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CAR REVIEW: 2017 Honda Civic Type R

I am a recent electric car convert. As proof of this, the wife and I are planning a future budget that will include room for an EV. Deep down however, she and I are both still bonafide petrolheads. As we both love and own sporty compact cars, the hot-hatch segment is one of our favorites.

Every opportunity I got to drive a VW Golf R, Ford Focus RS, Subaru WRX STI or the now defunct Mitsubishi Lancer EVO, turned into a love affair where I was ready to sell all cars, kidneys and my My Little Pony collection just to buy whichever car I was testing that week. The news of the forthcoming Civic Type R prompted me to prepare myself to relinquish the above-mentioned items as well as my beloved Care Bears family. While the car was in my possession, Kijiji adds were formulated but as I returned the car, I was happy to spend another night with Share Bear and Cupcake, my Earth Pony.

I loved and love the Honda Civic Type R. Honda engineers have killed the execution of this car, making it one of the best driving, if not the best, FWD car of all time. And yet, and yet I don’t think I’d buy one. Well, if I did, it would come in 4th, just ahead of the Focus but behind the R, STI and a used EVO GS-R (because manual transmission).

Styling inside/out

All week I told myself that the Type R’s looks are not important. Well, the aero’s work is critical but the car’s overall mega FATF styling is something I could easily deal with in time. And I found a way I could make it work, but only in the US.

Whereas we can opt between only Championship White and Crystal Black as exterior colors, Americans can also select from Polished Metal, Aegean Blue and the winner, Rallye Red. The Red dims the black accents, masks the red highlights but still looks boss. As much as all fans of past Type Rs would love to see the return of Phoenix Yellow, me thinks it would be disastrous on this car. The old ITR was devoid of excess and as such, only the color jumped out. Those were great days.

If I have to give points for the ultra-cool alien-eye-like LED headlights and flared front fenders, I can’t exactly get excited about the cabin. The seats, absolutely, but the multi-layered dashboard and its fake carbon fiber trim do more harm than good. The ergonomics are generally good but I hate the trend that has seen fit to remove volume knobs. I hear they’re making a comeback so that’s good news.

Fit and finish, along with overall quality are strong in the Civic.

Comfort/space

Once more, the beauty with cars like the Type R and the R is that they can easily double as family transportation. The Civic suffers from the fact that it can only accommodate four passengers but that will likely never be a real issue for most owners.

The car’s trunk is huge and I love the side-mounted cover. The boot’s depth and width are ideal for all types of activities, from the good-old Costco test to hauling gear for a camping trip. It could also be used to carry four designated track tires mounted on specific wheels…

The front seats are some of the more aggressively bolstered in the category. They hold occupants well in place on the track, and on the way to the office. And there’s loads of room for all appendages.

Value/equipment

In Canada, the 2017 Honda Civic Type R comes but one way, with the sole option being your exterior selected shade. Everything else is included, or not.

The $40,890 price tag gives you access to the aforementioned 306 horsepower mill, the triple exhaust pipes for all your noisy wishes, the adaptive dampers as well as Display Audio with navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. HondaLink, and number of safety features including Honda’s very distracting LaneWatch.

It is priced squarely at the Golf R and STI. The RS is priced completely out of its element at over $15k more than the others.

Powertrain/handling

If you’ve watched the video of my driving the Type R, you’ll undoubtedly have noticed that I was sniffling quite a bit. A few days after shooting the video, I fell ill with a mild cold and that’s when the Type R somewhat fell out of favour with me.

The Civic Type R bridges the gap between the civilized and refined VW Golf R and the Stone Age Subaru STI when the Drive Mode is set to Comfort. The adaptive dampers back off a little but the ride quality is not on par with the R. I felt good all week so the Civic did as well. The moment I was off, I got annoyed with the Type R’s incessant nervous behaviour. There’s essentially no “off” switch to the car and that’s what turned me off. On top of that, I think a “custom” or “individual” drive mode is always warranted in such a car. Sport is great when you’re up to it while Comfort is too dull overall. Comfy dampers and sharp throttle is a winning combination.

Having said that, the 2017 Honda Civic Type R is as good as one would expect. It’s incredibly fast, responsive and with more real mechanical grip than any of its competitors. The boosted 2.0-litre’s 295 lb.-ft. of torque are full on as of 2,500 rpm with less than a hint of lag depending on engine speed. The single-scroll charger boosts up to 23.2 psi and it is impossible to ignore.

As I scooted about with the car, I got an emission’s malfunction message followed by the old check engine light. It would appear as though my tester suffered the common issue that currently plagues this car which seems to be a faulty O2 connector. The immediate result of the warnings is a complete lack of boost. Imagine your life without Netflix or a microwave. Horrible, right? This is worse!! Upon the next start-up, the spooling, whistling, popping and spewing all thankfully returned.

Working the 6-speed manual’s gates is rewarding and always accompanied by instant thrust. With 306 horsepower at 6,500 rpm, it’s impossible to resist bringing the 4-pot to redline as often as you can. The car feels faster than the numbers suggest and in real-life, pulls harder than both the VW and the Subie, and just as hard as the 350-horsepower Ford.

If I love the steering, I’m not so crazy about the brakes. In street use, they’re brilliant and powerful. On the track, they’re plain insufficient. I’m miffed with Honda for their decision to leave solid plain Civic brakes back there. In my world, I’d slip 19” wheels on the car and upgrade the rear brakes. It’s obviously up front where Honda spent most of its development budget. The dual-axis suspension configuration negates upsetting torque steer and keeps the car pointed in the desired direction regardless of all that torque.

As a daily driver, the Civic Type R is the 2nd best option, however far behind the Golf. VW has proven over and over that it is not necessary to be punished for more grip and speed. Honda: include a “custom” drive mode on the 2019 car.

The bottom line with the Type R is simple enough: It’s an incredibly fast and competent car that needs a customizable drive mode and more braking power in the rear. Even with these improvements, if you can call them that, I think I’d still lean towards the Volkswagen Golf R. Officially, I’ve become an old man.

I am a recent electric car convert. As proof of this, the wife and I are planning a future budget that will include room for an EV. Deep down however, she and I are both still bonafide petrolheads. As we both love and own sporty compact cars, the hot-hatch segment is one of our favorites. …

Review Overview

Performance - 95%
Driving Experience - 95%
Comfort - 85%
Security - 85%
Interior Design - 80%
Prestige - 85%

88%

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