The Honda Civic Type R was always the forbidden fruit for Americans. It was sold overseas, and the best that we could do was get the Civic Si and pretend. Well, those days are over. The Honda Civic Type R is finally here, and we couldn’t be happier. We had a feeling that we’d like the Civic Type R. We’ve driven the tenth-generation Civic in all its forms (coupe, sedan, hatchback, Si), and we were expecting big things from this hatchback, especially because of all the hype surrounding the car. 

When we had the chance to take the Type R out on the track at the Autobahn Country Club in Joliet, IL, we jumped at the opportunity. While we didn’t get to spend tons of time in the car, we did get a feel for what it can do, and we got to spend plenty of time walking around it to take in all its origami-like exterior styling elements.  

Quick, Nimble, Low, and Fun

2018 Honda Civic Type R front

As soon as we sat in the Type R we realized that the car feels right from an ergonomics standpoint. You sit lower than you do in the Ford Focus RS, the reach to the shifter feels very natural, and everything is where you expect it to be. That being said, Honda included the Civic’s almost completely touch-based infotainment system that we don’t like. They should have at least included a volume knob.

Once we got the car out on the race track and started rolling, it became immediately clear how easy the Civic Type R is to drive. The clutch takes seconds to get used to, the shift throws are short, the gearbox notchy, the steering is well-calibrated and precise, and the engine feels smooth and powerful. We were blown away by the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. It makes 306 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. There’s plenty of torque at the low end and tons of power up near the car’s 7,000 rpm redline. Power delivery is linear, and the engine shoots the car down the road with ease.

2018 Honda Civic Type R on the track

Part of the reason the engine feels so good is due to the Type R’s clever front differential. The car features a special helical limited-slip differential and dual-axis strut system that reduces front-wheel-drive torque steer almost entirely. We honestly didn’t notice any torque steer while we were out on the track. Mind you, these were lead-follow laps, and we couldn’t really hammer the thing, but we still charged around the track with authority and no noticeable torque steer.

Handling is fantastic thanks to independent suspension all around and Honda’s Agile Handling Assist torque-vectoring system. You can go into a corner faster than you would expect, and the car manages it with ease. The four-piston Brembo brakes up front and single-piston rear brakes slow the car down easily as well.

2018 Honda Civic Type R rear

The Civic Type R features three different drive modes: Comfort, Sport, and +R. We toggled through the drive modes but primarily left the car in Sport mode. We did notice a difference between the modes but would have liked to be able to choose separate settings for suspension, powertrain, and steering, like some vehicles offer. The way the setup is now, the drive mode selection changes all three characteristics instead of letting you leave your suspension in comfort, put your steering in sport, and your powertrain in +R. Still, this is a minor gripe, and the car is really enjoyable in any mode.

The thing we liked the most about driving the Civic Type R is how easy and fun it was. The car makes anyone feel like a great driver. Our track driving skills aren’t appalling. We've had some minor instruction from professional drivers, but we wouldn't consider ourselves pros by any means. However, in the Type R, we felt more capable around the track than in some other vehicles because it's driving characteristics are so drama-free. The car feels planted and composed, and the rev-matching system makes downshifting a breeze. If you’re looking for a car that came make you feel good while you’re behind the wheel, this is it.

Totally Over-the-Top Styling

2018 Honda Civic Type R rear wing

Some people will find the Civic Type R attractive. Others will find it a little too expressive. We think it looks completely overdone. It’s certainly eye-catching but in a bad way. There’s tons of creases, plenty of silly-looking added fins and vents, a large hood scoop, a rear spoiler, and a huge wing on the back. Honda’s fine PR folks made it clear that all of the elements that we objected to are functional, and they were needed to create proper aerodynamics and downforce, but we think the regular hatchback is much more attractive.

2018 Honda Civic Type R cabin

The cabin of the car is more of the same. The red seats are there because Type R’s get red seats. We get it. Some of the bright colors and eye-catching elements in the cabin are part of what makes the Type R special, but we just found most of this stuff distracting. For a vehicle focused on the driving experience, the Type R does a lot of peacocking. It doesn’t need to. It can stand on its performance alone, and all the extra “look at me!” styling elements are unneeded.

Comfortable, Practical, and Awesome

2018 Honda Civic Type R front 3/4

If you can get over the Civic Type-R’s frankly ridiculous styling, the car is fantastic. It offers seating for four, a large cargo space, and everything you could want from a performance standpoint. It’s easy to drive, handles beautifully, and it feels legitimately fast. It competes with cars designed only for sporting endeavors but offers more practicality than many of them ever could. We regret that we didn’t have a chance to take the vehicle on the public road during our short first-drive experience. That said. we feel confident that the Type R would be just as enjoyable out on the open road.

Honda has nearly hit a home run in our opinion. We get that the exterior of the car is functional, adds downforce, and improves performance, but we think Honda could have crafted something a little sleeker and less obnoxious. However, even with the way it looks, the car drives so well and offers so much for its relatively low price, that we think you should definitely have this car at the top of your shopping list should you be in the market for a hot hatch.

2018 Honda Civic Type R wheels and brakes

The Civic Type R retails for $34,100. Aside from some small exterior and interior accessories, the car comes fully equipped with Honda’s satellite-linked navigation infotainment system and all the bells and whistles available for this specific model. It’s important to note that many dealers charge well over the suggested MSRP, so if you want a Civic Type R, you’re bound to pay more than its roughly $34k price tag.

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