargain when you put your foot down or chuck it into a corner. The $13k separation between the Golf GTI and the Golf R is a little less dramatic.
The in-your-face looks are a departure from the typical understated Honda styling. Its brash appearance almost beg for descent from on-lookers. The canted LED headlights glare at on-comers as if to say, “I look wild as hell, what are you gonna do about it?” It’s the vehicular equivalent of a punk rock band. It’s fast, it’s loud, and until you understand it you may not like it. This car makes zero apologies.
The crazy looking exhaust makes a little more sense when you understand what’s going on with the triple tailpipes. The center pipe is fitted with a resonator. At lower RPMs you’ll hear more exhaust noise. However, when the exhaust pressure increases at higher speeds, more of the exhaust gasses are routed through the mufflers to each side. This eliminates drone on the highway.
I’d still like a pair of tips or maybe a big central outlet like the one on the Si. The over-the-top aero bits affixed to the back back of the car look garish at first glance, as if e a 17 year old boy had final say at the design meeting. But Honda is quick to assure us that all those wings and gills add up to some real downforce.
Inside, the high-bolstered, bright red, Type R front seats are plenty comfortable for a long commute. Drivers are rewarded with quality materials like a leather wrapped wheel and aluminum shift knob. Below the shifter, mounted in the console, there’s a metal plaque with the car’s serial number printed on it. There’s ample trunk space behind the rear seat which can be folded forward to almost double the cargo area. What other is so much fun to drive and has this level of practicality? Driver and passengers can both appreciate the dual-zone automatic climate control and 540-watt stereo with Apple CarPlay controlled with a seven-inch touchscreen in the dash.
Honda engineers manage to wring 306hp out of the 2 liter turbocharged four cylinder. This power makes its way to the ground through a six-speed trans, and limited slip differential. Stirring the gears in Honda’s excellent six-speed manual is a treat. When shifting down to power out of a corner, the Type R automatically blips the throttle to rev match for the down shift. The sprint from zero to 60 mph is a brief 4.9 seconds. Thanks to oversized Brembo brakes, you can brake deep into corners .
Unlike the all-wheel-drive Golf R, the Type R puts down all that power through the front wheels exclusively. Typically, when front-wheel drive systems are forced to cope with this kind of power they become difficult to manage. Honda engineers must have worked some kind of magic under the front of the Type R because torque steer is all but absent. There was only the slightest waggle in the wheel when accelerating hard over uneven surfaces. This is not a knock against the Type R, I think it’s what known as feedback.
In my heart, there’s a tie for most fun drive. I drove this car and the Dodge Hellcat Widebody on the same day. It’s like picking between lovers. They’re both a whole lot of fun in different ways. The Hellcat is certainly the winner for horsepower and downright insanity. Insanity can be fun for awhile, but you don’t marry crazy. Deep down, I know which one we’d put a ring on.
Maybe it’s a sign I’m getting older, but if I had to take just one home, it would be the four-door Civic Type R. It’s half the price of the Hellcat at $35k, it’s hilariously fun to drive, I can get a carseat in it and it gets great gas mileage. Oh yeah, and it probably won’t kill me in my sleep.
The latest iteration Honda’s venerable Civic might be the best yet. To the chagrin of fanboys everywhere, this Si marks a departure from the much-loved VTEC valve train. Honda opted instead to turbo-charge the four banger in their hot Civic. How does the new Si stack up?
Pretty darn well. This is the latest in a long line of compact Hondas ranging way back to 1972. In all that time, I’m not sure the Civic has looked this good. The body lines are simple with an angular appeal. The roofline peaks at the top of the windshield and slopes back all the way to the rear edge of the deck-lid. The roofline reminds me of the Audi R8.
Up front, projector headlights wear the outer extremities of the grille like heavy eyeliner. Below the grille the pouting bumper cover houses fog lamps set in black plastic trim. The quarter panels bulge outward over the tires. Out back, things are wrapped up nicely with angular taillights like parenthesis around the trunk. The spoiler looks a bit much, but relative to the Type R, it’s downright sedate. There’s more black plastic surrounding the single outlet exhaust which looks better than the type R’s triple trumpet affair.
The high-bolsters on the Si embroidered seats give a reassuring hug to let you know you’ll be supported while cornering at speed. Between the seats there’s a clever console featuring siding cup holders and change tray. You can easily arrange it to accommodate all sizes of cups.
The shift knob is made from quality cast or billet aluminum wrapped in black leather. The console around the shifter feels a little flimsy, but shouldn’t be an issue. Red accent stitching serves to break up the black interior.
Passengers in the front are treated to seat heaters and space for long legs. Rear seat passengers aren’t so lucky. Limited head and legroom in the back make for tight quarters, and it’s probably best suited for kiddos.
The infotainment and a/c controls leave a lot to be desired. To adjust the climate controls, you must first push a climate button. Then select from some touchscreen options. This doesn’t sound like much but it does force drivers to look away from the road. Adjusting the volume is a similar ordeal only it’s a touch sensitive slider (thankfully there are volume controls on the steering wheel). In both instances Honda complicated what should be very easy operations. Bring back the knobs Honda.
Below the stereo and climate controls there’s a clever cubby for your electronic devices. Power outlets built into the console along with wire organizers keep your chargers tidy and at hand.
The new heart of the Civic Si is a 205 hp turbocharged 1.5 liter. This is almost a full liter smaller than the previous Si, but exactly the same horsepower. Those ponies make their way to the wheels through a six-speed manual transmission and a limited slip differential.
The EPA estimates this setup will get you 38 mpg on the interstate and 28 around town and a combined 32 mpg. The HPT designation tacked on the end of the Civic Si moniker stands for High Performance Tires. That means the 18″ alloy wheels are wrapped in sticky Goodyears. It also means you’ll be buying tires sooner than normal, as they are bound to wear faster than normal treads.
This little Honda feels eager, especially for a sub two-liter. The shifter fits perfectly in the palm and is the first contact point with the slick shifting six-speed. It makes stirring gears a pleasure. The car is comfortable cruising on the highway. Road and wind noise levels are nominal. Shift into top gear, set the cruise and relax.
Often times electrically assisted steering feels too light. Honda struck a nice balance here the steering is tight and responsive. It doesn’t completely insulate drivers from the road. It’s just what you want in the sporty two door.
Punch the Sport mode button and the suspension transforms from comfortable to stiff and the accent lights in the instrument cluster all turn red. The light above the tachometer acts as a shift light, flashing at the redline. Said redline is lower due to the absence of VTEC but the surge of power when boost builds will make you forget about those last couple hundred RPMs. In fact, the new Si gets from 0 to 60 a hair faster than its VTEC predecessor.
At around 4000 RPM the exhaust really begins talking. Put your foot in it from a stand still and you’ll definitely encounter some torque steer, but it’s completely manageable. In fact, it’s fun. Second gear scratches are par for the course as the Civic claws the asphalt for traction. Cornering in this car is a treat. It feels balanced and inspires confidence.
This car feels special. It’s comfortable and surprisingly practical, which is not something that can be said about all sporty two-doors. If I were in the market for a fun, two-door commuter with plenty of passing power the Civic Si would definitely be on my shortlist. At around $24k it’s feels like a good value, it’s good-looking, and it’s a pleasure to drive. Is it the best Civic ever? I don’t know for sure, but I can assert with confidence that it’s the best one I’ve ever driven.