The interwebz have been bustling over Honda’s all-new 2017 Civic Type R, and for good reason. Not only is the hot hatch better than the previous version, it marks the first time a Honda Type R product will be sold in the United States. The Civic Type R takes advantage of the new, tenth-generation Civic’s chassis, while adding an improved suspension system over the outgoing Type R. Drive modes change the hatchback’s attitude via variable-rate steering, throttle response, and dampers. The familiar 2.0-liter VTEC turbo-four returns almost unchanged, but comes mated to a new six-speed manual gearbox with new rev-matching system. And like before, the Type R sends power to its front wheels only.
The go-fast goodies are matched with an aggressive styling. A huge wing, chin splitter, and air scoops all play into the sporty design. Production kicks off in the summer of 2017 with deliveries starting in the fall. Like all tenth-generation Civics, the Type R hails from Honda’s U.K. manufacturing plant in Swindon, England. Pricing starts in the mid-$30,000 range.
“The Type R doesn’t rest on the Civic’s design, though. New bodywork is included to set it apart.”
Some might argue the conventional Honda Civic Hatchback is a bit eccentric with its huge faux scoops and vents, but the design totally makes sense with the Type R. It’s clear the designers had the high-performance hatchback in mind with the initial sketches. The Type R doesn’t rest on the Civic’s design, though. New bodywork is included to set it apart.
Up front, a large chin splitter dressed in a carbon fiber-like finish complements the big vertical scoops near the fog lights. A center scoop is mounted on the now-aluminum hood. The front fenders get special treatment, too, thanks to a vent designed like a heat extractor. Ground effects along the rocker panel continue the sporty theme around to the back.
“It’s clear the designers had the high-performance hatchback in mind with the initial sketches.”
It’s back here onlookers should have no question as to the Type R’s intentions. That wing is unmistakable, for sure. It spans high above the driver’s rear vision, so visibility shouldn’t be impaired. More body work wraps around the lower bumper, splitting in the center to accommodate the tripped exhaust tips. Those tips give even more visual interest to the car thanks to their oddball size. The two outer pipes are larger than the center one.
The Type R rides on 245/30-series Continental SporContact 6 summer tires mounted on 20-inch wheels. The wheels have a 10-spoke design with a lovely red ring around the rim, matching perfectly with the red Honda “H” on the center cap and the other red line accents around the car.
The Competition’s Exteriors
We’ve already established the Ford Focus RS and Volkswagen Golf R are two of the Civic Type R’s biggest rivals. Now let’s dive into why. Up first and in the design department, the Focus RS offers a hotter version of its pedestrian counterpart. The RS version of the Focus adds big air intakes down low on the front fascia, along with larger wheels wrapped in performance rubber. Ground effects along the rocker sills carry the aggressive stance rearward, while the rear bumper turns the styling to 11 with dual exhaust tips, a faux diffuser, and scallops on the side panels. A large rear spoiler sits atop the hatch, finished with RS badging and a black center blade.
Perhaps the boy-racer look isn’t your thing. You’ll prefer the reserved and mature look of the Volkswagen Golf R. Without question, it’s the hot-hatch that doesn’t show off while sitting still. The Golf R does have a mildly different front fascia, unique wheels, and an equally mild rear diffuser along the rear bumper. The chrome-tipped, quad exhaust tips are the main spoiler to its hidden powers.
|Ford Focus RS||Volkswagen Golf R||Honda Civic Type R|
|Track front/rear (Inches)||61.2/60.4||60.7/59.7||TBA|
“Honda has been using red treatments for the last 25 years, beginning with the red Honda badge.”
Honda didn’t leave the interior alone, but rather gave the Type R some love with red accents in the suede seats, inside the steering wheel’s rim, on the dashboard, and along the door panels. Even the gauge cluster gets the angry red treatment. Honda has been using red treatments for the last 25 years, beginning with the red Honda badge. The lightweight front seats have thick bolsters for support during hot laps. A unique Type R aluminum shifter is mounted atop that short-throw lever on the six-speed. Honda also includes a serialized Type R plaque on the center console for posterity.
“It offers room for five, plenty of cargo room, and a 60/40-split second row that folds for extra storage space, boasting an impressive 46.2 cubic feet of space.”
Aside from that, however, the Type R is still a Civic Hatchback. That means it offers room for five, plenty of cargo room, and a 60/40-split second row that folds for extra storage space, boasting an impressive 46.2 cubic feet of space. There is still 25.7 cubic feet of room behind the upright second row. The Type R might be a tire-melting track monster, but it’ll still bring home the bulk-sized groceries. In-dash technology includes Honda’s seven-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and a 12-speaker sound system.
Honda says comfort levels have been improved over the previous Type R, too. NVH levels are down thanks to improved cabin insulation. The ride can be smooth out by selecting Comfort on the drive modes. The steering calms down with a more subdued feel and the new adaptive suspension dampers provide a softer ride thanks to their wider range of variability. But more on that in a second.
Inside The Competition
The Ford Focus RS features RS-specific Recaro sport seats with high bolsters and suede coverings. A flat-bottom steering wheel and manual shifter are stables of the performance package, as are the high-mounted auxiliary gauges above the infotainment system. Blue stitching is found throughout the cabin, as well as blue RS and Recaro logos on the front seats. Otherwise, the Focus RS’ interior is rather colorless.
Likewise, the Golf R’s interior is very calm compared to the Civic Type R. Like any Volkswagen product, the Golf R is very German in its execution. The cabin is reserved yet purposeful, meaning additions like bolstered front seats and the flat-bottom steering wheel are present for utility’s sake. Small details abound in the Golf R, including the R badge on the bottom steering wheel spoke and on the seatback. Otherwise, the interior is stately and calm. Some might even call it boring for a hot-hatch. Still, others would argue it’s properly specced.
|Ford Focus RS||Volkswagen Golf R||Honda Civic Type R|
|Headroom front/rear (Inches)||39.1/37.9||38.4/38.1||TBA|
|Leg room front/rear (Inches)||41.9/33.4||41.2/35.6||TBA|
|Shoulder room front/rear (Inches)||55.6/52.6||55.9/53.9||TBA|
|Hip Room front/rear (Inches)||53.9/52.8||NA||TBA|
|Cargo Volume seats up/down (cu ft)||23.8/44.8||22.8/52.7||TBA|
Anger and frustration are tempting emotions in light of Honda’s choice to reuse the 2.0-liter turbo-four from the previous Type R. “Where’s the big power improvements,” you might grumpily ask. “Doesn’t Honda know the Ford Focus RS makes 350 horsepower?” Sure, Honda knows. But the 2017 Civic Type R is a whopping 400 pounds lighter than the AWD Focus RS. Consider also, the Volkswagen Golf R is both heavier and less powerful. Yep, Honda engineers knew what they were doing.
As for the specifics, the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder still makes 306 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 295 pound-feet of torque between 2,500 and 4,500 rpm thanks to an impressive 20.3 psi of boost. Direct fuel injection and Honda’s i-VTEC valvetrain control system are used to make power without killing fuel economy. The EPA estimates the 2017 Type R will achieve 22 mpg city, 28 mpg highway, and 25 mpg combined – that is, if you can keep your right foot under control. Keeping temperatures under control is a high-capacity, air-to-air intercooler for the mono-scroll turbocharger and a two-piece, water-cooled intake manifold designed to run lower exhaust gas and combustion chamber temperatures.
“The gearbox now features an active rev matching system that automatically revs the engine to the proper rpm for downshifts.”
Mated to the all-aluminum engine is a new six-speed manual transmission via a lighter-weight, single-mass flywheel. The clutch inertia is reduced by 25 percent, too. The gearbox now features an active rev matching system that automatically revs the engine to the proper rpm for downshifts. Other sports cars have employed similar systems to great effect, including the Chevrolet Corvette and Camaro. Not only does it make downshifting smoother, it cuts shifting time and nearly eliminates driveline “shock” from miss-judging the proper rev.
Power is sent to the front wheels, but Honda has worked to greatly reduce torque steer by using its Dual-Axis Strut system. Controlling lateral movement of the front wheels is the Dual-Pinion Variable-Ratio Electronic Power Steering system. It’s a mouthful, but the steering system simply uses variable ratios to tailor to specific driving needs, say between Comfort mode and the track-focused “+R” drive mode. Sport mode splits the difference between the two. As for braking, the Type R uses Brembo calipers grabbing cross-drilled, 13.8-inch vented rotors up front and solid 12.0-inch rotors out back. Tires are the Continental SportContact 6 summer performance rubber sized in 245/30 wrapped on 20-inch, 10-spoke black wheels.
“Honda says the 2017 Civic Type R hits 62 mph in 5.7 seconds and has a top speed of 169 mph”
So, what’s this mean for performance? Well, Honda says the 2017 Civic Type R hits 62 mph in 5.7 seconds and has a top speed of 169 mph. What’s more, Honda claims a Nürburgring Nordschieife lap time of 7 minutes and 43.8 seconds. Technically those figures are best-in-class for performance hatchbacks with FWD. However, both the Ford Focus RS and VW Golf R post quicker acceleration times (accounting for the two-mph difference in kph testing to mph translation) thanks mostly to their AWD systems. The Civic Type R does boast a higher top speed, though, with the RS tapping out at 165 mph and the Golf R at 150 mph. Neither Ford nor Volkswagen have posted official Nürburgring times, but independent testing shows both the Focus RS and Golf R are slower around the ‘Ring.
