To a select few, Honda’s Type R badge means everything. First introduced in the 1990s, it served as more than a shorthand for speed; it was an affirmation that Japan can engineer something that was not only class-leading, but a world-class experience in and of itself.
The Type R badge was first introduced to the North American market in 1997 in the form of the Acura Integra Type R. And, in its day, it earned accolades for the purity of the experience it delivered. Beyond its light-weighting and chassis upgrades, this Integra featured a high-revving engine that was engineering perfection, boasting performance specifications that were previously thought impossible to achieve in a road car. After a 15-year hiatus, the Type R badge returned to North America in the form of the 2017 Honda Civic Type R. Built in Honda’s Swindon, UK facility, this Type R took the decidedly more Western approach of more is more: more power, more speed, more technology and more flash. And while this newer Civic Type R does have a passionate set of fans, it’s still the original (with its relative simplicity) that continues to captivate drivers.
This brings us to the newest car to wear the Type R badge: the 2024 Honda Civic Type R. Construction for this returns to Japan and delivers a high-tech experience wrapped in a clean, considered design. And though this newest Civic may lack the buzzy charm of the ‘90s original, it remains one of the most impressive vehicles one can experience today. It’s also the most attractive Civic released this century. Since 2000, Honda’s Civic seemed as if it was searching for an identity, adopting every look from bargain-basement commuter to spaceship. This most current Civic, however, carries a sense of confidence. It’s quietly attractive, leveraging an impressive build quality to help elevate its presence.
The Civic Type R is what happens when designers take a thoughtful—and very Japanese—”plus alpha” approach to the standard car. Leveraging input from Honda Japan’s HRD Sakura Super GT racing team, just about every exterior surface has been modified in the name of performance, with bulging fenders, vented hoods, race-ready wings and so on. There’s no question behind the function of the design, and when viewed in person, it feels very purposeful, as if this was the original intent behind the entire Civic project, with the standard version being a heavily edited compromise.
From the heritage aluminum shift knob to the red racing seats, the cabin captures the key interior design elements that defined the original Japanese Type R models. Again, compared to this Civic Type R’s direct predecessor, this cabin feels more mature. Granted, the high bolsters of the front seats can present a bit of a challenge when getting into and out of the car, but once settled inside, they offer an ideal blend of comfort and support. The driving position and general ergonomics are worthy of praise and the interior material choices and fit and finish are superb.
That Type R badge means nothing if the car itself doesn’t have the performance to back it up. As such, this Type R is the fastest, most powerful Civic that Honda has ever produced. Its engine is a continuation of the K20C1, a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that was first introduced with the European-market Type R. Now built in Ohio, it has been massaged to produce 315 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. An active exhaust valve opens up at higher engine speeds to provide more engine sound—a nod to the “VTEC just kicked in” sensation that defined the famed ‘90s Honda engines. The vehicle has been widened front and rear, with revised suspension bits, improved braking components and high-performance tires in order for the chassis to better complement the engine.
At the end of the day, though, what really counts is the drive. And the Civic Type R delivers one that feels just youthful enough, while still remaining livable to those of us who were of driving age when the original ‘90s Type Rs were released. All driving inputs, from the throttle to the brakes to the steering, deliver the directness one desires from a sports car. The ride quality feels just firm enough without feeling punishing. And Honda’s six-speed manual transmission remains one of the best in the industry, with crisp, direct throws and an easy-to-modulate clutch.
In a concession to modernity, there’s also a digital feeling to it all. It’s clear that there’s a computer translating your driving inputs to mechanical movement. But it’s all engineered to deliver a driving experience that simply works. This is a car that will do what you want it to do, when you want it to do it, exactly how you want it to be done. Altogether, this Honda Civic Type R is a contemporary take on a classic experience, excelling where it counts while not being completely beholden to nostalgia. As it lives up to the promise of its R badging, this Civic will likely be an icon. It’s a reminder that the Type R remains the benchmark against which all competitors are judged, and that it will continue to be a symbol of Japanese performance at its best.