- Fierce performance
- Precise handling
- Sublime gearbox
- Loutish styling may be a turn-off
- About to be replaced
The Honda Civic Type R Black Edition is a celebration of the end for the current model. We spent a week with it in a world now occupied by the Ford Focus RS and BMW M140i to see if it can still compete.
The invite for the new Honda Civic Type R launch just landed in the Recombu Cars inbox, which means it really is the end of the line for the FK2. A model that saw Honda go against tradition by introducing a turbocharged engine.
But rather than be all teary about its impending demise, Honda thought it would be better to go out with a bang. A bang known as the Honda Civic Type R Black Edition ─ here is our verdict after a week of motoring and whether it can stand up to the Ford Focus RS and other heavy-weight contenders.
Honda Civic Type R Black Edition review: What is it?
Imagine a Honda Civic Type R with a pitch black paint job and red accents on the ludicrous spoiler and around the bottom of the car. Bam ─ you got it. The aesthetics have changed but none of the mechanics.
That means the same 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo lives under the bonnet with the same 306bhp power output and 295lb/ft (400Nm) of torque, the same top speed of 167mph and the same 0-62mph time of 5.7 seconds.
Not that we are complaining because the Civic Type R never really made us pine for more power. The front wheels have a tough enough job as it is, especially in the rain.
The car is the same price as the Civic Type R GT it is based on, which means all the same goodies (dual zone climate control, parking sensors) but with added rarity as just 100 Black Editions exist.
At best it could go up in price, at worst you benefit from added desirability and exclusivity for the same money.
Honda Civic Type R Black Edition review: How does it handle?
A bit like a touring car. The Civic Type R Black Edition is brutal and loutish, with the beautifully stubby short-throw of the six-speed manual making it so easy to smash through the gears and build up ballistic pace.
The four-cylinder creates a harsh note that encourages you to thrash it all the way to 7,000rpm, as does the fact peak power comes in 500rpm before that. Those missing the VTECs of old soon learn to appreciate the honest brutality of the turbocharged 2.0-litre.
Though the Golf R and Focus RS both have power dished out to all four wheels, the Civic Type R can only rely on the front and a limited slip differential. But that does nothing to stop it from being the most capable at going round a corner.
Ford never lapped the Focus RS around the Nurburgring and we would hazard a guess it had something to do with the Civic Type R, which managed a lap time of 7:50. That is four seconds faster than a Porsche 997 911 Turbo and two seconds faster than the Lamborghini Gallardo LP 560-4.
About fifteen seconds of driving the Civic Type R reveals why it is such a beast on track. The handling is razor sharp and it holds the line with extraordinary grip and balance. Body roll is never an issue and any moment of understeer is easily corrected.
On public roads the Type R manages to obliterate cars with far bigger price tags and it does so in such raw fashion you can only grin as you chuck it around. With a weight advantage of more than 150kg on the Focus RS, it is no wonder it feels more agile and has a higher cornering speed.
The suspension is more forgiving than brutal. It can shake your fillings out on a bad road, but it is by no means as annoyingly harsh as the Peugeot 208 GTi 270 or the Focus RS. Only the low ride height really ever prevents progress as quick as you want it to be.
Make no mistake, the Civic Type R Black Edition is a no-nonsense hatchback that can prove lethal in the right hands and deliciously fun even in the wrong ones. It is a precision tool with bags of personality and giant-topping credentials.
Honda Civic Type R Black Edition review: What about practicality?
Though it looks utterly bonkers, the Civic Type R Black Edition has a rather boring side to it. The boot is positively gigantic, at 498 litres, while the height of the car allows tall people to enjoy it without their head rubbing on the ceiling.
The leg room is almost as generous in the back, making it great for ferrying people around, while the glove box and central arm rest adds two more main storage areas for sweets and other travel essentials.
As for comfort, the front seats are soft enough for long journeys and the steering and seat adjustment lets you sit how you want and avoid enduring any obstruction of the funky dials.
Running costs are somewhat low. The combined figure of 38.7mpg is impressive and the real-world figure can be close if conditions allow, which is more than can be said of the thirsty Focus RS. CO2 comes in at 170g/km, only 7g/km more than an automatic M140i.
The infotainment system is a tad hit and miss, especially as we struggled to pair up a phone, but we have seen a lot worse and the navigation was able to get us from A to B without wanting us to tear out our hair.
Honda Civic Type R Black Edition review: Better than the Focus RS?
We never had the luxury of knowing what the Focus RS was like when we first drove the Civic Type R back in 2015. Then the hype machine built Ford's hot hatch into the second coming and almost everyone forgot about the Honda.
That is a crying shame because the Civic Type R Black Edition is the one you would reach for in a track setting because it is more predictable and controllable but, at the same time, considerably more exciting.
Even in a road setting, the Civic Type R narrowly gets our vote because of the way it brings a drive to life. The Focus RS needs more speed to enjoy than the Type R, which is a problem when most roads are congested misery-bringers.
In the wet we can see the all-wheel drive nature of the Focus RS coming into its own and off the line it would probably win, but the extra heft would put it at a serious disadvantage and the engine note is less interesting.
It is also worth pointing out the Civic Type R tries to rip itself apart in first and second, which makes it feel explosive once the turbo lag subsides, whereas the Focus RS sees torque restriction and is therefore more muted and less poised for attack.
Both are great cars, but the gift of hindsight has allowed us to see how truly great the Type R really is. If the 'hot' in 'hot hatch' means the most to you, the Honda is all the heat you will ever need.
Honda Civic Type R Black Edition review: Should I buy one, then?
We loved the Honda Civic Type R then and, having driven the BMW M140i, Audi RS3 and Focus RS, we love it now. It is a hooligan of a car that proves throwing power to the front wheels can, when done properly, still be effective.
The problem is that the Civic Type R has such a divisive look we are unsure if even Honda knows what to think of it. Our 17-year-old self would be humping the back of it, our more mature self worried it looks way too Fast & Furious.
But the stealthy black look you get with the £32,300 Black Edition actually reduces some of the visual impact and in doing so it becomes more palatable. Maybe not everyone would notice you are driving a poor man's Batmobile?
In summary, the Civic Type R Black Edition is a blinder of a good bye to a car overshadowed, but never outgunned, by its more powerful competitors. For raw hatchback thrills, there is nothing better. At least, until the new Civic arrives.
- 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged VTEC
- 306bhp at 6,500rpm
- 295ft/lb (400Nm) at 2,500rpm
- 0-62mph in 5.7 seconds
- 170g/km of CO2
- 38.7mpg (combined)