It’s nearly time to say goodbye to the current Honda Civic Type R, which will cease production on July 31 when its manufacturing facility in Swindon, England, closes. It’s fitting, then, that the automaker chose Phoenix Yellow for a limited run of 250 examples to commemorate the hot hatch – after the current Civic Type R flames out in glory, its replacement will rise from the ashes sometime next year.
The unique hue also pays homage to Type Rs from the past, including the first Civic Type R of 1998 (forbidden to Americans) and the US-bound 2001 Acura Integra Type R. Along with the heritage paint, the Type R Limited Edition wears a unique set of forged BBS wheels that reduce unsprung mass and require a slight retuning to the dampers and steering system. Finally, by ditching the rear window wiper, parcel shelf, and some sound deadening, the Type R LE is lighter by just about 50 pounds relative to its more common siblings. And while the changes aren’t really noticeable on public roads, the not-so-mellow yellow Civic is still a hoot to drive.
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Looking at the 2022 Honda Civic sedan and hatchback, it’s pretty apparent that the automaker is correcting (possibly over-correcting) for the current example’s unhinged exterior styling. The Civic Type R is even more exuberant, with massive, fake grilles on the front and rear bumpers, faux vents on the flared fenders, and a functional NACA duct on the hood. All that before we mention the huge, hatch-mounted rear wing and center-exit exhaust, which for some reason exhales through three pipes. The Type R is not a vehicle for introverts.
We’ll forgive some of the exuberance, particularly in this particular color. Phoenix Yellow is one of the most recognizable hues in the Honda portfolio, and it looks resplendent on the Civic Type R’s comically angry form. Adding to the appeal is impressive paint quality – if you told us this vehicle was hand-assembled next to the Acura NSX at the automaker’s Performance Manufacturing Center, we’d believe you. The matte-black wheels, faux carbon fiber side skirts, and gloss black body accents with red pinstripes are a bit of a mish-mash, but they also give the Type R an angry-hornet motif that wholly suits the car’s purpose.
Inside, this is the same Honda Civic we’ve appreciated since its debut half a decade ago. The interior is attractive and well-constructed, although the hybrid digital-analog gauge cluster looks dated by now. Red and black sueded microfiber appears on the sporty front seats and thick-rimmed steering wheel, although we wish the rear seat’s plain black upholstery matched better. At least there are red seatbelts for all four passengers to liven things up. The McDonald’s-approved color combination isn’t subtle in the slightest, but we like it just the same.
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The current Civic Type R does an excellent job of balancing freeway comfort while remaining fun to drive. The biggest contributor on this front is an excellent set of well-shaped sport seats that keep you in place during sporty driving without pinching your backside the rest of the time. The shoulder bolsters, in particular, deserve praise. Positioned perfectly to keep your arms in a good relationship with the steering wheel and shifter, they make driving the sporty front-driver much easier and more enjoyable.
And in spite of those massive 20-inch wheels and a relatively short 106.3-inch wheelbase, the Civic Type R has a comfortable ride, easily the equal to the Hyundai Veloster N. Truly broken pavement makes its presence known with a fair amount of harshness, but the hot hatch is poised over even marginally maintained roads. For as much grip and roll stiffness as the Type R has, its composure in daily driving is an impressive achievement. Of course, if you’re after an even more polished ride, there’s always the similarly priced Volkswagen Golf R.
We wish the engine were similarly enjoyable, but unfortunately, it lets a lot of racket into the cabin. That would be forgivable in a performance car that sounded nice, but instead, the 2.0-liter turbo four under the hood emits noises akin to a vacuum cleaner fitted with an aftermarket muffler from the mid-2000s. We expected better from Honda, which has built some of the zingiest four-cylinders in history.
The 2021 Civic Type R’s electronics and infotainment date back to 2015, so they’re obviously pretty outclassed by other, more modern competition. The Hyundai Veloster N and forthcoming Golf R, for example, have software with crisper graphics and better ergonomics. At least Honda gave us back a proper volume knob and some hard buttons instead of useless capacitive-touch sliders, though the 7.0-inch screen is still a bit slow to respond to inputs. Wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto help offset the hopelessly outdated (though standard) embedded navigation, which comes to Honda by way of Garmin.
