Like Toyota and Subaru, Honda had been quiet for a lengthy period of time. Their last car to don the fabled Type R badge was the FD2 & FN2 Civic which ceased production in 2011.
In the day and age where forced induction is now seen mainstream, many brand loyal devotees questioned Honda’s strategy as their underpowered naturally aspirated works of art got left behind.
Behind the scenes though, something revolutionary was brewing at Honda HQ which kept the dream and VTEC memes alive. As with the FT86 & BRZ, the new Honda Civic FK2 Type R materialised itself into production and helped keep the wonderful world of performance cars well and truly alive.
Good things come to those who wait.
If you haven’t been hiding under a rock for the last year or so, you’d know that Honda announced that the new Type R will be turbocharged. Crazy I know and even blasphemy for some.
We’ve seen what big bolt on turbos can do on high compression Honda motors so it only made sense for Honda to venture down this path again – the last time we saw a snail on a Honda from the factory was on the City Turbo in 1986.
Personally, I was excited to see what the hyped up turbo Type R had to offer, even if that just meant watching it on YouTube. Especially considering the FK2 wasn’t even confirmed for Australian shores, when would I ever get to see one in the flesh let alone drive one?
Guess it was just my lucky day…
Originally intending to hire out the FD2 Type R for a day, I coincidentally stumbled on the FK2 upon booking which had only been made available a few days ago (Japan release was in Feb 2016). Call it fate, luck or just plain awesomeness, there was no way I was going to let this pass up.
My itinerary transformed into mayhem as I frantically selected any available 3 hour slot for my rental. Forget seeing the rest of Japan! Ensuring I had bragging rights and the right to be smug when I returned home took priority over all else.
Having a poke around the new Civic Type R while we were inspecting for damage and finalising paperwork I was quite fumbled.
It was nothing new since I’ve seen the car featured online and in publications, but on close inspection the car looked a little mismatched.
The wide front fenders looked like it belonged in a J’s Racing or Amuse widebody catalogue and just didn’t flow with the rest of the smooth body. In a way it reminded me of an aggressive looking hatchback rally or hill climb car back in the day, but this isn’t a Pikes Peak Hill Climb kind of car.
Front wise it was all sharp and even hawk looking but otherwise tame. The LED lights were a decent touch to make it stand out from your normal VTi daily.
A nice rear end always scores highly in my books and on the Type R it’s not too shabby. Quad tailpipes poke out through the purposeful looking diffuser while the big wing adds more chunkiness, complementing the overall aggressive look.
Enough gawking though, how was it to drive?
My previous Fun2Drive article set a precedence so I don’t blame you if you’re looking forward to a concise but precise overview of this car. Truth be told though, you may be in for a disappointment. I don’t mean the car though, but the fact that I simply could not for the life of me find any good roads to test this beast on within my 3 hours of rental. The Chiba/Ibaraki region must have the flattest and most boring roads in Japan. I thought driving to Tsukuba Circuit might yield some entertaining corners but alas there was none (and no sign of the Best Motoring/Hot Version cast). By the time I got there and took some happy snaps and video it was already time to head back… Say whaaaaaaaaat?
Try as I might at every traffic light, endless slow traffic barely let me wind out 2nd and 3rd gear. On the rare occasion when I did get the chance to open her up though, it was a pleasant experience. There was minimal torque steer (thanks to the factory LSD and funky new suspension setup) and power kept climbing all the way to the 7K redline, very linear compared to what I was expecting.
In contrast to a Golf GTi , Focus ST or Mazda 3 MPS where max torque is produced early in the rev range whereby the response is quite violent (and fun), the Type R steadily feeds power across the full 180degree revolution with no sign of the distinct VTEC bark.
Without the early violent shove it doesn’t actually feel that fast but looking at the speedo proves otherwise. If I had to pit this against my S15 Pearl with stock turbo on e85 with 223kW on a rolling start, I’d put my money on the Honda taking the victory but only just (Pearl with her GTX2867 is a different story though!).
Handling wise, the FK2 has already proven its worth at the Green Hell. Crisp turn in, heavy solid front end and planted stance ensures it’ll be eating those corners all day long.
From my brief stint in the all new FK2, it did leave me with a good impression. Simply (or strangely) put, it was pleasant. This was a car I could imagine driving every day, it was just so easy to live with. Smooth shifting, light clutch, roomy cabin, space for five, functional cluster and not too stiff (the wife even fell asleep) – at times I almost felt like I was driving the base model Civic. Even when it was time to boogie and depress the “R” button, the car didn’t wildy go super saiyan. The impeccable smoothness remained whilst increasing responsiveness, power and ride firmness.
I really wish Honda would bring this thing here, the ADM could really do with a fresh JDM hero. Not just because it’s a great car straight out of the factory, but to keep the JDM car enthusiast culture alive (and to slow down the inevitable migration to Golf’s).
The Evo and WRX have matured to sensible machines and the 86 is just the new lancer we’re used to seeing back in the day.
And Nissan… Well Nissan doesn’t seem to want a piece of the affordable enthusiast pie anymore either so bring on the FK2 and power of dreams that is Honda.
You do have to wonder though… will the styling grow on you? It certainly did for me (if not visualise it in white).
Bonus video and pics: