The Honda Civic Type R has always been known as the sharpest and most track-focused hot hatchback on the market. Its aggressive styling might be a little too OTT for most, but it's not all show and no go - there's real intent behind that gaudy bodywork. A dying breed, the Civic Type R is offered only with a six-speed manual transmission that sends its power to the front wheels. Speaking of power, a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine produces an impressive 306 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque - impressive figures no doubt, but enthusiasts have always appreciated the handling of a Type R more than what it does in a straight line. And thanks to adaptive dampers, driving this car over long distances is more comfortable than catching a reflection of the Type R in a shop window. Has the 2021 model changed that recipe, or is it still the ultimate FWD racer for the road? With US competitors dwindling, the Type R is in a current class almost of its own, but the Hyundai Veloster N is still willing to put up a solid fight.
For 2021, the new Civic Type R is identical to the old one - except that there's now a new trim level accompanying the standard model. It's called the Limited Edition, and it is. Just 1,000 units will be produced with 600 of them allocated for the States. Available exclusively in Phoenix Yellow Pearl paint, this model boasts lightweight BBS forged alloys wrapped in Michelin rubber, gloss black accents, and updated steering and damper tuning. It's also a little lighter and owns the FWD record at Suzuka's Formula One circuit.
See trim levels and configurations:
The exterior of the Civic Type R is as "in your face" as they come. LED headlights are sharply styled and an aggressive chin spoiler is supplemented by multiple vents in the front bumper. That aggression continues onto the hood, where you'll find an intake scoop, and onto the front fenders, which bear a vent each. Aggressive side skirts lead your eye towards the back of the car, with its manga-style wing, more false vents, a huge diffuser, and three exhaust tips. Wheels are 20-inch units, with the LE model boasting a unique design from BBS. If the yellow paint doesn't give it away, the LE model also deletes the rear wiper for better aerodynamics and less weight.
The 2021 Civic Type R has the same dimensions as the 2020 model, with its length measuring 179.4 inches and its wheelbase carrying a rating of 106.3 inches. Width is measured at 73.9 inches while height is 56.5 inches. On the Touring model, curb weight is 3,121 pounds, but the LE model is 46 pounds lighter at 3,075 lbs.
Instantly identifiable, the Limited Edition model gets that exclusive Phoenix Yellow Pearl paint finish and does not have access to any other colors. You do get gloss black mirror caps, a gloss black roof panel, and a gloss black hood scoop though. Fortunately, the regular model offers a little bit of variety, albeit without the option of a yellow hue. As standard, you can choose between Crystal Black Pearl or Rallye Red, but you have to pay $395 to get Boost Blue Pearl, Championship White, or Sonic Gray Pearl.
Regardless of which version of the Civic Type R you opt for, both have the same 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, and both handle like they're on rails. That engine produces plenty of oomph, with 306 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque, all of which is directed to the front wheels via a sweet, notchy, six-speed manual that is wonderfully tactile and satisfyingly mechanical in feel. You also get adaptive dampers that help to soak up bumps when you're cruising but also allow for that elusive ride stiffness you want on a track for maximum grip. And grip the track it does. The LE model was taken around Suzuka where it set a blistering time of just 2:23.993 - a new FWD lap record. Although it would take a highly-skilled driver to replicate such a time, the Civic Type R likes to help you drive better and features rev-matching for those perfect downshifts. You also get a g-force meter for your passengers to peek at while they get their lunch and internal organs rearranged. It's pretty capable in a straight line too, with a 0-60 mph time of 5.5 seconds and a claimed top speed of 169 mph, although we've seen real-world speeds indicated at around 180 mph.
Just one drivetrain configuration is offered with the Type R, and both models produce the same figures. The 2.0-liter turbo-four generates an impressive 306 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque, with a six-speed manual acting as the interface between the motor and the front axle. That gearbox provides a lovely, solid feel that helps reassure you that a gear is in place, rather than the vague feel that drivers of something like a Chevy Spark seek. It feels purposeful and engaging, but you're never overworked. The ratios are perfect for the engine, which provides smooth and strong acceleration from a stop rather than a frenzied rush to get into the next gear so that you don't rev too high. Overtaking is also a joyful exercise thanks to plenty of mid-range torque and minimal turbo lag. That said, this isn't a car that encourages you to drive at an average pace. It feels like it's straining at the leash, like an obedient but angry Rottweiler. It'll potter along, but it wants to be set free and just rush towards the horizon. In a world where so many cars these days lack character, the Civic Type R is brimming with it but doesn't feel like a handful. It's still remarkably refined, but perhaps it's a little too refined. Fake noises are pumped into the cabin via the speakers, and the real exhaust note is a little muted. With the rest of the car so overt, a more vocal exhaust system may have been a better call.
As much as we think that Honda has done an excellent job with the Type R's engine, it's the chassis tuning and handling ability of this car that make it stand out. That g-force meter is not just there for show - this thing grips better than some AWD cars. It turns in with astonishing precision and accuracy, and with the LE model's Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, it's even better. Those lightweight forged wheels from BBS also play a part, although you'd have to drive the regular Type R back to back with the LE to notice. Is that an indictment on the Limited Edition, special, track-focused model? No - it's a compliment to how good even the regular Type R is. The body always stays flat, the helical limited-slip differential ensures that you get no torque steer or unnecessary wheelspin, and the Brembo brakes bring you back to reasonable speeds time after time without exhibiting fade.
