2020 Honda Civic Type R Review: An Open Letter

They say don’t meet your heroes; they are wrong.

Dear Dreamy-Eyed Enthusiast, 

I know it’s not easy being an enthusiast in today’s world. As we step into a new decade, we carry with us the ever-increasing wage disparity, inflation and house prices. Not to mention the push towards electric cars. And if like me, you happen to be a JDM guy but with a family, any conversation regarding buying a car likely revolves around crossovers and hybrids.

For someone who’s grown up brandishing Lamborghini Diablo and Porsche 917 posters, the conversation can be dread-inducing. And if also like me you are looking to pitch the 2020 Honda Civic Type R as the ideal family car, you are in luck. I just recently drove one and know exactly how to go about it. But to be convincing you first need to be convinced yourself. 

Here Is My Argument 

From the moment you climb into the cabin, you know the Civic Type R means business. Red Alcantara as a choice of fabric is a bit over the top but a necessary addition I suppose. The steering wheel feels perfect, the aluminum shifter of the close-ratio six-speed manual, even more so. The front seats are enveloping and comfortable.

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Yes, they are bolstered and yes, it’s a little work to reach around them to hand something to your toddler and your passenger cannot turn around at all. But despite their red-ness, they are one of the most comfortable seats of any car. You can easily spend hours in them without feeling fatigued. Plus, toddlers are easy to train. You can always keep everything by his side before you set off. 

When you do set off, you won’t want to stop. The 2.0-liter turbocharged VTEC is a work of art. No longer do you need to wait for the VTEC to kick in. Thanks to turbocharging, you get the double whammy of mid-range torque and top-end VTEC power. The moment you hit 2,500 rpm the 295 lb-ft of torque ninja kicks you in the back of the head as you leave everyone behind in the wake of front-wheel drive dust. The second kick comes in as the needle rushes past 6,000 rpm but the VTEC never kicks in, not in the traditional sense anyway.  

SEE ALSO: 2020 Honda Civic vs 2020 Toyota Corolla Comparison

No time to relax, time to slot the impeccable close-ratio H-pattern into second, a slight fight from the gear linkage and the needle drops to the torque band, a wide smile appears, and the ninja kick returns. You can row through the gears by gently sliding the lever through the H-pattern. And never along the way do you ever feel a hint of vagueness or hesitance from the gearbox. Every shift is short, precise, and joyous. It’s like having a conversation with an old friend who simply gets it. 

But do all that I mentioned alone. You might want to take it easy when the passenger seat is occupied for hell hath no fury like a partner who thinks you will drive like a hooligan if you buy the car.  And did I mention the sound? It sounds throaty as the revs build. The induction noise is joined by the whistle of the turbos as you near the red line. In a nutshell, it sounds good. But then it would because most of the engine sound comes through the speakers. Honestly, the exhaust sounds meh at best, note: Replace exhaust. 

But it’s not the 306 hp or the engine responsiveness that will floor you, it is the handling. You might think, “how good a front-wheel-drive car can be?” The Civic Type R takes all your skepticism and kicks it firmly in the hindquarters.

Calling the car good would be an insult. It is mind-bogglingly sharp. I’ve driven go-karts with duller steering. The slightest movement of the wheel and the nose is already in line with the corner while your brain is still where the car was a second ago. It is hard to keep up with how fast it can change direction.

The Helical LSD works its magic as the front never seems out of shape or out of grip. You must have heard this a million times but the dual-axis strut with adaptive damper up front and the independent rear end makes it corner almost like a racecar. It just sticks.  The Conti Sport Contact 6 tires can get squirmy in the wet but are perfect for grip. I had one with the 20-inch wheels and ultra-low profile tires. Unless you are planning on hitting the track every couple of weeks, I strongly suggest the more road and passenger-friendly 19 inchers. Your partner will thank you for them. 

