► Lighter by 47kg
► Same power, Cup 2s
► 20 for the UK
The Honda Civic Type R is not an easy car to over-drive on the road. In fact, with every brake left trailing half way around the corner or crossed-armed reapplication of the throttle, it seems to push back harder, the supernatural helical diff responding with even more grip.
On a circuit though some road car compromises begin to show. Grippy but street-biased rubber doesn’t have quite the same hold, the brake pedal is not as responsive under higher loads, and stable under-bonnet temperatures prove tricky to maintain.
Just like the updated Alfa Romeo Giulia, the 2020 Type R promises to sort all those annoying bits while leaving the good stuff untouched. Specifically in this case with a more circuit-focussed Limited Edition model that has been added to the line-up.
What makes it so special?
Only 100 have been allocated to Europe, of which 20 are for the UK (the same number as the FN2 Mugen, incidentally) so the name more than adequately reflects the car. Also, they’ve all sold out. Sorry.
Externally there’s the eye-catching Spongebob paint plus contrasting black roof, mirror caps and bonnet scoop for additional differentiation from a normal Type R, which can hardly be described as a shrinking violet.
In terms of engineering, it’s a basic but very effective lemon drizzle recipe – stickier Cup 2 tyres, lighter forged BBS alloy wheels and the wholesale removal of anything not dedicated to the generation of speed.
Air con? Gone. Touchscreen? Gone. Sound proofing? Mostly gone. The net result is a car lighter by 47kg. That’s the same as one racing driver, or half a journalist.
Can you tell the difference?
We drove the old, pre-facelifted car and the Limited Edition back-to-back on a tight and technical test track and yes, it feels subtly better in all the areas you’d imagine. Pick-up is more immediate, mid-corner grip levels more confidence-inspiring and the brakes stronger in terms of power and stamina.
It’s worth pointing out here that the whole 2020 Type R range benefits from upgraded two-piece floating rotors, not just the Limited Edition. Tangibly this manifests itself in a more immediate feel through the pedal – up to 15mm of slack has been taken out owning to the discs no longer bending under pressure, says Honda, and it certainly felt bitier even after several fast laps.
For a more scientific conclusion consider this – I could arrive at the end of the straight faster and brake deeper and harder into turn one in the Limited Edition Civic than the older car. Some of that is undoubtedly down to extra confidence granted by stronger and more feelsome brakes and tyres (plus the sticker compound of the latter) but still, an improvement is an improvement.
Honda also brought a third generation Civic Type R along and it really made the newer car’s stability shine – the FK2 diving on the brakes and rocking back after a wobbly effort at heel and toe, while the Limited Edition stops hard and fast, auto blipper smoothing out your downshifts and maximising composure. The 2020 Civic Type R really is a sports car with a boot whether you pick a normal version or this one.
What’s the rest of it like to drive?
Still brilliant but with the added assurance of tackier Cup 2 rubber, so you can hold higher speeds around corners and get back on the power even earlier, not that either were particularly an issue before.
Instead of changing the characteristics of the car (looking at you, Ford Mustang) the contact patch upgrade just builds on what the Type R does so well already. You’ll still want to drive it on the front axle, braking late to keep the weight forward and accelerating early to get the diff hooked up.
In fact you’re best off largely ignoring what the rear wheels are doing. They’ll skate about during a heavy stop, maybe break loose a bit if you’re really untidy around a corner, but in reality as long as the front wheels have grip you’ll be just fine, because at no point does the back end feel like it’s going to snap.
Abandon all efforts to drive it smoothly and just mercilessly bung it in and the Civic comes alive the worse you drive it – full gas with armfuls of lock, big lifts mid-corner to help it rotate, that sort of thing. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.
Calm down and give us some geeky engineering facts
As this is a Honda I’ve got a slideshow full of them – let’s start with the larger opening in the front bumper (13% so) and reduced radiator fin pitch, contributing to a coolant temperature drop of 10 degrees C on track.
Of course, you might be saying, that’s going to affect the aero performance. So The 2020 Type R has a front air dam that is larger and more rigid (stop it) to generate more negative pressure in front of the wheels.
Finally, the adaptive dampers now can now sample ten times faster for better roll and pitch control, plus they do clever things like stiffening the fronts while you brake, or the outside wheels in a corner, to help combat dive and bodyroll.
Anything else new?
All the same stuff as the standard facelifted Type R – an easier to use infotainment system (as in, it’s just been removed), better refinement and an Alcantara wheel.
The gearknob is a different shape and weighs 90g more too. This might sound like marketing noise, but it is genuinely more satisfying to shift now than the old car.
Active Sound Control also makes the cabin quieter in Comfort mode and sportier in +R, which is welcome as the Type R is not exactly the most vocal hot hatch. Although it does now sound quite synthetic, so it’s up to you whether that’s a good thing.
Sold. I want one.
Well like I said, you can’t have one, they’ve all gone. And given the extremely low numbers you probably won’t see one on a road, let alone a track day any time soon. And that is a deeply regrettable situation.
It’s a maximum attack sort of car, the Type R, which is all well and good on a well-sighted racetrack but perhaps a bit irresponsible on the road. That’s only amplified in the Limited Edition, and means there’s all the more reason for Honda to extend the run, or at least offer Cup 2s as an option for normal customers.
Bottom line though – just buy a Type R. I honestly don’t understand how it’s still so head and shoulders above the competition this many years after being launched, but there we are.