Another aspect of the car that we absolutely adore is the feel from the front wheels. While so many modern cars come with lifeless electric steering setups, the Type R still cares about driver engagement and transmits the goings-on of the front wheels to your hands in a refreshingly analog way that is nothing if not confidence-inspiring. The faster you go, the more you feel. The more you feel, the more you trust the car. The more you trust the car, the faster you can go. And that steering isn't excessively quick either. It's perfectly weighted for the track but is light enough for town use, and those adaptive dampers soak up all but the most aggressive bumps. The only downside we've noticed in the Type R's setup is that the big wheels and low-profile tires are a combo that makes for slightly higher road noise levels than we'd like, but in a car that is meant to feel alive and raw, Honda gets a pass for not achieving Golf GTI levels of refinement.
The Honda Civic Type R has achieved a 22/28/25 mpg rating on the EPA's city/highway/combined cycles. With a 12.4-gallon gas tank, mixed driving should yield approximately 310 miles of range. Interestingly, the less powerful Hyundai Veloster N achieves identical figures on the EPA's test cycles when equipped with a manual gearbox, but with a 13.2-gallon tank, you can go a little further before refueling.
If the bodywork didn't provide enough clues as to the Civic Type R's sporting intentions, the interior surely will. Awash with red and black accents throughout, it's a focused place to sit. The driver's biggest readout in the cluster shows engine speed and velocity, while push-button ignition and bucket seats combine with alloy pedals for a truly sporty feel. You also get common conveniences though, with dual-zone automatic climate control and a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment display connected to a 12-speaker sound system. But don't think that the engineers forgot about quality - the days of Hondas being rattle boxes are long gone.
While the likes of the Golf GTI try to cram three people into the back seats, the Honda Civic Type R is a proper four-seater. Headroom isn't especially plentiful, but it's not cramped back there either, and there's enough legroom for most trips, but longer journeys will need occasional stops for rear-seat passengers to stretch their legs. In the front, things are better, and for the driver especially so. The driving position is genuinely spot on, with perfect placement of the pedals and supportive bucket seats that hold you in place. Over time, those of a larger frame may feel a little constricted, but it's not bad at all. Visibility, for the most part, is great too, but looking out the rear window is easier in some supercars.
Regardless of which model you get, the interior is a mix of red and black, with plenty of faux suede for great grip and a racecar feel. The steering wheel is clad in real Alcantara, while the pedals and gear knob are fashioned from aluminum. There are other brushed accents here too, along with some frustratingly fake carbon fiber trim elements, although a carbon package can help resolve this. Despite some areas that feel a little cheap, you get the sense that the Type R is built to follow function before form, and in a car capable of setting records on tracks across the globe, that's a compromise we're willing to make.
The Type R is remarkably spacious in the cargo department. With the rear seats in place, you get 25.7 cubic feet of volume, enough for all passengers to pack heavily for a weekend away. Fold those seats in their 60/40 split and you get access to an area measuring 46.2 cubic feet in volume.
In the cabin, both rows get a pair of cupholders and reasonable door pockets. In front, there's a storage area ahead of the shifter too, along with a commodious glovebox and a little center armrest bin.
The Civic Type R isn't the sort of vehicle that indulges in too many frivolities, but you do get things like automatic rev-matching, adaptive suspension, keyless entry with push-button ignition, a remote trunk release, a g-force gauge, and LED headlights with auto high beams. You also get hill start assist, forward collision detection and mitigation, lane keep assist, a multi-angle rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, and adaptive cruise control. An auto-dimming rearview mirror with HomeLink and a wireless phone charger are optional.
As with other features of the car, what you get is enough. No options are offered and we're okay with that. Infotainment is handled by a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment display with SiriusXM satellite radio and HD Radio. It also supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, along with Bluetooth audio streaming and hands-free calling. Audio comes courtesy of a 12-speaker setup including a subwoofer, and if you've still got that mix from the time you tried to be a DJ, there are two USB ports for you to access and contaminate the airwaves with. The system also features navigation with traffic updates so you're never late for a gig, but you may pull your hair out before you arrive. The visuals are a little outdated and a lot slower to respond than they ought to be. Still, at least you get some physical buttons to make things easier while you're on the move.
Thus far, neither the 2021 nor the 2020 variants of the Civic in any form have been subject to a single recall. However, the NHTSA has recorded 16 different complaints for the 2020 version, with some being severe enough to warrant caution. Among these were issues with the forward collision system failing to react correctly.
Still, if something does go wrong, Honda provides coverage in the form of a limited warranty for the first three years/36,000 miles of ownership. You also get five years/60,000 miles of powertrain coverage, but sadly, no complimentary maintenance is offered.
