With the unveiling of the 5th generation Civic Type-R American car enthusiasts can finally purchase the greatest civic of them all, but before we can dive into this mega hot hatch, we need a history lesson. See for over 20 years Honda has been making this ultimate performance Civic for everyone else in the world besides Americans, who were deemed unworthy. We were stuck with the Civic Si which, is quite a fun car, but it left American buyers wanting more. Honda has finally listened to the pleas of American enthusiasts, and promises we won’t only get the new Civic Type-R but, we are getting the first shipments of Honda’s 340 horsepower uber hatch. Before we can take delivery though, we need to look back at the 20 years of cars that made this possible.
1st Generation 1997-2000 (EK9)
The EK9 Civic Type-R was the Japan only genesis of the Honda’s super Civic. It was built around the same time as the fabled Integra Type-R that, we received in the states, and used a similar philosophy to yield better performance. To start Honda removed the sound deadening and other superfluous trim pieces in order to reduce the curb weight and improve every measure of performance. They then turned their attention to the engine bay where they placed the legendary hand ported B16B VTEC engine with a 8,500 rpm redline that produced an astonishing 115.6 horsepower per liter. This 185 horsepower power feather weight hatch also had the same seem welded monocoque chassis featured in the Integra Type-R to improve rigidity and handling. To put the power to the ground Honda used a Helical LSD and close ratio 5-speed manual transmission. This incredible hot hatch set the bar very high for future Type-Rs and is still revered by enthusiasts today for its superb handling and motorsports feel.
2nd Generation 2001-2005 (EP3)
After the success of the first Civic Type-R Honda moved production to Swindon, UK, where it manufactured Civic Type-Rs for the European and Japanese markets. They also built a version of the EP3 for American consumers that was hopelessly watered down in comparison. This larger Civic Type-R was now powered by Hondas K20A2 which, produced 200 horsepower at 7,900 rpm still giving the true Honda experience. This Hot Hatch was universally praised in the UK and, was even loved by Jeremy Clarkson who thought it was one of the greatest hot hatches of the moment. It still possessed a seam welded monocoque chasis, and the close ratio gearbox to keep the driver involved, but it was now much easier to live with every day. The Japanese market EP3 Type-R was slightly more powerful and still had the helical LSD that was absent on European models. This Civic Type-R carried on the experiment of the first generation and made it a staple performance product for Honda. This car is the reason why we still have Type-R Civics today and brought the idea into the mainstream media.
3rd Generation 2006-2011 (FD2/FN2)
After the wild success of the EP3 Type-R Honda took the winning formula of that car and tweaked it with a focus on everyday usability. This meant an increase in size and weight, which was bad news for Honda’s featherweight hot hatch. To make matters worse Honda used the same K20A2 engine from the EP3 which felt more sluggish and unresponsive in this heavier car. The Civic Type-R became a much better car in this generation offering interior creature comforts like sound deadening and navigation, but none of this helped the performance bottom line. The once rev happy VTEC engine now felt weak and under powered in a car this big which lead to the biggest change in Civic Type-Rs for the next generation.
4th Generation 2015-Present (FK2)
After a brief hiatus due to emissions regulations and Honda’s adjustment to forced induction the Type-R returned. Instead of a screaming VTEC engine with a soaring redline, Honda finally succumb to the use of Turbos. This new engine produced an incredible 306 horse power, or 100 more than the previous model. This new generation ushered the Civic into the modern age of hot hatches where turbos are a requirement these days. It briefly held the record for the fastest front wheel drive car around the Nurburgring and continues to push the limits of a front wheel drive platform. The FK2 brought the Civic Type-R back from the dead and into the for front of performance hatch backs taking on competitors like the Golf R and Focus RS. Although some of the purity of the original model was lost with the introduction of turbocharging this car retains the crown as the ultimate performance Civic.
After 20 years of development the Civic Type-R might finally be ready to take on America. From its humble beginnings in the 90’s to its growth in Europe the Civic Type-R proves that fast Hondas with always succeed. Although we will miss the screaming VTEC engine of the past the future promises much faster cars that will continue to push the limits. We look forward to seeing what the 5th generation car brings, and cannot wait to get our hands on one.