Honda Civic Type-R - Civic Pre-slammed


That red Honda badge means a license to drift. So we had to try that out, right? Ever tried wasabi sauce? Well, you need to be careful with the stuff – it is usually hidden beneath a harmless looking, recently dead piece of fish. It is so pungent that unsuspecting souls who are new to the concept of sushi end up tasting the sauce through newly discovered taste-buds in their nostrils. Yes, nostrils. The red background in the Honda badge is similar in concept – it is an acquired taste, but I can tell you that it is better than raw fish.  

Back in 1992, Honda decided that their mid-engined supercar was not selling like wasabi and decided to give its engine and suspension a dose of ‘works’ magic. And someone did a bit of research and found out that a red background for the bread-and-butter Honda ‘H’ can give it a bit more character – the Type-R was born. Fifteen years of tinkering meant those spicy Integras and hot Civics entertained a whole bunch of enthusiasts and ensured that some of them lost their driving licenses. 

In the heart of the Civic Type-R you see in these pages lies the K20A 2000cc four-pot i-VTEC that has been put through a severe steroid programme to develop a whopping 225 bhp at a screaming 8000 rpm and 21.9 kgm of drifting force at 6100 rpm. Lessons learnt from NSX engine mods like smoother port surfacing and improved intake/exhaust flow helped matters here. Add to that drive-by-wire, fine-tuned throttle response and a close-ratio six-speed manual transmission with aluminium casing (and a baffle plate to help mitigate oil starvation at high cornering speeds, says the press release, hinting at its drift capability) and you get a battle-ready powertrain.   Obviously, the ordinary suspension will throw all of the above towards a friendly tree, so Honda has tweaked it with tuned springs and revised damper rates and has also thrown in thicker stabiliser bars. Then come the 18-inch wheels shod with 225/40 R18 Bridgestone Potenza RE070 rubber, torque – sensitive helical limited slip differential (hint again), large Brembo disc brakes with four-pot callipers (remember the tree?) and a re-tuned ABS/EBD system to make up the running gear.  

Now that I have exhausted the information given to me by Honda, I can tell you how it was to drive one in the tight handling track at Honda’s Tochigi proving grounds. Alright, I was supposed to get only two laps at Tochigi but I was downright greedy and sweet talked the lady with the white umbrella to make it five. Yes, five laps. Compared to the Integra Type-R that I drove on the same circuit two years back, the Civic Type-R was less of a hooligan. But aggression – right from the first blip to the angry vacuum-pop when you shut it down – is the name of the game here. It was almost impossible to get the engine to rev to its 8,000 rpm redline in a track devoid of straights, but I did manage to keep it on the boil as I got friendlier with the wet conditions. The most sideways I have been on a racing track is when I sampled the magnificent Audi RS4 in Dubai last year – the 40/60 torque split helping matters in that case. In the case of the Civic Type-R you get no assistance whatsoever – it is a full-on front-wheel driver at low speeds and you need to really give it the boot to get it to power oversteer mode. Once you succeed to agitate the Type-R DNA, you start drifting through the corners. I said you and not me. 

It is not easy to not counter-steer when the tail breaks loose and I didn’t want to end up in the slushy grass bank. That meant taking it a bit easy and gunning for apexes and exercising those Brembos well within their limits. Even then, there were a few drops of sweat rolling down my forehead every time I said arigato and clambered out of the car.This car is more addictive than nicotine and more intoxicating than the strongest sake you can find. And with the right kind of chips thrown in, it can pump out much more horsepower which can only add charm to the slightly pimped-out ride that this Civic is. Lest we forget, the Type-R is more aerodynamic and features a larger air intake in the front bumper and grille, a diffuser built into the rear bumper, a rear spoiler tall enough to substitute a ladder and tasty sill dressing. 
The rice rocket theme continues inside with the colour black dominating. Bucket seats with side bolsters grip most bottoms and ribcages well and is a nice place to be slammed back into as the Type-R goes through the gears. Red flashing lights on the rev counter ensures that you shift to the next gear before the taut motor explodes and sends metal bits flying in all directions. A smaller leather trimmed steering wheel, aluminium shift-knob, drilled pedals, short-stroke sports shift linkage and a ‘proper’ starter button complete the interior. 

Now the operative part. Honda India would like to bring it to India and are now studying the prospect – they are not sure there are enough hardcore chargers out there who would buy a factory prepared banshee mobile. Interestingly, it is fighting a backroom battle with the hybrid version of the Civic which would cost the same as the Type R once imported into India (approximately Rs 18-22 lakh). 

Enthusiast blood or save-the-tree brigade – whom will Honda India support? Let us only hope that performance prevails over the mind for one last time.