At the time of writing, the NHTSA had not yet conducted a full review of the Civic Type R, but the areas in which it was tested offer reassurance thanks to a full five-star rating. Other variants of the Civic got an overall rating of five stars too, so you have no reason to worry. At the IIHS, the Civic won a 2020 Top Safety Pick award, making it one of the best in its class, while the 2021 version achieved maximum Good ratings in every crashworthiness test. However, it's worth noting that this award does not apply to the Type R model.
Honda has been on a drive to improve safety for some time, so even the hardcore Type R gets features like forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, brake assist, hill start assist, a multi-angle rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, lane keep assist, and adaptive cruise control. You also get six airbags, with frontal, side-impact, and curtain rollover airbags. The usual traction and stability control programs also feature, and big brakes and sticky tires are caras much safety features as they are performance ones.
If you're the typical Honda Fit buyer, then no, the Civic Type R is not a good car. It crashes over sharp bumps and its styling won't blend into the parking lot when you arrive for Tuesday-night bingo. But if you appreciate the finer details of a performance car - a linear power curve that is always usable, an ideal driving position, and a manual gearbox - then the Type R is more than good, it's excellent. It drives beautifully and its steering is almost telepathic. It goes like stink and grips like glue. Yet there's still space for plenty of luggage in the back, and the rear seats are more than hospitable. It also comes loaded with safety features and is set to become one of the greats, a classic even, when gas engines die out. Sure, it's a little pricey, but what car that's the best at what it does isn't? We love the Type R, and gaudy styling aside, we think it's one of the greatest FWD cars of our time. Sure, you can be more comfortable in a Golf, but if you have a zest for life and don't care about standing out in a crowd, the Type R is simply perfect.
The base Honda Civic Type R has a price of $37,895 MSRP before a $995 destination charge. The scarcer Limited Edition model has a base price of $43,995, but there aren't many ways to upgrade either. Thus, a fully loaded one doesn't cost much more than $50k.
Two trims of the Type R are offered for the 2021 model year: Touring and Limited Edition. Both feature a 2.0-liter turbo-four with 306 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. Both come with a six-speed manual and both send their power to the front wheels.
The entry-level model gets body-color wing mirrors, gloss black wheels, and a bunch of cool performance features. These include rev-matching, adaptive suspension, a g-force meter, and a helical LSD. You also get hill start assist, LED headlights, brake assist, dual-zone automatic climate control, push-button ignition, keyless entry, adaptive cruise control, a 12-speaker audio system, and a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment display with navigation.
The Limited Edition is basically the same, but to save weight, the rear wiper has been deleted and forged BBS wheels have been fitted. These are wrapped in Michelin rubber. To help it stand out from the base model further, you also get gloss black exterior accents on exclusive Phoenix Yellow Pearl paint. Just 600 are being built for the American market.
Carbon fiber is cool, but red carbon fiber is cooler. Spend $3,673 extra and you get a package with red carbon mirror caps. That colored carbon treatment is also applied to the rear wing, the hood scoop, and the interior trim panels. Another way of enhancing the appearance of the Type R is with the addition of an interior package that adds red interior illumination, illuminated door sill trims, a unique red shift knob, and Type R floor mats. This adds $1,112 to the cost of the Honda Civic Type R, but the components of both packages can be specced individually too. An auto-dimming rearview mirror with HomeLink sets you back $446 while wireless charging for your smartphone carries a $314 surcharge.
If you can get the Limited Edition, it would be pretty nice to have bragging rights, but the regular Type R is almost identical and offers similar performance for a lot less money. We'd stick with the Touring trim and get ours in black to hide most of the gaudy bodywork. Black also goes nicely with the red-and-black interior theme, and although we'd be tempted by the available carbon fiber upgrades, a fast daily driver that you can use without worrying about damaging expensive parts is probably a smarter choice.
The latest version of the immensely popular and wildly successful Volkswagen Golf GTI has yet to touch down in the States, but the numbers suggest it'll be following a similar recipe to every generation before: usable power, a comfortable and classy cabin, and a few of the latest and greatest tech offerings from Wolfsburg. Its 2.0-liter turbo-four will be accompanied by both a six-speed manual and, for the lazy or lax, a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. 245 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque suggest that it won't be the fastest around, but that's not what the GTI is about. This car is meant to be fun but family-friendly, so you'll get a comfy ride, a relatively affordable asking price, and a smooth engine. It'll also have a 10.25-inch digital cluster and a 10-inch infotainment display. If you want something that's subtle and civilized, get the GTI. If you want the opposite, the Type R is always going to be the default choice.
With the death of the Ford Focus RS, the closest hot hatch to the Type R in terms of ethos is the Hyundai Veloster N. It too comes with a 2.0-liter turbo-four, FWD, and a six-speed manual. With 275 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque, it's not quite as extreme as the Type R, but it still has plenty of equipment designed to enhance the driving experience, including adaptive suspension, a variable exhaust system, and a shift indicator. You also get plenty of safety gubbins, a comprehensive infotainment system with a premium audio setup, and sticky Pirelli rubber. But it's smaller in the back and less focused than the Honda, although most cars are. Basically, if you're looking for a middle ground between the GTI and the Type R in a smaller package, the Veloster N is ideal.
The most popular competitors of 2021 Honda Civic Type R: