Honda has some fences to mend with its enthusiast core, there being no CRX since 1991, no Prelude since 2001, and no Acura Integra/RSX since 2006. Then there’s the Civic Type R, a hyper Honda that was available overseas for several generations almost as yet another cruel thumb in the eye of American Honda fans. The drought finally ends with the 2017 Type R that romps into American showrooms with 306 horsepower, a healthy 101 more than the Civic Si, and 295 pound-feet of torque from a turbo 2.0-liter. And, significantly, just the front wheels to put it to the ground. Only a roller-bearing crank and chain-drive would make this car any more Honda.
One body style (sedan), one available transmission (six-speed manual), and no factory options beyond paint color lands the price at $34,775. Thus, the Type R goes against such small-car firecrackers as the Subaru WRX STi, the Ford Focus RS, and the Volkswagen Golf R. Wisely, despite the car’s atomic-manga appearance, Honda delivers not an adolescent buzz bomb but serious and sundry engineering refinements.
With enough juice to the front axle to deliver 60 mph in 4.9 seconds, torque steer is a distinct hazard. But Honda swaps in a revised front suspension that works with the electric power steering to effectively null the tug of torque while greatly hastening steering response, so the R charges out of corners tracking the driver’s desired vector rather than sniffing around and pulling. Although spring rates are up 200 percent over the standard Civic, electronically controlled dampers increase firmness progressively. The R defaults to its middle “sport” setting on startup, but a toggle switch near the individually numbered ID plate on the console can select “comfort” for daily driving or “R” for the track. These noticeably change the car’s personality via throttle response, steering heft, and stability and traction control thresholds. Electronic rev-matching blips the throttle on downshifts.
Carbonlike trim sets the mood and the deeply bolstered cloth buckets hug tightly. The many tech-geek upgrades, including the aero gargoyles, the 13.8-inch front discs with Brembo calipers, the stiffer steering rack, and the three-muffler exhaust battery are all inherent to the car’s appeal, even if you need tools to see some of them.