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The Honda Civic Type R’s five steps to hot hatch greatness

Updated for 2020, the new Honda Civic Type R has expanded its offering to included downplayed Sport Line and ultra-rare Limited Edition – here’s how it evolved into a hot hatch king

The Honda Civic Type R looks like it took a wrong turn off a race track and, frankly, drives like it too. Updated for 2020, the new Civic Type R range has been updated with fresh styling, detail upgrades to make it even sharper to drive and a new, three-model line-up comprising Sport Line, standard Type R and ultra-exclusive Limited Edition.
The latter is so exclusive, in fact, you can’t actually buy it, given the entire UK allocation of just 20 cars has already been snapped up by Type R fans. The Sport Line and Type R will, however, be yours to buy and continue a proud tradition stretching back over two decades and counting.

The one we didn’t get: Civic Type R (1997)

To differentiate between the five different generations you’ll often hear Type R fans reverentially refer to them by Honda’s internal codes, with each attracting its own gang of followers. The first, known as EK9, wasn’t officially sold in Europe, though a few made it here from Japan via personal imports. Its template of grippy seats, super slick gearbox and high-revving engine have sealed its position as a hot hatch great.

The big seller: Civic Type R (2001)

The 2001 Civic Type R (known as the EP3) wasn’t just the first one we could buy here – it was actually built in the UK, too. The gearstick might have been on the dashboard but it shifted just as sweetly as the original and the revvy engine and race-style seats were carried over too. The van-like styling might not have been especially sporting but meant it was just a practical as any Civic, while having a wild side to thrill any driver. Over 20,000 were sold here alone, making it the most successful hot Civic yet.
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The futuristic one: Civic Type R (2007)

The next Type R we could buy here in the UK is known by its FN2 code and adopted a very different look, the stormtrooper styling and angular lines delivering on the promise of the engine’s aggressive appetite for revs and the sharpness of the handling. Signature Type R features like the slick manual gearbox, the figure-hugging sports seats and the high-revving engine were all carried over and Honda sold over 13,000 of them.
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The turbo one: Civic Type R (2015)

Honda navigated the challenging step into turbocharging in typically uncompromising style with next generation Type R, known as the FK2. Even wilder looking than its predecessor, it broke the 300 horsepower barrier with its new engine and introduced a ton of clever technology to put it to the road. The +R button was another new feature, stiffening the suspension, turning the instruments red and unleashing the wild side promised by the looks. With a short production run of just over 2,000 cars, the relative rarity means this generation of Type R should be a safe place for fans to put their money for the long term.
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The even wilder one: Civic Type R (2017 – current)

After the extremes of the previous generation you might have expected Honda to rein things in a little but, no, for the current Type R it’s gone even crazier. An evolution from the previous generation and based around the same engine it is, however, a more sophisticated machine, grips even harder and rails the turns like a racing car. It's also the first Type R to be sold in the US. Modifications to the new 2020 model sharpen it further still, tweak the styling and add a new Racing Blue paint option, though for all the wildness in +R mode it also has a surprisingly mellow and practical side in contrast with the mad exterior looks. A new Sport Line version with a lower wing and (relatively) understated appearance joins the model range for buyers who like the performance but don’t want to shout quite so loudly.
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Footnote: the one you can’t actually buy

The Civic Type R remains one of the hardest, fastest and meanest looking hot hatches ever. But there’s one that goes even further. The Civic Type R Limited Edition is a fans’ special, of which just 100 have been allocated to Europe with a mere 20 of that number going to UK buyers. Stripped of sound proofing, air conditioning and even the infotainment unit the Limited Edition is lighter than the standard Type R and uses special track-optimised tyres. Accordingly you can push it even harder than the standard car on a racing circuit, which is just the place to fully appreciate the 320 horsepower, uprated brakes and race-car style downforce. The lucky few are in for a real treat.

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