Channel Your Inner Teenage Boy in the Honda Civic Type R Track-Born Hatchback

Honda Civic Type R Hatchback
See that grin? THAT is what it looks like to go 125 MPH on a world class track. Photo: Scotty Reiss

You Remember Him. He Taught You How to Have Fun.

Sometimes you just need a lift, right? A reason to laugh, freedom from what bogs you down (work, kids, bills, politics), a little adrenaline coursing through your veins that leaves you with a refreshed view of life.

Teenage boys seem to just live that way, reveling in the thrill, balancing risk with reward, and living for the next thrill just around the corner. I knew boys like this in college and sought to catch that fever and hold onto it, so I’d never forget how to have fun. Now I’m a grown-up girl, and as much as I’d like to live like that, it’s not always possible. Or is it?

That’s what the Honda Civic Type R wants you to do: live like that.

Honda Civic Type R Sports Sedan

The Honda Civic Type R in front of Gear Head Deli, denoted fittingly by a checkered flag. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Who This Car is For:

  • Drivers who want the ultimate sport driving experience
  • Drivers who want a 306 horsepower engine and a finely tuned race car
  • Buyers who will take their car out on a track
  • Drivers who like to drive a manual transmission (the only option)
  • Buyers who need flexible cargo and passenger space
  • Drivers who occasionally have backseat passengers
  • Buyers looking for a car that projects a sporty racing image
Honda Civic Type R Sports Sedan

A storage cubby under the center console holds the USB and 12V charge ports and is big enough to stash a phone or two. Photo: Scotty Reiss

What the 2017 Civic Type R Costs

$34,775. That’s it.

You can add a wireless phone charger for $305, and a few accessories such as a Type R branded car cover or side moulding for a few hundred more. But this price includes everything, from the Brembo brakes and 6-speed race-tuned transmission to the red micro-suede interior, 20-inch wheels, and the navigation system. Truly, everything is included.

One word about this though: we did learn that due to demand, some dealerships ask for a premium fee over the MSRP. This is a no-no; they are not supposed to do this. If a dealer tells you this, go find another dealer.

See what the Honda Civic Touring offers for $27,000

Honda Civic Type R Sports Sedan

That spoiler! Designed to keep the rear end grounded by forcing air down, it also looks like the winged feet of Mercury. Note also the red ‘H’ which is exclusive to the Type R and the triple exhaust pipes. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Track Performance Inspires the Broader Family of Honda Cars

While our inner teenage boy may inspire us to have fun, we might be less interested in what he’s obsessed with. He will push an engine to its limits to see what it can do. He’ll tinker with fuel mixes to see if he can eke out a bit more horsepower. He’ll modify things like spoilers, brakes and air intakes to add a tenth of a second to the performance. And he’ll pour over the performance stats the way his mom might wish he’d poured over his college entrance essay.

That is exactly what Honda’s engineers did with the Civic, looking at every feature, adding some, and enhancing others to give the Type R the best performance possible on the track.

And what Honda’s engineers learn here will pop up in the next Civic, Accord, Pilot or Odyssey (the Odyssey, in fact, has paddle shifters for more control over the engine!). Putting all its power under one hood, the Type R was first introduced overseas 10 years ago. Now it’s here in the US adding to the family of Civics. These range from the LX to Touring models (which carry a 174 horsepower turbocharged engine) and its slightly less powerful sibling the Civic Si, which carries a 205 horsepower turbocharged engine.

Wonder how this car REALLY performs on the track? Professional driver Ryan Lewis put it to the test and we got to ride up front.

Honda Civic Type R Sports Sedan

The fleet of Civic Type Rs we drove at Ridge Motorsports track in Shelton, Washington. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Add a Track Membership to Your Budget. Please.

You’ll be glad you did. Because this car belongs on the track. To demonstrate this, Honda arranged track time at Ridge Motorsports Park for us to try it out. We listened to the ‘chalk talk’ rules of the track, then donned helmets, got into cars in waves of five at a time, and followed professional driver Ryan Lewis through the curves and hills of this track. It was a slightly longer version of the world-famous Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California.

