2022 Honda Civic Type R review

Honda’s Civic Type R returns, honed and ready for action. Is it still the best example of a front-drive performance car?

Kyle Cassidy
Kyle Cassidy
Editor NZ Autocar magazine

Honda’s Civic Type R returns, honed and ready for action. Is it still the best example of a front-drive performance car? 

The Honda Civic Type R has been through a few changes over its career. Some 25 years have passed since it first spun its VTEC off the tacho back in 1997. We recently drove one of these feisty fireballs, its 1600cc four spitting out 185hp in a fury of revs. The only way to drive it was at eleven-tenths. Talk about wild. Things have changed over the years but not much, for this latest R is just as raving, only it’s in another dimension of quick.

While highly evolved and thoroughly modern, that all-out attack mantra still resides at the heart of the R. It’s the front driver that vies for best in class in every aspect, especially lap times. The previous generation was locked in battle for circuit supremacy with Renault, until the French pulled the plug on fast cars, the Megane going electric and morphing into an SUV. Electrification hangs over all performance models, this Honda Civic Type R certain to be the last of the engine generation and sought after in years to come, so long as petrol doesn’t get any more expensive.

Not been paying attention?

The briefest of R recaps then. The sixth-generation FL5 is effectively a major reworking of the old car. The 2.0-litre K20C1 four gets a redesigned turbo, intake and exhaust to net 235kW (up 7 units) and 420Nm (up 20). The six-speed manual mates to a lightened flywheel with a revised rev-match system. The helical-type LSD returns to ground power. Civic now has a 35mm longer wheelbase (2735mm) but the R also adds an additional 25mm of track width up front and 19mm in the rear. The dual-axis strut front and multilink rear suspension has been re-tuned. While the styling has been toned down, it’s still purposeful with its 89mm wider front guards housing wider wheels, which are wrapped in 265/30R19 Michelin Pilot Sport 4 rubber. Two-piece brake rotors feature better cooling. Downforce and the supply of cooling air have also been improved.

Still goes hard then?

You bet. It’s even better, and the old one was no bunny. The Comfort and Sport modes return, as does R, while Individual is new, allowing drivers to mix and match settings. We tried a few combinations and settled on Sport for the engine, a good balance of quickened response and smooth progress, R being a tad too sharp. The steering we liked in full-heft R, giving the wheel a heap of resistance, helpful because this thing is a cornering weapon. The suspension is the biggie. R translates to ricochet on road, it’s unforgiving and can make motorway surfaces seem bumpy. So Sport then? It’s about perfect 70 per cent of the time, the tighter control of the mass in motion quickening the dynamic response, but the gnarlier bumps can rattle it. And so Comfort delivers the more yielding ride, and yet it’s still plenty sharp enough in the turns. We’ll take Sport for the engine sound thanks, where you can hear the induction note if not quite the exhaust. Unfortunately the blare of the tyre roar dominates. The R tune is augmented, something the marketing department felt duty bound to include, and it sounds like a swarm of cross wasps is trapped in the glovebox. 

Driving nirvana then?

The driving position is sorted, the cuddly red seats can be cranked down low, wiring you into the action. Its pedal box is well spaced, the clutch nicely weighted with just enough feel. Shift action is short and positive, so is hard to fluff, even when ramming it across the gate. The engine response is lively, it’s a rare turbocharged revver. It kicks best from 3000rpm onward, spinning to 7000rpm like few 2.0-litre turbo units can, shift lights blinking away before you wrench another gear. The ratios are short (ish, 2200rpm at 100km/h in top), so second, third and fourth get a good working over. These keep the engine in its perkiest zone and it’s always ready for action. The rev matcher makes it easy too. We didn’t bother turning it off, being lazy and out of practice. 

With those big new feet, there’s no traction issues when scurrying out of the bends, the LSD and front suspension geometry sorting the usual issues. There’s very little torque steer, though it can be guilty of tramlining, following the contours of the road under power. And if you’re in the stiff suspension mode, it’ll suffer bump steer.

The steering is simply ace with an ever-present vibe through the rim. You can turn it in aggressively and it just sticks. And the brakes, oh man are they good, reference grade at this level with good initial grab and consistent feeling.

Any quicker?

Yeah, but it’s not the fastest drag racer. It’s a front-drive manual, so what’d you expect? It’s hard work getting a decent run; you have to slip the clutch out with a few revs dialled in while trying to get the throttle down without hazing the tyres. A quick shift into second and it’ll just run to 100km/h in second gear. We clocked a 5.7sec run, about 0.2sec quicker than the old car, which was about the best we could manage on a coarse chip surface. It’ll run 80-120 in 2.9sec using third gear alone.

OK everyday?

The Comfort mode does the business around town, calming everything down to more manageable levels. However, being a track-tuned hot hatch, it’s tolerable rather than genuinely comfortable. There’s always a degree of tyre noise, the steering still with a reasonable heft to it and, though it has a quick ratio (2.1 turns between the stops), the turning circle is larger than desirable. Riding low, it can have a few ground clearance issues at the front too. With a hill holder function and a decent spread of torque, the manual is no hardship in traffic. It’ll pull third gear cleanly from 20km/h at 1000rpm, and you can skip shift. It could do with a better reversing camera as rearward vision is limited. But not because of the big wing, rather the nature of the hatchback. Some high mounted wings wobble away in the rear view mirror, but not this one, it’s rigid and high enough that you peer out underneath it.

Hard to get but

The Civic Type R is a hot ticket, and a sell out at present as the reservation process to get your hands on one has now closed. Allocation is said to be extremely limited for the $69,000 R (up from $61,990 when we last drove the old one in 2021) and there is a $2070 CC fee as well.

ModelHonda Civic Type R
Clean Car DiscountFee + $2070
Engine1996cc, IL4, T, DI
Drivetrain6-speed manual, FWD
Fuel Use9.7L/100km
C02 Output222g/km
80-120km/h2.95sec (83m)
Stability systemsABS, ESP, TV

Luggage Capacity410L
Tow ratingnot rated to tow
Service intervalsvariable
Warranty5 years/unlimited km
ANCAP ratingnot yet rated
Weight1446kg (claimed)

This article was originally published on autocar.co.nz

Kyle Cassidy
Kyle Cassidy
Editor NZ Autocar magazine - autocar.co.nz

Kyle has been reviewing cars since starting at NZ Autocar magazine in 2003 and has been editor since 2009. In that time he’s become an expert on what makes for a good vehicle while also gaining insights into the local automotive industry.