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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


Don Adair: Honda’s track-ready Civic Type R doubles nicely as daily driver

Honda’s compact Civic is a safe, comfortable and well-behaved ride. 

The track-ready Civic Type R, is also safe and comfortable. However, well-behaved is in the eye of the beholder.

The little hatchback might be considered the rowdy Civic, but that suggests a cuddly side. Instead, the Type R is all business. Lose the passenger seat, install a roll bar and you’re ready to race.

The Type R is fast. It gobbles corners like they were Chex mix. It owns the record lap time for front-drive production cars lap on Germany’s renown Nurburgring road course.

The R is a one-spec model based on Civic’s top Touring trim. Standard gear includes LED headlights, navigation, a 540-watt stereo, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. 

(I’m obliged to mention that the Civic’s clumsy infotainment interface finds its way into the R.)

A welter of fins, vents and scoops

Unique to the Type R are a flat-bottom steering wheel, faux-suede trim, a solid-aluminum shift knob and a pair of the most comfortable — and deeply bolstered — sport seats I’ve experienced.

Red paints the cabin. Seats, seat belts and dashboard trim are done up in vivid scarlet. The steering wheel leather is red and so is the Type R–specific gauge-cluster display.

Outside, the R is a welter of functional fins, vents and scoops. A massive wing, tasked with keeping the R planted at speed, juts skyward from the liftgate.

The R’s black 20-inch wheels wear a set of fat — and ultra-low-profile — Continental SportContact 6 high-performance tires.

The 3100-pound R is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four that makes 306 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. The only transmission offered is a short-throw six-speed manual.

Daunting specs 

Peak torque arrives at just 2,500 rpm and in nearly every situation the turbo-four responds emphatically — and with minimal turbo lag — to a nudge of the throttle.

On paper the R’s performance specs are daunting. It scorches the 0-60 sprint in 4.9 seconds and cranks 1.02 g of lateral grip on the skidpad. A set of massive brakes hauls it down from 70 mph to dead stop in just 142 feet. 

Goodbye, torque steer 

The basic Civic platform is sturdy enough handle the demands of the track. From it, Honda hangs a set of R-specific suspension systems.

Up front, dual-axis struts quell torque steer, a condition unique to powerful front-drive cars in which the front wheels pull to the side under hard acceleration. To assure maximum traction and vehicle stability during cornering, a limited-slip differential adjusts torque distribution between the drive wheels on the fly.

The rear suspension incorporates stamped-steel control arms, aluminum hub carriers and a beefy stabilizer bar. It abets crisp corner turn-in and curbs body roll.

Based on steering input, lateral Gs and suspension stroke, adaptive dampers adjust instantly to suit conditions. Three drive modes (Comfort/Sport/+R) alter damper firmness and steering feedback.

Limits defy casual exploration

The R’s limits cannot be truly explored on public roads. However, quality time on familiar two-lanes left some deep impressions: The R is extremely quick in a straight line; approaching a corner, the brakes scrub off great gobs of speed in a great hurry; during a rapid series of downshifts, rev-matching software stabilizes the chassis and issues great trumpeting exhaust notes. 

The thick, flat-bottomed steering wheel feeds road-surface information back through the driver’s hands. Nudge the wheel into the corner and the R responds immediately and precisely.  Body roll is essentially non-existent and the R pivots smoothly. At the threshold of grip, the R is planted and stable.

Pound the throttle while exiting a corner and torque steer exerts a hard tug on the wheel. A more judicious throttle foot allows the limited-slip differential to produce a smooth transition back into a steady-state straight-line groove. 

Most impressively, the R exhibits an alchemical blend of machine-feel, creature comfort and responsiveness. Because its mechanicals are never masked one is ever-mindful of the serious machinery at work. Still, even with all the R’s systems set to high alert ride quality is very good.

Which, in my estimation, suitably defines well-behaved.

Contact Don at or visit

2017 Honda Civic Type R
Civic base price:
Trim level base price: $33,900
As tested: $34,795 (including destination)
Options: The Type R is a one-spec trim, with no available options.
EPA rating: 25 combined/28 highway/22 city
Premium unleaded fuel specified

Don Adair
Don Adair is a Spokane-based freelance writer.