Raising the high-performance hatchback bar
The all-new, latest-generation Honda Civic Type R raises the bar in the highly competitive high-performance hatchback segment. Honda’s latest thoroughbred makes full use of the marque’s Type R heritage and motorsport expertise, while applying meaningful innovation and further enhancing real driver appeal.
Thus, the 2018 Civic Type R combines cutting-edge technology and race car-derived aerodynamics with an all-new, lighter and stiffer platform, to deliver exhilarating dynamics and unparalleled front-wheel drive handling.
The high-revving, turbocharged four-cylinder engine links exceptional power output to equally impressive efficiency, affording both thrilling performance and outstanding fuel economy. A new six-speed manual transmission with rev-matching technology adds to the Type R’s engaging, driver-focussed character.
Featuring an impressive specific power output of 114 kW/litre, and a power-to-weight ratio of 168 kW/ton, this latest Civic Type R builds on the exceptional performance potential of its predecessor. The Honda rockets from rest to 100 km/h in a mere 5,8 seconds, and achieves a top speed of 272 km/h.
To further enhance the Type R experience, the newcomer offers three selectable driving modes, ranging from Comfort and Sport to the track-focussed ‘+R’ mode. Each setting invokes specific adjustments to the suspension, steering and throttle response.
While its performance pedigree is undisputed, the new Civic Type R also scores high marks in refinement and safety terms. The new flagship was developed in parallel with the latest Civic hatchback range, and therefore also benefits from its ultra-rigid, lightweight bodyshell and new, sophisticated suspension.
The extensive use of structural adhesive is not only an innovative measure that benefits both structural integrity and low mass, but is also reminiscent of the seam welding employed in racing cars.
That suspension comprises an advanced, dual-axis front set-up specifically designed to address torque steer while enhancing turn-in and steering feel, despite the Type R’s front-wheel drive configuration and considerable power potential.
Also new is the dual-pinion, variable-ratio power steering system, derived from the standard Civic Hatchback, but adapted specifically for its Type R application to ensure direct, confidence-inspiring steering feedback.
The rear suspension comprises a completely new multi-link design that benefits both overall refinement and unflustered stability at high speeds.
The aggressive styling of the new Civic Type R aptly reflects its dynamic character – but it’s not just for show. The new shape is longer, wider and lower than previous Type R models, while short overhangs and a muscular stance reflect the hatchback’s dynamic aspirations.
The aerodynamic elements include a smooth underbody, a front splitter and integrated spoiler creating a front air curtain, a prominent rear wing, and vortex generators on the trailing edge of the roofline. The result is an optimised balance of lift and drag, allowing exceptional high-speed stability.
The new Civic Type R boasts an interior perfectly suited to the hatchback’s extrovert character and performance prowess. The car’s increased dimensions translate into enhanced space and comfort front and rear.
Driver-focussed ergonomics with LCD instruments, sculpted bucket seats, eye-catching red accents and carbon fibre detailing, as well as a pervasive sense of premium quality, are some of the cabin’s key features.
The new Honda Civic Type R has already received numerous awards and accolades, and holds the current lap record for front-wheel drive cars at the daunting Nürburgring circuit in Germany.
The new lap record of 7min 43,8 sec is more than 7 sec faster than the previous Type R’s lap time.
THE NEW HONDA CIVIC TYPE R IN DETAIL
1. Styling and aerodynamics
Because the latest Civic Type R is based on the new-generation Civic launched in 2016, the newcomer is lower and wider than its predecessor. It also features a much more aggressive appearance, thanks to a host of aerodynamic additions aimed at enhancing stability at high speed.
The new Type R is 165 mm longer and 36 mm lower than its predecessor, endowing the car with a low-slung, poised appearance. The increased dimensions also boost interior space.
Aerodynamic enhancements unique to the Type R include a smooth underbody for uninterrupted airflow, a front splitter, and a prominent rear wing. The result is a best-in-class balance between lift and downforce, benefiting overall stability and composure.
The front is dominated by two large, sculpted air intakes with mesh inserts, with additional vertically stacked ducts on either side. The prominent front splitter extends across the width of the car and assists in creating an air curtain that boosts downforce over the front axle.
Slats behind the front wheel arches reduce static pressure inside the wheel arches, improving the lift coefficient by 1 percent.