What’s it like to drive Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca?

Around the 2.5 mile track we got to experience a thrilling 125 MPH on the track’s longest stretch; a classically fun, easy-to-shift transmission and clutch (this is what I love about Japanese cars—easy gearshifts and a soft, springy clutch); a VTEC and turbocharged engine that sparks instant response to acceleration (this is key for hitting top speed on the straightaway); a tight suspension and front wheel drive that allows the car to hug every curve; wide wheels and a low, muscular stance for even better control on the track; enhanced airflow, including that very conspicuous rear spoiler for maximum aerodynamics. Oh, and that rear spoiler? It’s said to add 66 lbs of downforce at 125 MPH, a true advantage on the track.

So seriously, if this car is at all in your sights for your next purchase, budget for track time too. Otherwise, you’re missing the point.

Honda Civic Type R Sports Sedan

The driver information screen includes performance feedback including (l-r in the speedometer) turbo thrust monitor, shift indicator and g-force monitor. In the upper left corner the “+R” indicates we are in race mode. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Finding Even More Thrills in … The Data?

“In God we trust. All others bring data.” This quote from the famous engineer W. Edwards Deming sums up how our world works these days: even the most mundane tasks can be measured for efficiency, potential and new opportunities.

So the metrics that a car’s engineering or a race driver’s team may look at are now available to the owner of the Civic Type R. Driver feedback lets you measure and visualize your throttle and braking input, turbo boost, g-force distribution, lap time and engine speed.

Honda Civic Type R Sports Sedan

Each of the 5,000 Honda Civic Type Rs built get a unique numbered plaque. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Drive Mode Settings Let You Manage the Thrill (As in, Not All the Time)

The Type R also has several drive mode settings. This puts the right amount of power in the right place for the drive experience you want. The three drive modes are:

  • Comfort: This setting turns down some of the sportiness, making for a more comfortable ride for passengers and reduces ‘shift shock’ or the lunge passengers may feel when the driver shifts gears.
  • Sport: This is the default mode, midway between the comfort and +R settings. This is the Type R’s natural state with a feeling of power and responsiveness.
  • +R: This is race mode. The transmission is more responsive, the throttle is more powerful and traction and stability are dialed down or can be turned off. In +R the driver is truly in charge of the car’s performance.
Honda Civic Type R Sports Sedan

The Honda Civic Type R is at home in front of Gear Head Deli in Quilcene, Washington. In addition to the spoiler, the Type R features air curtains, an air intake system, racing brakes and run-flat performance tires. Photo: Scotty Reiss

A Few More Track-Worthy Features Set This Car Apart

The Type R’s performance can also be seen and heard in four key features: Rev matching, triple exhaust, a red interior and a rear wing.

  • So first, rev matching: When you downshift, you can hear the engine ‘blip’ or rev; this basically matches the engine speed to the car’s speed to reduce any shock the system may experience when downshifting. It’s a bit loud, a sign you’re driving a stick shift and that it’s a powerful engine. The rev matching feature simply eliminates the need to do this yourself, something that race drivers typically do.
  • The triple exhaust adds a visual and performance benefit: the two outer pipes enhance airflow through the engine (helped by all the intake ducts on the front of the car), and the center tube pipes out a bit of engine sound. Not too much, Honda promised, just enough for a subtle, pleasing sound.
  • The red race seats: these can be customized with a 5-point harness for owners who regularly drive on the track, and the red is indicative of racing. It just makes you feel a bit faster and sportier.
  • And the wing: the oversized, custom designed and built spoiler, it has double duty. It not only keeps the rear end of the Civic Type R firmly planted on the track, but it also lets everyone around you know this car is fast. No, it’s not detachable (not easily, anyway, though I’m pretty sure someone will try), so for good or for bad, it’s part of the Type R’s character. Purists might not understand anyone who wants to remove it until after their third or fourth speeding ticket.
Honda Civic Type R Sports Sedan

The center console has a sliding cup holder and a deep well, ideal for oversized water bottles, Venti Lattes, electronics or small bags. Photo: Scotty Reiss

The Civic Type R Works Well on the Road, Too

And now, back to reality.

