The Civic Type R is personally a car I’ve been looking forward to for a long time.

Performance

The K20 has been powering variants of the Civic Type R since the early 2000s. In this Type R, it’s K20C1 that you find under the hood. Though a VTEC in name, the character of this engine isn’t quite as you’d expect it. We drove this back to back with a car equipped with the original VTEC engine, the B16A. They were extremely different in nature.

The original B16A was a screamer. It was an engine that needed to be pushed hard constantly, as its torque delivery was rather mediocre. VTEC engaged around 4800RPM and you would feel and hear the engine change completely. It encourages you to hold on just a little longer before gear changes and would rev up to 8000RPM or more readily.

The K20C1 VTEC Turbo has so much more usable torque at the low end, so revving it up isn’t necessary for a fun drive. Sure, there’s excitement involved in revving an engine up, but the difference in the sound and feel isn’t quite as pronounced. While some would say it’s a bad thing, I think it makes the car a little more performance focused. Torque is strong even at 2500RPM. It’s a bit like a modern 2-litre AMG engine in that you don’t NEED to push it hard to extract performance out of it.

It’s a very capable engine, and you can feel Honda really did their best to extract all the power they could out of it. And needless to say, the Civic Type R is one of the best performance car experiences one can have. This car is designed to make you feel like a hero when driving it hard. The rev matching system takes away so much of the work of driving of manual without taking away the fun.

But what’s really amazing is that the car is extremely civilised when you need it to be. Besides the constant hum of the exhaust, the Civic Type R can behave like a daily when asked. The clutch isn’t too heavy, and there are enough gear ratios to keep the engine turning below 2,000RPM for good fuel economy.

And to top it all off, the suspension’s amazing. It soaks up a lot of the harshness and vibrations, so the only thing you’ll need to worry about are larger potholes and speed bumps, as the car is a little low to the ground.

Design

We have to talk about the way it looks. This Type R builds on the already attention grabbing looks of the hatchback FC Civic and holds nothing back. You get a massive rear spoiler that reaches up almost to the height of its roof, vortex generators right behind the sharkfin antenna, triple exhausts, ultra thin profile tyres wrapped around 20” rims, a hood scoop, vents, red and black accents everywhere. It’s utter insanity, like a Gundam on wheels.

But that’s really part of its charm. I think Honda realised a few things. Firstly, that too many performance-oriented hot hatches are rocking ‘toned-down’ looks today. Secondly, that too many standard hatches come with sporty body work and large rims from the factory.

And that their current Civic is handsome enough to pull off this kind of styling with confidence. One look at this Type R and you KNOW it’s fast. It doesn’t even have to be moving.

And consider the alternative. Consider what would have happened if this Type R was as conservatively styled as its predecessors. With this price tag, it would be going up against big European brands with similar gentlemanly looks. Honda instead stuck to their roots and ended with the only car in its segment that looked absolutely bonkers.

Inside, it feels very similar to the regular Civic. Most of the panels and shapes are pretty much exactly the same. However, you will note that there’s a lot of red in here, as well as carbon fibre inserts too. The front seats are very supportive bucket seats that are reasonably supportive. The rear seats look almost standard besides the red stitching and seatbelts.

In Malaysia, we don’t get the standard Civic as a hatchback, so that’s the easiest way to tell if a Civic Type R is genuine or just a modded sedan. It’s also a little bit tough to modify the standard Civic to have a centrally-mounted triple exhaust muffler in the rear.

Practicality and Value

It’s also a shame that the car is made in the UK, unlike the FD2R, which was close to RM100,000 cheaper and made in Japan.

But despite all this, I still think it beats its European competition. They’re all priced at or around RM300,000, but the Honda Civic Type R has some real things going for it. It doesn’t rely on overly complicated technology to achieve its performance.

It’s still the fastest front-wheel drive car around the Nurburgring that you can buy in Malaysia and it’s the only car in its class that’s true to its roots. Underneath it all, it’s still a practical, reliable, comfortable Civic, and like its Type R predecessors, you’ll only find them with manual transmission.

Driving a Civic Type R instantly lends you a bit of credibility as an enthusiast in this regard – it’s only for those unwilling to compromise on driver engagement.

Honda Civic Type R Specification

Engine: Inline-4, turbocharged
Capacity: 1996cc
Gearbox: 6-speed Manual
Max power: 306 hp @ 6500rpm
Max torque: 400Nm @ 2500rpm
Top Speed: 272 km/h
0-100 km/h: 5.8 seconds
Price: RM330,002