Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Three Years On Has the Honda Civic Type R FK8 Aged Gracefully?


Around three years ago, Honda Cars Philippines gave me the keys to the Civic Type R. At the time, it came with a very strict set of instructions, the gist of which was to treat it like a newborn puppy. With a lowered ride height, 30-series tires on 20-inch rims, and a carbon fiber aero kit, they were very exacting on the sort of garage space I was allowed to park it in. Suffice to say, mine passed muster and I got to enjoy some seat time with this 306-horsepower hot hatch.

Fifteen thousand kilometers later, the Civic Type R is back here once more. Having passed hands more than dozen times, Serial Number 05172 (not the same one I drove before) has seen a pretty hard life. It’s now battle scarred with three of the four rims sporting gutter marks—marks, as in plural. Run your hands on the carbon fiber chin, and it’s now as rough as Danny Trejo’s face. Peer closely at the Championship White paint, and there are small scratches here and there; an indicator of too many Fast and Furious runs.



Clearly, this Civic Type R isn’t treated like a garage queen anymore, and it could be a great indicator of what long-term ownership of this red-badged Honda would be like. Let’s dig deeper, shall we?

For starters, there’s the excellent build quality. Despite being regularly punished by motoring hacks, everything is pretty solid. There’s no rattle of squeak in its interior even when its magic dampers are set to their stiffest +R setting. Aside from the steering wheel turning all shiny from the sweaty palms that gripped it and the small scratches on the aluminum knobbed shifter, it’s still pretty much showroom fresh.



Next up, there’s the driving position. At a glance, the treatment isn’t anything special. Strip the red piping and carbon fiber trim, and it doesn’t look racy at all. However, because it’s based on the current (but sadly, soon to be replaced Civic), the Civic Type R still gets top marks when it comes to ergonomics and usability. The one-piece front bucket seats with their thick bolsters are supportive, yet comfortable even for long trips behind the wheel. I do, however, long for a mechanical handbrake to match its enthusiast-centric nature.

On that subject, the Civic Type R still manages to delight three years on. Single-handedly, its best trait is how it makes its performance so approachable. With three selectable modes—Comfort, Sport, and +R, its ride can be as pliant as the regular Civic or as stiff as an aftermarket project car. It always defaults on Sport though—as if Honda’s subconsciously telling you that this mode’s best. Keeping it there, it’s tremendously fun and secure. Point the steering wheel, and it obeys with no drama. Through bumpy surfaces and changing road cambers, it’s planted. The Brembo brakes scrub speed excellently too, though the copious amount of squeal means it’s probably due for a change of pads soon.



Now, while the Civic Type R still manages to be extremely fun through the twisties, there’s one aspect that hasn’t really worn on well: the engine. Don’t get me wrong, the turbocharged 2.0-liter VTEC engine is perfectly tractable with good punch. It’s also extremely flexible, with good torque throughout the power band. So, what’s the problem them? It feels cold and unemotional; as if it doesn’t have a soul. Objectively though, this is much more usable than the Subaru WRX STI’s dinosaur 2.5-liter EJ25, but man, the character-less, drone-like exhaust is tiring after a while.

Yet, the 6-speed manual that turbocharged engine’s connected to is one of the best you’d experience. The throws are short and the clutch is perfect. There’s still a satisfying snick as you go through each gear, though its age and condition means hitting third gear is hard. As a result, I had to row down one gear at a time just to engage it. Oh, and while Rev Matching is designed with the spirited driver in mind, it’s a great tool during the daily commute. As you speed up on inclines, it keeps the rpms up as you shift down, lessening the chances of getting bogged down on the climb.



Lastly, I can’t talk about the Civic Type R without touching its styling. I’m starting to get tired of it. Maybe it’s because of my age or the prevalence of wannabe Type Ricers out there, but the bodacious fins, wings, and appendages don’t do much for me now. I’m still pretty sure it’s meant for aero performance and stuff, but it’s just too juvenile. Maybe, I’d settle for the just-launched Civic Type R Sport Line’s more subtle approach.

Despite the less-than-graceful styling, the Civic Type R still managed to prove itself as a great everyday driver. Over the course of 168 hours, I’ve managed to clock more than 400 kilometers on it—doing all sorts of errands. Its magic may have waned a bit during the past three years, but this second chance with the Type R is a reminder that this is still one of the best driving machines at this price range. Even better, it’s a wonderful driving machine that can be driven on a daily basis.




3 comments:

  1. maybe it needs a better exhaust?

    ReplyDelete
  2. The engine feels soulless, cold, and unemotional? Unlike the engines from the Mazda cars right?

    ReplyDelete

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