For those that are old enough to remember the first generation Honda Civic Type R, you’ll recall that it was quite the little giant. Based off of the cult-producing Integra Type-R, the Civic version sported the same world-beating, hand-ported B16B engine paired with a close-ratio five-speed transmission and limited-slip differential. That little motor had one of the highest naturally-aspirated specific power outputs per liter in history. Proceeding 182-horsepower and 118 lb-ft of torque from a diminutive 1.6-liter engine that revved to an unimaginable 8,200 RPM.
Fast forward about a quarter century and we come to find the great grandchild of that first legendary car in 2020. The newest Civic Type R continues the pocket-rocket attitude of its ancestors, but goes about it in a different way. No longer touting natural aspiration as a badge of honor, the Type R took a cue from BMW’s M division and realized that turbocharging was the future of performance. Armed with a turbocharged inline-4 that only occupies 2.0-liters of space, this little motor pumps out a staggering 306-horsepower and equally impressive 295 lb-ft of torque. That power is then routed through a slick-shifting traditional 6-speed manual transmission and on to the front-wheels, which measure 20-inches and are shod in 245/30ZR-20 Continental SportContact 6 summer tires.
That super-sticky rubber combined with stiffer front and rear bushings, more toe-in rear geometry dialed in, and of course, upgraded adaptive dampers that adjust 20 times per second, the Civic Type-R can hustle around the skidpad to the tune of 1.0 g on the nose. That feat is even more impressive when you consider that the latest Type-R has gained about 600 pounds since its first iteration 23 years ago for a weigh-in number of just about 3,100 pounds. From some angles it looks a little like that extra few hundred pounds was added just in excessive body-cladding alone.
Honda has heard some of our complaints and has decided to come out with a couple limited edition versions of the Type-R, that include significant weight reduction and a slightly toned-down demeanor because not everyone wants to scream ‘boy-racer over here!’ at every traffic light.
You have three drive modes to choose from — Comfort, Sport and +R. Comfort actually does a great job of making your commute much softer, quieter and more compliant, while +R stiffens things up to racecar levels, leaving Sport to be a happy medium. 0-60 mph comes up in 5.4 seconds and through the quarter mile in a less than impressive 13.7 seconds. Those time may have been fast back in 1997, but with almost double the horsepower of the original, the 2020 CTR is just about a second faster than its ancestor in both categories. Fuel economy does continue to be a performance number that the Civic Type R can boast about. Posting a 22/28/25 city/highway/combined mpg, the Type R still is an economical racer.
One positive aspect of progress is the plethora of safety features available to this car today. Auto high-beams, radar-based adaptive cruise control, automatic braking, road departure mitigation, lane departures warning, and lane keeping assist all work tirelessly, even when you are exhausted after a long day at the track, or at the grocery store.
One of the big reasons the CTR became so popular was that it was an affordable racer that even a grocery store cashier could afford if he or she was smart with their money. For 2020, the base price for this car has crept up to $37,950. It’s hard to think of a forty-thousand dollar compact car as a bargain, especially when a new WRX comes in about ten grand cheaper for almost identical performance. But, the CTR does have a certain mystique about it, and could be considered more collectible than your average Subbie. So for those of you that can still remember the original, the latest version may not have the same sizzle as the original, but it’s still got enough attitude to make its grandfather proud.