It all started with Japan's Honda NSX Type R.
Tomorrow, the all-new Honda Civic Type R will finally be revealed. We got to see the new hot hatchback this week and can't wait to tell you all about it. The outgoing Civic Type R is a brilliant hot hatch with its six-speed manual gearbox and superb chassis, especially for a front-wheel-drive car with over 300 horsepower. But before the new Civic Type R shows its face to the world, it seems like an opportune time to take a fast-paced trip down Type R memory lane. It's been 30 years since the first Type R model arrived and the hallowed badge has found its way onto sports cars, sedans, and hatchbacks alike. Let's revisit some of these legendary Honda (and Acura) models.
As of January 2022, Honda has sold about 200,000 Type R models and it all began with this one. Sold exclusively in Japan as the Honda NSX Type R or NSX-R, it was available from 1992 to 1995. It came in Championship White and only 500 examples were sold with a 3.0-liter V6 making 270 hp and 210 lb-ft of torque. The V6 was mated to a five-speed manual transmission. By removing unnecessary features like power windows and air conditioning, and also reducing the use of sound-deadening materials, Honda was able to shave over 200 pounds off the car's weight.
The first-generation NSX had a particularly long life cycle and, in 2002, another Type R emerged in Japan. This one had a 3.2-liter V6 with 290 hp/224 lb-ft and a six-speed manual, and only 140 were made. It had a noticeably larger rear wing and other aerodynamic tweaks that dramatically improved downforce. Only 140 were produced.
In 2005, the NSX R GT was launched but a mere five examples were made as an evolution of the original NSX Type R. This was a homologation special and could easily be distinguished by its non-functional roof scoop, unique front/rear fascias in carbon fiber, and bigger side air ducts. It retained the same 290-hp output.
The Acura Integra recently returned to the United States as a five-door liftback sedan, and we can only hope that a high-performance Type R is on the way in the future. Rewind to 1997, and America got not only its first Acura Integra, but its first Type R-branded model - two years after Japan got theirs. This remains the only Type R ever sold in America under the Acura badge.
The engine was a 1.8-liter inline-four making 195 hp and 130 lb-ft in US-spec guise, and it came with a five-speed manual. The coupe remains one of the sportiest Acura designs ever, and modifications like a limited-slip differential made it a joy to drive, too.
Again, Championship White was the only color, but that changed for the 2000 model year when the Integra Type R returned with Phoenix Yellow and Flamenco Black Pearl paint options. Over three years, around 2,700 examples of the first Integra Type R were sold stateside, and it's the memory of this car that has made some nostalgic enthusiasts struggle to warm up to the more modern and practical Integra launched recently.
From 2002 to 2006, Japan got a new Integra Type R with a 220-hp engine, Brembo brakes, and Recaro seats, but it wasn't sold here.
The Accord Type R never made it stateside and what a pity that is. A powerful, fun-to-drive sedan with space for the family? What's not to like? Our European and Japanese counterparts were more fortunate, with the first one debuting with a 2.2-liter four-pot making 209 hp in Europe. This was based on the European Accord which differed from the US-spec one. It had a stiffer suspension, a limited-slip differential, Recaro seats, and a five-speed manual - all the usual Type R ingredients.
Japan had its own iterations of the Accord Type R, with the last one being the Euro R that had a 2.0-liter i-VTEC four-cylinder making 217 hp and using a six-speed manual. A mere 200 were sold from 2002 to 2008, and perhaps that explains why the Accord Type R was never seen again.
Although the Civic wasn't the first Honda/Acura to receive the Type R treatment, the badge has gradually become more associated with the hatchback than any other model. The very first Civic Type R arrived in Japan in 1997. A three-door hatchback, it produced 182 hp from its 1.6-liter VTEC four-cylinder engine. Like most other Type R models, it used a manual transmission and a helical LSD.
Over the next decade, the Civic Type R appeared in several different forms in Europe and Japan. Interestingly, Japan got a Civic Type R in four-door sedan form (FD2) in 2007 that was similar to the US-spec Civic of the period. It made 222 hp and featured a close-ratio six-speed manual gearbox. Many different versions of the Civic Type R were sold in Europe over the next few years, including the Type R GT. This one deviated from the Type R philosophy of lighter weight and a more basic specification by adding dual-zone climate control, power-folding mirrors, and more.
2015 saw a significant change as the first-ever turbocharged Civic Type R was released in Europe and Japan, based on the FK2-generation Civic. Its 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine made 306 hp, it had the largest Brembo front brakes equipped to any Type R model up to that point, and there was a track-oriented +R mode.
After watching from the sidelines for ten years, the FK8 Civic finally brought the Civic Type R to America for the first time. It also made 306 hp but the new multi-link independent rear suspension and adaptive damper system dramatically improved the car's ride and handling. It didn't take long for this Type R to break the front-wheel-drive record at the Nurburgring, and as of the end of 2021, over 21,000 Civic Type Rs were sold in the USA.
The final incarnation of the outgoing Civic Type R was the Limited Edition. Only 600 were made for the USA and it's 50 pounds lighter than the regular model. Finished in vivid Phoenix Yellow and riding on Michelin Cup 2 tires, it was an even more focused version of a hot hatch that has impressed us greatly over the last few years.