We’re heartened, at least, by the presence of physical climate control knobs and buttons. Adjusting the standard dual-zone automatic HVAC is much easier in the Civic than it is in the 2022 Golf R. One benefit to old technology is familiarity.
With or without the Limited Edition’s lightweighting and retuned suspension and steering, the Honda Civic Type R is one hell of a fun car. That aforementioned turbo four makes an effortless 306 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque, the latter sitting on a flat plateau between 2,500 and 4,500 rpm. And the marriage between the engine and its darling six-speed manual transmission is apparently a happy one – redline upshifts put the mill right back into the thick of its meaty powerband, with a satisfying shove of twist to your lower back with each gear change.
Honda puts this power to the front wheels via a limited-slip differential, ensuring speedy exits from tight corners. There’s some minor torque steer (unavoidable given the grunt on hand), but it’s a charming and easily controllable reminder of this vehicle’s historic roots. Throttle-off steering response is unqualifiedly phenomenal, and the CTR dives toward corner apexes like a hungry barracuda. The electrically assisted rack is perfectly weighted, and there’s plenty of feedback through the palms to discern how much grip is left in reserve. And with Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires on all four corners, there is indeed plenty of grip.
With a short lifespan and high replacement costs, that rubber might be overkill, especially given the Honda’s baked-in neutral cornering behavior. Credit for that goes right to the standard adaptive dampers, whose Comfort, Sport, and Sport Plus settings yield palpable differences. Still, even in its most aggressive setting, the suspension is never too harsh for a sporty canyon drive, controlling body motions well without allowing body roll to detract from the experience. And when it’s time to haul it all down to a stop, Brembo four-piston front and single-piston rear brakes perform incredibly and without any meaningful fade.
Like any good sports car, the Civic Type R is a thrilling ride that flatters the driver’s ego. Smooth upshifts are easy given its forgiving clutch and limited turbo lag. Once you’ve acclimated to the sharp turn-in, the hot hatch is hilarious fun on a twisty road, with nearly perfect transitional responses and no body roll. And if you get in over your head, those stoppers clamp down hard without upsetting chassis balance much, helping you regain control. Every onramp, roundabout, and protected right turn is an opportunity to do your best Ayrton, and the Civic Type R is happy to play the part of F1 race car.
Honda Sensing comes standard on the Civic Type R, including forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane keeping assistance, and adaptive cruise control. The latter feature even works while shifting the manual transmission. If you encounter a freeway slowdown, for example, the vehicle will continue braking for traffic ahead even if you downshift. And once the road ahead clears, the vehicle will modulate the throttle as you upshift.
The Civic isn’t a paragon of smooth driver assistance, as it sometimes brakes sharply for leading traffic and it has a hard time following lane lines. But it also doesn’t yank the wheel away from the driver when active, which is a pleasant surprise given the Type R’s performance mission.
The 2021 Honda Civic Type R is reasonably parsimonious. The EPA says to expect 22 miles per gallon city, 28 highway, and 25 combined, and we saw a computer-indicated 19.4 mpg over 300 very exuberant miles. The manual-transmission Hyundai Veloster N gets the same city and highway ratings, but a slightly higher 26-mpg combined score, while the model with the dual-clutch trans gets 24 combined. We don’t have numbers on the new Volkswagen Golf R, but the previous-generation model achieved 21 city, 29 highway, and 25 combined mpg. Each vehicle in this class requires premium fuel.
True to Honda form, the well-equipped Civic Type R Limited Edition isn’t available with any options, costing $43,995 ($45,010 with destination). That’s an extra $6,100 compared to the standard Type R though, a princely sum for what amounts to less interior equipment, slight suspension changes, and new wheels and paint. It’s also pricier than the $32,250 Veloster N, and the $44,640 Golf R includes all-wheel drive in exchange for its slightly higher ask.
However, those who spend the coin for Phoenix Yellow will surely be rewarded with improved resale values – we doubt the limited-production Type R LE will depreciate at all if cared for properly. Of course, the point is mostly moot since almost all of ‘em have been spoken for already. But don’t worry. If collectivity isn’t a priority, go out and snap up a standard Civic Type R, and even if you miss out on that one too, don’t worry. The new hot hatch is just around the corner, and we expect it to be just as fun to drive as this ash-bound phoenix.
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Gallery: 2021 Honda Civic Type R Limited Edition Review
2021 Honda Civic Type R Limited Edition