2020 Honda Civic Type R Touring Review by David Colman +VIDEO
The ultimate evolution of the hot hatchback
By David Colman
Special Correspondent to THE AUTO CHANNEL
Make no mistake about the Civic Type R (CTR). It is sensational. Here is the ultimate evolution of the hot hatchback. VW pioneered this delectable market segment with their ground breaking Rabbit GTI in the early 1980s. Though the GTI continues in production today, the VW is simply no match for Honda's super sport derivation of the prosaic Civic. So what's the formula for transforming a family sedan into a thrilling road rocket? After all, you can march into any Honda dealer and find a 180hp Civic Sport for $23,170 that will crank a standing start quarter mile in 15.4 seconds at 92mph. Or you can up the ante a bit to $26,155 and opt for a Civic Si sedan that makes 205hp and slams through the quarter mile run in 14.9 seconds at 93mph. Either of these Civics will provide reliable, practical, sporty driving pleasure with minimal outlay for fuel since both record about 30MPG in overall operation. But neither of these Civic variants comes close to approximating the bestial nature of the CTR we spent a week enjoying.
The CTR will run from 0-60mph in 5.4 seconds and post a quarter mile time of 13.9seconds at 103mph. The zing game starts under the hood, where Honda has installed a 2 liter, direct injection, turbocharged motor tuned to produce huge numbers for a 4 cylinder powerplant: 308hp at a screaming 6500rpm, and 295lb.-ft. of torque at a less sonorous 2500rpm. Honda couples this "Earth Dreams" gem to a 6-speed manual gearbox which is the only transmission available in the CTR. If you must have an automatic, please revert to plan A (Civic Sport) or plan B (Civic Si) as outlined above.
Unlike so many hot rod engine transplants that lose the performance plot due to flaccid suspension calibration, the Civic Type R benefits from Honda's complete re- engineering of the Civic platform. This includes a recalibrated "dual-axis" front MacPherson strut independent suspension, rear multi-link suspension, and 4 wheel disc brakes with Brembo front calipers. An adaptive damper system permits instant recalibration of driving mode from Comfort to Sport to Race. To Honda's everlasting credit, this is one sports sedan that starts and restarts in Sport mode every time you light the motor.
Although the CTR has been on the market now for three model years, the 2020 version boasts suspension upgrades that make it the most tenacious handling hot hatch I have ever driven. Honda has stiffened the rear suspension bushings this year to snub lateral compliance and recalibrated the shock absorbers to react 10 times faster to inputs than before. The front ball joints operate with less friction than previously, and the front struts snub road irregularities thanks to stiffer bushings. The Brembo clamped front brake discs now weigh 5 pounds less than before thanks to aluminum hat rotors.
Our test CTR was equipped with 8.5Jx20 black alloy rims fitted with the stickiest street radials you can buy from Continental: 245/30R20 Sport Compact 6 tires with a near race treadwear rating of TW240. Honda takes pains to alert CTR buyers to this fact with a warning prominently displayed on the window sticker which reads, "The unique high performance tires on this vehicle will wear more rapidly than normal passenger car tires. Tire life may be less than 10,000 miles..."
Honda engineers have re-mastered the interior of this Civic with enough race paraphernalia to make you think you're running Le Mans every time you slip behind the wheel. The front seats are incredibly supportive, well designed to cope with the 1.0g lateral cornering force this car is capable of generating. Not only do they retain you like an octopus, but they look stellar as well, with deep black cloth side bolsters scooping out even deeper red cloth pockets for your butt. The steering wheel rim carries out the red/black cloth motif with a fat and eminently grip worthy surface, while the 6-speed manual gear stick is topped with a perfectly luscious, machined aluminum shift knob configured like an inverted pear. Clutch take up is light, accurate and predictable, with an anti- roll feature to prevent unwanted motion during engagement. The gear slots are spaced closely, so you need to take care, especially when down shifting from 5th to 4th to insure that you don't snag 2nd by accident.
If you've ever been skiing, you'll recall that all trails are rated as to degree of difficulty, with "Expert" being the most demanding evaluation. Well, I rate the CTR as an "Expert" mode of transportation. To extract the most from its ample portfolio, you need to know what you are doing and what to expect from your inputs. For example, putting 308hp through the front wheels is no mean feat, and if you nail the accelerator when you have the front wheels cocked, the CTR will instantly follow that path of travel. Although Honda has moderated that tendency with a special Type R "dual axis front suspension," you will still want to exercise due caution when unleashing that VTEC motor. But after all, discretion and technique are what make true sport driving worth the dedicated effort.
2020 HONDA CIVIC TYPE R TOURING
ENGINE: 2.0 liter inline 4, direct injection, turbocharged
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 22MPG City/28MPG Highway
PRICE AS TESTED: $37,950
HYPES: The Ultimate Hot Hatchback
GRIPES: Going For Over Sticker
STAR RATING: 10 Stars out of 10