Growing up, I was obsessed with the Civic. It was the definition of an affordable “tuner.” It was the entry point for so many members of our community into understanding that cars were something that you could enjoy as more than a mode of transportation. Remember the black EJ1 that Dominic Toretto was driving? I still think about it. The idea that you could take a utilitarian, simple, humble car and tune it, tweak it, and bolt things on to it to the point where it was entirely yours was so enticing to teenage me.
At 400-euro-job I’m surrounded by some of the most incredible cars ever produced by some of the finest craftsmen in history, and yet here I am waxing poetic about a mass production compact car. That’s the effect that the Civic has on me. So naturally when Honda offered me the chance to whale on the new Civic Type R—the first Type R to come to the US since the Integra!—I jumped at the chance.
The Honda Civic Type R is, in so many ways, a tremendous return to form for a way of driving, of tuning, of just out of the box performance in an accessible category, that has been kind of abandoned in this market segment. The Evo is no more, and its Subaru counterparts are downright expensive and have moved further and further away from their rallying heritage. The BRZ/86 is an exception, but even that feels stifled without some real work done under the hood. And a Golf with equivalent power? $5,000 more at sticker for less performance than the Type R. The Civic clocks in at $2,500 less than the Focus RS too. And it’s faster.
The Type R has a buttery smooth six-speed manual complete with Porsche-grade automatic rev-matching attached to a screaming 305 horsepower four-cylinder. It has beautiful bucket seats that hold you comfortably and confidently. And of course, you can have them in bright red. It has all sorts of trim options that you can immediately upgrade. It is so ready to be tweaked, but even out of the box, this Civic is incredibly capable and just plain stupid fun to command.
Now, yes, this thing looks like the knuckle child of a Gundam Mech, which is to say: completely absurd, and hyper Japanese. If it had bosozoku pipes coming out the back, I wouldn’t be shocked to learn it was a factory option. And perhaps that’s part of what its genius is; it’s leaning fully into that design language. It knows what it is, and who’s making it, and who it’s for: people that want to go like a bat out of hell while holding onto a turbocharged inline-four. And they want their car to look decidedly aggressive while doing it, or while simply parked. It’s being built in the UK, but can you get more JDM looking?!
Slamming through the gears, it’s a delight. It’s ballsy. It’s angry above 6,000rpm. It really, really moves in a way that you’re just not expecting from a Civic. It’s seated on the ground. It’s bolted to the floor. It feels strong in every curve. I’m genuinely blown away by what this car feels like for the dollars it costs. There’s a G-Force meter built into the dash! It has digital shift lights! Can you hear 13-year-old me shrieking like an idiot?!
Bottom line, if you can find one for the sticker price, I’m genuinely not sure there’s a modern car that you can have more fun in for this little money.