Don’t flip ahead. We know you really just want to jump to the lap time on the newest Honda Civic Type R, but trust us: Take the ride first.

Yeah, lap times are important and, in the case of the most recent iteration of the hottest Civic, impressive, but they don’t tell the whole story. So before you peek at the …

It’s Fast, Right?

Okay, you’ve listened long enough, so let’s get to the track time. That’s what you want, right? Yeah, it’s fast. Real fast. 

In fact, the 1:20.62 lap time around the Florida International Rally & Motorsport Park, our official test track, firmly put it at the top of the “hot hatch” pile, threatening to knock on the door of the legitimate sports car club. 

That time is more than a second faster than the bulk of its competition, including the Toyota GR Corolla, the Hyundai N models and, yes, the previous FK8 Civic Type R. The Volkswagen Golf R comes closest on the lap chart–still six-tenths behind the new Type R, though, and greatly assisted by its prodigious all-wheel-drive thrust and powerful turbocharged engine.

As we’re always quick to point out, though, lap times don’t tell the whole story. And oddly enough, our VBox data doesn’t fill in the entire narrative in this case, either, because the true surprise of the new Civic Type R is the feel on track. 

1. The red speed trace follows the current Type R around our test track, while the blue one logs the previous model. It’s pretty apparent in this third-gear acceleration zone that the newer car is leveraging its additional rated horsepower and turning it into more thrust through that gear. 2. The latest Type R also has a fractionally longer wheelbase, which could be part of this more aggressive braking trace. The newer car loses speed at a greater rate than the old car, as evidenced by the steeper descending speed trace. 3. Speed through corners is close enough that we’ll call it a tie. The older car is even marginally faster across a couple apexes. At any rate, it’s giving up very little absolute grip to its replacement, even if the new car feels more stable generating that grip.

As we alluded to before, all four tires are deeply involved in the effort here, which means less relative work being done by the fronts. And that means less understeer, better response and simply less work to be done to get the most potential out of the front tires. When we gave our previous FK8 Civic TypeR back to Honda after just a few hot laps, the front tires showed some wear. They were clearly doing a substantial share of the total work, and the driving style it demanded reflected that. All you could do was take the fronts to their limit, wait for them to comply, then get back to full throttle.

In the newest Type R, all the control systems are available to affect the cornering attitude of the car at both ends. Yeah, more throttle generally brings more understeer, but setting the slip angle on the rear tires is on the table now, with well-timed lifts and aggressive corner entries. This shows up in the data trace in a few instances as more stable speeds through long corners for the new car over the previous one. That’s because the newest Type R is simply easier to balance and better accepts subtle control inputs. 

Braking continues to be excellent, with 13.8-inch front and 12-inch rear discs squozen by four- and two-piston calipers, respectively. Our data recorded excellent braking on both generations of Civic Type R, but we did see a couple instances of more stable high-g deceleration from the newer car. Nothing dramatic, but this could be the work of a marginally longer wheelbase keeping that longitudinal weight transfer in check a bit more. 

Photography Credit: David S. Wallens

The biggest time gaps we saw between the FK8 Type R and the current FL5, however, were in third-gear acceleration. The new car simply comes off medium-speed corners more aggressively, and that’s giving it the most edge over the old model. Taking some of the cornering load away from the front tires has freed up capacity for acceleration load, it seems, and it’s paying off in reduced lap times. The newer car can simply get the power down earlier and stronger and get the thrust going in the right direction sooner.

Comparing the newest Type R to a more recent hot hatch fave, the Toyota GR Corolla, we can really see the Honda’s balanced handling make the difference. Acceleration for both the Civic and the GR are very similar–almost sitting directly on top of each other in many cases–but the Honda’s willingness to enter and negotiate medium-speed corners is clearly what makes the difference in lap times between it and the Corolla. 

This is backed up by the delta-T graph in VBox’s Circuit Tools, showing that the Honda gains its biggest advantages into and through third-gear corners. And that’s where the Toyota must slow even further to maintain stability on entry. The Honda’s newfound low center of gravity and sports car-like handling separate it from the top-heavy hatch–and the stopwatch notices. 

A New Era?

The Type R may be bigger than before, but it’s more stable than some of its competitors, too, especially the GR Corolla. The data simply shows that the Honda can maintain more speed through medium-speed corners. Photography Credit: David S. Wallens

The lap time alone is enough to put the Civic Type R on top of the hot hatch heap for now, but Honda’s redefinition of what a sporty compact car should feel like is the lead story here. 

Traditionally, hot hatches–and the Civic Type R in particular–have made their speed through brute force. They overcome their economy car architecture with massive power and stiff suspensions, pushing their front tires in pursuit of speed. 

The new Type R flips that script and turns the Civic into a GT, something that feels more like an M3 than a ’roided-out grocery getter. And it leverages that newfound refinement to produce some stunning performance.

Of course, the downside is that world-class performance and feel comes with a world-class price tag. Expect to pay north of $44,000 for a Civic Type R–if you can get it at sticker. And spoiler alert: You probably can’t. 

Those willing to open their wallets, however, will be rewarded with a car that performs as well or better than anything in its class, and does so while feeling very much like its own thing, not a hot version of a lesser car.


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