The mesh-type main grille is framed by slim faired-in LED headlights with integrated LED daytime running lights. A lightweight aluminium bonnet achieves a 5,3 kg saving and features a sculpted, centrally mounted cooling duct.
Viewed in profile, the new 20-inch Berlina black alloy wheels are a prominent feature, further highlighted by the rim’s red styling line. Shod with 245/30 R20 tyres, the wheels fill the Type R’s accentuated, flared wheel arches to the brim. Carbon fibre-look sill extensions add to the hatchback’s low-slung stance.
The wide rear bumper hosts a full-width carbon fibre-look diffuser, again in the interests of keener aerodynamics, while the centrally located triple-exhaust tailpipe array is another head-turning feature. The bumper features directional strakes on either side.
Easily the most eye-catching exterior feature of the new Type R is the prominent rear wing, with its radically angled end plates. It’s partnered by a quartet of vortex generators located on the roofline’s trailing edge. A shark fin antenna is standard equipment.
The wing is lighter than the previous model’s design, and contributes to overall downforce, which benefits traction and stability, especially in high-speed corners. The Type R’s overall drag coefficient has been improved by 3 percent, compared to the previous model.
2. Chassis, Suspension And Steering
Like the latest-generation Civic, the 2018 Civic Type R employs an all-new platform that is both lighter and stiffer than the previous design. For its deployment in the Type R, the platform features a bespoke, sophisticated suspension set-up tuned for both responsive handling and smoother ride refinement.
The front suspension consists of a unique dual-axis set-up with a revised geometry that reduces the centre offset by 19 mm and the initial camber by 1,0 degree, compared to the standard Civic. This configuration addresses the torque steer often associated with high-powered front-wheel drive cars, while also maximising the Type R’s dynamic handling traits.
In addition, the suspension mass has been reduced by manufacturing the lower strut arms and knuckles from high-rigidity aluminium.
The all-new rear suspension employs a multi-link design with Type R-specific upper, lower and trailing arms, designed to enhance high-speed stability while also benefiting ride comfort. Stability under braking has been improved significantly, while body roll has been reduced, too.
Indeed, together with the lower centre of gravity and wider track, the new rear layout allows later braking at higher cornering speeds.
A key element of the new Type R’s handling prowess is a recalibrated Adaptive Damping System that allows an unusually wide compliance range. As a result, the Type R is able to offer exceptional ride refinement in the hot hatchback context, without compromising ultimate traction and handling prowess.
New three-chamber damper units provide much wider damping variability. The damping is continuously adjusted via electromagnetic coils inside the dampers, which react to data provided by an array of sensors, including a trio of G-sensors specifically linked to the damping system, as well as stroke sensors on each wheel’s suspension, steering angle and brake pressure sensors, and lateral G-force sensors.
The coils react to sensor input in milliseconds, which in turn adjust the damping force by changing the oil flow inside the dampers. The system operates on each wheel independently, ensuring enhanced road surface contact, even on uneven or variable surfaces.
The damping force is increased for the default ‘Sport’ driving mode, and even more so for the ‘+R’ mode. However, the greater variability of the system also means that the new ‘Comfort’ drive mode setting is significantly softer than the previous model’s default ‘Sport’ setting, further improving the versatility of the Type R.
The new Type R employs a dual-pinion variable-ratio electric power steering system for the first time. The dual-pinion design separates the steering and power assistance functions, while the ratio adjustment is determined by the geometry between the rack and pinion, rather than vehicle speed. The result is more consistent steering feedback.
The power steering system is individually calibrated for each of the three driving modes . Thus, the steering action and feedback in ‘+R’ mode is at its most direct, while ‘Sport’ provides a balance between linear and direct steering action. In ‘Comfort’, the focus is on a smooth and natural steering feel.
Also contributing to the new Civic Type R’s exceptional driver feel is Honda’s Agile Handling Assist (AHA) – an electronic stability system also fine-tuned for its Type R application.
AHA can apply subtle braking to the inner wheels when turning, resulting in increased response and stability at both low and high speeds. In the Type R, AHA even includes specific parameters for the car’s ‘+R’ driving mode.
With so much performance potential, it stands to reason that the Type R also features a high-capacity braking system. The front wheels are fitted with specially developed 350 mm ventilated, cross-drilled discs and Brembo four-pot callipers. The rear brakes comprise solid 305 mm discs – 9 mm larger than the previous model’s.
3. Drivetrain – engine, transmission and driving modes
Type R enthusiasts will be pleased to know that the latest, fifth-generation Civic Type R not only retains its benchmark 2,0-litre VTEC turbo engine with Earth Dreams Technology, but that the power unit has been further enhanced for its application here.
In fact, this latest iteration of the Type R’s turbocharged four-cylinder engine was named one of the authoritative automotive website, WardsAuto, as one of its 10 best engines of 2018 – a highly sought-after accolade.
As before, the 1 996 cc four-cylinder unit employs direct injection, VTEC variable valve timing and lift control, and advanced turbocharging to deliver a maximum output of 228 kW at 6 500 r/min, coupled to a torque peak of 400 Nm, maintained between 2 500 and 4 500 r/min.
While the output statistics remain the same, the engine has undergone a number of refinements and improvements for its application in the new Type R. For instance, the engine control software has been adapted to improve throttle response and tractability.
Other notable changes include the fitment of a single-mass flywheel for improved engine response and reduced inertial weight, and a bespoke triple exhaust that modulates the exhaust note.
Performance remains thrilling, too: the new Type R is credited with a 0-100 km/h acceleration time of 5,8 seconds, while it goes on to achieve a maximum speed of 272 km/h.
Triple exhaust array
A new feature of this latest Type R is the triple exhaust system, which combines two larger-diameter exhaust tailpipes with a smaller tailpipe mounted slightly above and between them. The two main tailpipes operate conventionally, and achieve a 10 percent improvement in flow rate, compared to the previous Type R.
The third, smaller tailpipe manages the enhanced exhaust sound of the new Type R by using additional exhaust flow when the engine speed rises to generate a more aggressive exhaust note that is 2dB louder than the previous model.
The triple-exhaust layout also creates negative pressure at specific engine speeds to reduce drone and boominess.
Enhanced gearbox with rev match control system
Also new is a rev match control system for the legendary, slick-shifting six-speed manual gearbox. The rev matching system aligns the engine speed with the gearbox’s main shaft speed when changing gears.
This prevents unwanted transmission shock, which can occur when engine speeds are too high, or too low during upshifts or downshifts. The rev-matching function can be switched on or off. The rev match control system’s characteristics are adapted to specifically suit each of the three selectable driving modes.
The transmission features an optimised gear ratio set, with the final gear ratio reduced by 7 percent to further enhance response to throttle input. In addition, a new, single-mass flywheel further boosts engine response by reducing clutch inertia weight by 25 percent.
Helical limited slip differential
Another feature unique to the Type R in the Civic range is the helical limited-slip differential which greatly enhances traction during cornering, even at high speeds. In addition, the Type R features a drive-by-wire throttle , which ensures more rapid (and more accurate) throttle actuation while further saving weight.
Because the helical LSD benefits cornering traction, compared to a traditional differential, it was a key contributor to the Type R’s record-breaking lap time at the Nürburgring.
Transmission reliability, even at prolonged high speeds and high loads, is enhanced through the fitment of a gearbox oil cooler, and by a finned transmission case that promotes efficient heat dissipation.
Extended driving modes
While the new Civic Type R clearly targets the needs and expectations of performance-orientated enthusiast drivers, Honda has also recognised the need for a broader range of selectable driving modes.
While the default ‘Sport’ and ‘+R’ modes have been retained, a new, third ‘Comfort’ mode has been added, which offers softer damping and smoother steering feel.
In addition, the improved calibration of the various settings and systems invoked by the trio of driving modes allows the new Type R to be more effectively tailored for different driving conditions and driver needs.
The new ‘Comfort’ mode ensures greater suspension compliance, especially on choppier and compromised surfaces, where the softer settings translate into enhanced composure at speed.
‘Sport’ mode remains the default setting, and combines comfort with sharper dynamic responses. The result is a driving mode approximately midway between the previous Type R’s ‘Sport ‘ and ‘+R’ modes.
The ‘+R’ mode remains a track-biased setting, with changes to the torque mapping and engine response allowing a more aggressive configuration with more torque on offer at lower engine speeds. The steering feel becomes more resolute, too, while the Vehicle Stability Assist system allows greater leeway in both yaw and slip rate before intervening. VSA and traction control can also be switched off completely in ‘+R’ mode.
Changes in instrument illumination confirm a new drive mode selection, with ‘+R’ boasting an intense red illumination scheme. Drive mode selection is via a switch behind the gear lever.