The extroverted, track-ready Honda Civic Type R is the car for enthusiasts who think the Civic Si is too tame.

From its 306-hp turbo engine to its stiffly sprung suspension to its air scoops, diffusers, ducts, and wings, the Type R takes the Civic from mild to wild, with an excitement quotient that rivals the Ford Focus RS, Subaru WRX STI, and Volkswagen Golf R.

From bumper to bumper, the car is fortified for high-performance driving, but in the rarefied category of track-prepped sport compact cars, not having all-wheel drive is notable. Honda says there are three reason for that: Front-wheel drive saves weight; the vehicle stays lower to the ground; and it's cheaper by $1,500 to $2,000. The ultimate goal was to make, in Honda's words, “a light, affordable, very fast, track-ready car.”

We rented a Civic Type R from Honda to evaluate its performance and everyday drivability—on the road and at its limits around our test track

What We Drove: Honda Civic Type R Touring

Drivetrain: 2.0-liter, 306-hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine; six-speed manual transmission; front-wheel drive
MSRP: $33,900
Destination fee: $875
Options: None
Total cost: $34,775

How It Drives

Head out onto the road, and the Type R's clutch is light and easy to use, while the robust six-speed manual slashes from gear to gear with crisp, positive motions. Mash the throttle in first or second gear, and the front tires spin easily while the engine revs quickly; you’ll need to restrain yourself on the gas pedal to prevent front axle hop, even when the roads are dry. If it’s wet out, putting all that power to the front tires effectively becomes a lesson in judicious throttle application.

This engine lacks in the sonic sensations of the high-revving Honda engines from the past, but it makes up for that with sheer force. And although the Type R is a serious machine, it has an automatic throttle-blip feature that can be turned on to smooth out shifts for those who aren’t adept at the art of heel-and-toe downshifting.

As potent as its power is, it’s the Type R's pinpoint handling that makes it a fast friend on a racetrack or twisty back road. Aim it into a corner, and its quick and precise steering makes it enjoyable to clip apexes, without body roll and almost limitless grip from its sticky tires. We found it balanced and forgiving around our test track, with a keen ability to adjust its line mid-corner with slight throttle corrections. The large brakes are powerful and firm, with great feedback through the pedal.

Three-mode adjustable suspension gives the Type R more daily usability than its flashy body might imply. While R setting stiffens the suspension for race-track duty or playing on smooth back roads, the tamer Comfort mode gets rid of much of the car's harsh, bouncy edge, making it tolerable on all but the bumpiest surfaces.

Keep in mind that the Type R is not a quiet traveler: Road and tire noise are considerable, and the din can grow tiring on longer trips. Hit a pothole and you’re greeted with a loud thump from the low-profile tires. But don’t be thrown by the tri-outlet exhaust system. In spite of its raucous look, the Type R is more mild menace than high-rpm screamer.

2018 Honda Civic Type R interior.

Inside

As you climb into the Type R, you realize this Civic is something out of the ordinary. You have to clamber over extremely wide sills, and get your legs up and over the seat sides and into a deep gorge where your legs and torso are held tightly in place, aided by the grippy suede-like seat material. Even with their serious look, and in spite of minimal adjustments, the seats are comfortable and accommodating to a wide variety of body types.

As with other Civics, the hatchback-only Type R’s interior has plenty of clever nooks and cubbies to stash small items. But, as with other up-level Civic trims, the Type R has a frustrating, overly complicated touch-screen infotainment system. An example of the system’s complexity is the sea of menus you have to wade through to perform radio tasks. On the bright side, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration come standard.

2018 Honda Civic Type R engine.

Safety

The Type R isn’t available with automatic emergency braking or forward-collision warning, two advanced safety systems CR feels should come on all cars. Honda includes AEB with manual-transmission versions of its 2018 Accord, but company officials say the decision to keep AEB and FCW off the Type R was made to keep the price lower. 

Bottom Line

Thanks to the adjustable suspension, comfortable seats, and reasonably tame exhaust, the Civic Type R is a track car that can be driven daily, depending on your level of tolerance. The end result is a much more satisfying, fun-to-drive car than the Si, provided you can put up with its racer look. More than anything, it’s nice to see that Honda can still build exciting cars.

2018 Honda Civic Type R rear.

Read our complete Honda Civic road test.