The 2018 Honda Civic Type R is like no Civic you’ve ever experienced, at least if your driving experience has been confined to North America. For many years enthusiast drivers in other markets have had various performance-oriented Civic Type Rs to fuel their automotive fantasies, but here our Civics were very reliable commuter modules and little more. Then late in the 2017 model year, American Honda finally authorized the hot hatchback for U.S. audiences. And now, after the limited-run 2017 went well, Honda has just introduced the ever-so-slightly tweaked 2018 version, one part pure performance sports car and one part practical four-door hatchback, all for the bargain price of $35,000.
Let’s begin with the performance portion of the equation, because the bang for buck is nearly off the charts. First there’s the 306 horsepower and 295 lb.-ft. of torque output of its 2.0-liter dual overhead cam direct-injected VTEC turbo engine. It helps the new model jet from zero to 60 miles per hour in less than five seconds, and it makes the Type R the most powerful Honda ever sold in America in the bargain.
But there’s more to the Type R than just straight-line speed. Its ingenious Adaptive Damper System continually adjusts suspension damping at all four wheels to enable an otherworldly 1.0 g lateral acceleration number, essentially racecar-like cornering grip. The ADS is an integral part of the three-mode driving system that offers comfort, sport and +R modes, the last for track use. The system modifies damping, throttle response and steering assist to match up with the driver's chosen setting. If you’re wondering how 306 horsepower can be channeled through the front wheels without killer torque steer, Honda has the answer in the dual-axis strut front suspension design.
When ordering your own Type R be prepared to shift gears yourself. Flying in the face of the dual-clutch automatic trend in sports machines, the Type R offers a short-throw, 6-speed manual as its only transmission choice, accompanied by a limited-slip differential. Despite the throwback transmission, the Type R is equipped with a bevy of new-as-tomorrow electronic driving aids. Included on the list are Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) with traction control, advanced four-channel antilock brakes, electronic brake distribution (EBD), brake assist and an indirect tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS). It’ll even help you park with its multi-angle rearview camera with handy dynamic guidelines.
If you’re seeking to stay connected, you’ll be pleased to learn the Civic Type R includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility plus the Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System with voice recognition. Those connections are accessed from a roomy and airy cabin that also offers substantial cargo room behind the rear seats. And speaking of seats, the driver and front passenger seats are specially designed, high-bolstered units with suede-like upholstery in black and red. Fuel economy of 22 city/28 highway/25 combined won’t induce you to sell your Prius, but then the Prius won’t rocket to 60 mph in five seconds either. In fact it’ll take about twice that long.
In the 2018 Honda Civic Type R Honda is offering a vehicle with distinctive looks, a convenient and comfortable interior and a level of performance that rivals the best from Audi, BMW and even Porsche, all for $35K. We don’t know why Type R took so long to get here, but we’re sure glad it did.