If you spend $34k on a car, you want it to do more than sit in your garage until you can get to the track. Honda gets that, so the Type R’s interior features give this sporty hatchback some realistic utility for how you live.

There is plenty of room in the front seat to put your stuff, including a deep cup holder in the center console under the armrest. This will hold a venti latte or supersized water bottle. Also, there are sliding cup holders, so if you need to stow smaller items like a tablet or small bag in the center console, you can. It also has a sliding tray for change.

Just in front of the gear shifter at the bottom of the center console is a small storage space. Additionally, underneath the center console is another small storage cubby. Both of these spaces are ideal for a phone, keys or other small items. Charge ports are in the lower cubby, but there’s a passthrough for charge cords, so you can plug in down below and thread the cord to the upper tray. This keeps things neat.

Honda Civic Type R Sports Sedan

This four-door hatchback has all the function of the Civic, with seats that fold for more cargo space

Rear Seats and Cargo Space Make This a Good Car For Everyday Life

The rear seats are roomy enough for your leggier friends: I’m 5’8 and found it comfortable. The seats fold down for carrying cargo, and the hatchback offers nice accessibility to your stuff. I loved that Honda has added a smart cargo cover system. There’s a soft panel inserted into the lower portion of the rear window and another panel that pulls across when you need it or retracts when you don’t, sort of like a retractable blind. Here’s a video that shows how it works:

You can also install a cargo net, which I would recommend for groceries, just in case you find a fun, twisty road on the way home.

Also, the smaller size of this car makes my handbag accessible when I put it on the back seat. I could easily reach it when I needed it, though I found that if I didn’t nestle it into the bucket of the seat, it was likely to turn over when I turned a corner. I blame that squarely on the Type R. With every corner, every on ramp and every straightaway, I was able to channel my inner teenage boy, adding a little more laughter and more adrenaline to my day.

Honda Civic Type R Sports Sedan

The cabin of the Civic Type R puts performance squarely in focus with red seats, red accents and lush suede trim. Photo: Scotty Reiss

What We Loved

  • 306 horsepower turbo engine—wowee!
  • Easy and fun to drive manual transmission
  • Four doors and seating for 5
  • Comfort drive mode available—reduces ‘shift shock’ for the comfort of your passengers
  • Red micro suede interior
  • All the driver feedback functions, so you can really measure your performance
  • Sporty look and feel of this car
  • Super smart cargo cover
  • The $34K flat price
Honda Civic Type R Sports Sedan

Yes, this is a four-door car, and yes, it fits four passengers–maybe even five! Photo: Scotty Reiss

What You Need to Know

  • Only available in a manual stick shift, not available in automatic
  • Only 5,000 of these beauties will be built this year
  • 100K miles before first scheduled tune-up (regular maintenance and oil changes are required, however)
  • The spoiler is factory-installed and part of the car; it can’t (or shouldn’t) be removed
  • Electronic parking brake (not a hand brake)
  • Premium fuel recommended for maximum horsepower, but regular fuel can be used too
  • Estimated fuel economy: 22 MPG city/28 MPG highway (on the track all bets are off, though; I’m SURE we went through more fuel than that!)
Honda Civic Type R Hatchback

My driving partner Alice and I ran into Civic Type R fans Heidi and Ron (center) on the road in Quilcene, Washington. They asked -seriously- if they could buy the car from us. You can read Alice’s take on the Type R, and her emotional connection to the Civic, here. Photo: Scotty Reiss

My Type R Inspired Playlist

On the track, you want to listen to the engine and focus on the road. But getting there, and afterward, it’s a different story. Here’s what pumped my adrenaline and kept it going.

Disclosure: I was Honda’s guest for this test drive; travel and accommodations were provided. All opinions expressed are my own.

Honda Civic Type R Sports Sedan

Journalist, entrepreneur and mom. Expertise includes new cars, family cars, 3-row SUVs, child passenger car seats and automotive careers... More about Scotty Reiss