How To Make Your Case 

Now that you are convinced, it’s time for the tricky part. Here is how you can convince your partner that the Civic Type R is the best family car.

Before you get to the car make sure you take your partner out for a pleasant lunch, preferably sans the child. You need their full attention. Start with the basics during appetizers.

SEE ALSO: 2019 Honda Civic Review

It is a Honda Civic after all. It has four doors, a large trunk and is quite practical…ish. There is ample storage space in the center console as well. Yes, it can’t seat three at the back but that’s good. You will never be obliged to ferry your unwanted relatives around. Plus, there are not one but two bottle holders where the middle seat used to be. That is an advantage as you can keep all of the toddler’s stuff right within his seat while he sits snug in his own bolstered seat.

Yes, the described above is a hooligan and yes, the four-piston Brembo brakes grab the wheels if you cough on them, but the car is only a hooligan in the +R mode and most of Sport mode. Put it into comfort mode and becomes a regular Civic. A regular Civic with a stiffer set up, track wheels and Brembo brakes—but a civic. It soaks up bumps with ease and even the steering loosens up by a fair degree. As for the brakes, you can learn to be very careful with them. And the trunk can swallow a week’s worth of vacation luggage with ease. Make sure you mention that, a lot.

It also comes with adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist and blind spot detection. See, it’s a lot more like the Civic than we think (make sure you say that). Plus, for $38,845 (including destination) you get a car that is a corner carver, city slicker and highway cruiser all rolled into one. And here is the kicker, for extra effect add that the average price of a car in the US was $36,718 in 2019 and you’re barely paying $2,100 over the average amount. You can quote $41,563 if you want the accessories kit replete with a carbon-fiber wing, interior accents, and a carbon-fiber hood scoop. But I would advise against pushing your luck.

Before you go here is a small list of…

Things To Avoid

Don’t mention the styling, at all. I know it looks as ostentatious as a Pokemon evolution gone wrong and you warm up to it once you drive it and you’d rather it not look like anything else. But don’t say it. Even though you have spent three hours on the internet researching the aerodynamic reasons for the Type R’s styling. Your partner will likely not like the way it looks. Move past it.

Whatever you do, do not mention the fuel economy. I got about 21.7 mpg overall despite driving most of the week like my mother. Most of it is down to the close-ratio gearbox which deliberately ensures you’re always in the torque band. And the auto blipping feature shares a part of the blame as well. You could turn it off but don’t, it’s too much fun. 

Also, do not mention the infotainment system. Yes, it’s an improvement over the previous years but that’s like saying Limp Bizkit’s second album was better than the first. It works, it now has physical buttons but you’re better off sticking to Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. 

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There you go that should cover it. Now you are ready to make your case for the 2020 Civic Type R to your partner as a responsible father and fellow partner. Let me know how it goes.

Good Luck 

Signed 

Kshitij (a fellow Type R aspirant) 

Verdict: 2020 Honda Civic Type R

The Honda Civic Type R is hands down one of the best cars I have ever driven. With the FK8 Civic Type R Honda has pushed the envelope of front-wheel-drive performance and you can watch it bend. It makes the argument for AWD and RWD hot hatches redundant. The Civic Type R strikes the perfect balance between weight, powertrain, and suspension setup. The superb suspension setup ensures mid-corner stability, a 3121 lbs curb weight means it goes like stink and stops and turns on a dime, it also means it’s flickable and sharp. And not enough can be said about the incredible close-ratio gearbox that makes you want to row through the gears every time you prod a pedal. 

Yes, it looks like it is designed by a ten-year-old and the infotainment system is just plain confusing and old. You can’t seat more than two average-sized adults in the rear and the fuel economy is well, low. But none of that matters once you drive it. The only thing you might miss is the ability to set up individual modes according to your preference like you get in the Volkswagen Golf R. There are more powerful, affordable, and less red alternatives out there. But before you head out with your checkbook, I implore you to spend a day in the Type R before you sign the dotted line.  

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