The Competition’s Powertrain
Behind that Blue Oval badge lies a 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder with an impressive 350 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque, making the RS the powerhouse of this bunch. The turbo-four utilizes direct injection and variable valve timing, along with an intercooler. Peak horsepower comes at 6,000 rpm, while torque hits its peak at 3,200 rpm. The engine is mated solely to a six-speed manual gearbox with no electronic aids for shifting. Ford expects you to row your own. Power is sent to all four wheels, giving the Focus RS unbelievable grip. What’s more, Ford offers a $1,990 wheel and tire upgrade with 20-inch wheels wrapped in high-performance Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires.
The Focus RS is able to hit 60 mph in 4.6 seconds when fitted with the Cup 2 tires. Its top speed is governed at 165 mph.
The Volkswagen’s iron-block 2.0-liter turbo-four kicks out 292 horsepower at 5,400 rpm and 280 pound-feet of torque at only 1,800 rpm. While it might be the least-powerful here, it holds its own thanks to an aluminum cylinder head with direct fuel injection and an intercooler to keep turbo temperatures down. A six-speed manual comes standard and offers an absolutely sweet shifting experience. Those who prefer the computer to shift can opt for the six-speed dual-clutch automatic. VW’s 4Motion AWD is standard regardless of transmission, offering excellent grip in both dry and adverse weather conditions.
The VW Golf R will hit 60 mph in 5.2 seconds with the manual and 4.5 seconds with the dual-clutch. Top speed is limited to a very German-like 155 mph.
|Ford Focus RS||Volkswagen Golf R||Honda Civic Type R|
|Engine||2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder||2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder||2.0-liter turbocharged i-VTEC four-cylinder|
|Horsepower||350 HP @ 6,000 RPM||292 HP @ 5,400 RPM||306 HP @ 6,500 RPM|
|Torque||350 LB-FT @ 3,200 RPM||280 LB-FT @ 1,800 RPM||295 LB-FT @ 7,000 RPM|
|Transmission||6-Speed Manual||6-Speed Manual||6-Speed Manual|
|Weight||3,525 Lbs||3,283 Lbs||TBA|
|Fuel economy city/highway/combined||19/25/22||22/31/25||TBA|
|0 to 60 mph||4.6 seconds||5.2 seconds||5.7 seconds|
|Top Speed||165 mph||155 mph||169 mph|
Honda has not officially dropped pricing as of early June, 2017, but a spy shot of a Monroney window sticker suggests the Type R starts at $33,900. If true, that positions the 2017 Civic Type R well under the Focus RS and Golf R. The Ford carries a starting price of $36,120, while the Golf R starts at $36,475. Then again, the extra coin helps pay for those AWD systems.
The Competition’s Cost
Ford offers the Focus RS for $36,120. Check off every box on the somewhat limited options sheet, and the price tops at $45,355. The Volkswagen Golf R carries a base price of $39,375, making it the most pricey of the trio. Opting for the automatic transmission adds $1,100, making the MSRP $41,295 after fees. VW doesn’t offer big packages like seat options or interior colors with the Golf R. You take what’s given. However, you can choose from several dealer-added options like floor mats and car covers
Other Notable Competitors
Subaru Impreza WRX STI
Okay, so there’s a couple of caveats with the WRX STI. First, it’s not a hot hatch. It’s a hot sedan (if that’s a thing). Second, it’s getting old. See, Subaru updated the Impreza sedan and hatch for 2017, but left the WRX and WRX STI (which are based on the Impreza) to soldier on unchanged. The new car will come soon, but for 2017, it ain’t happening. Anyway, the STI offers AWD fun with a rally-bread suspension and a peppy 2.5-liter flat-four. This turbocharged Boxer offers up 305 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 290 pound-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm. An honest six-speed manual transmission is the only gearbox offered. The STI hits 60 mph in just 4.8 seconds before reaching its drag-limited top speed of 159 mph.
And while the Golf R and Focus RS are street monsters, the WRX STI is best flogged in the dirt. Yes, Subaru’s long history of winning rallies isn’t lost on this production car. That was clearly evident when we tested a 2015 model. This car loves driving sideways kicking up rooster tails.
The 2017 WRX STI starts at $35,195. Opting for the Limited trim pushes the price to $39,995 – hardly an insignificant jump, especially considering the car’s age. Like Volkswagen, there aren’t many packages available, but rather dealer-added options. There is, however, the zero-cost option for a low-rise rear spoiler and a $1,154 STI Performance Exhaust – both of which I’d we’d find hard to pass up. Totaled out, the car would cost $41,969.
Honda has finally done it – the Civic Type R is coming Stateside! Making its arrival even more special is the recent growth in the hot-hatch market, not to mention the long-time lust over Europe’s enjoyment with the car. Add to that the welcomed improvements with the 10th generation Civic, and we’ve got a 300+ horsepower beast with an honest manual transmission and a limited slip differential on our hands. It will certainly be interesting to see how it holds up against the Ford and Volkswagen. Whatever the results, the comparison tests should prove exhilarating.