2018 AUTOMOBILE All-Star: 2018 Honda Civic Type R

What a ride

The 2018 Honda Civic Type R sets an astonishingly high benchmark in the performance-per-dollar category, and it easily stole many hearts and minds at this year’s All-Stars shootout.

In my experience coming from the racing side of the automotive business, it is not normal to find a gaggle of journalists waxing lyrical about a vehicle that costs less than $35,000, especially when they have access to a bucket full of supercar keys and the green light on a racetrack. Proving the point: Out of the 26 vehicles at this year’s All-Stars event, the Type R was the only one picked by every single contributor as part of their top-10 list. St. Antoine confirmed, “Hands-down the No. 1 All-Star at this contest.” Online editor Ed Tahaney added, “A real-deal, six-speed pocket rocket and a serious bargain.”

No surprise, the Type R’s styling inspires people to passionately join warring camps. Design guru Cumberford critiqued it as “the perfect daily driver for an enthusiast, a truly excellent, pleasingly fast, good-handling car spoiled by its exterior.” Rehbock countered, “You’ll forget about the goofy looks, which I’ve come to love, the minute you step on the pedal, bang through the excellent manual transmission, or tear through a corner.” A pragmatic retort from Tahaney said, “Total All-Star! Get over the looks already.” From my perspective, I don’t hear many negative opinions expressed about the arguably silly-for-the-street, winged appearance of a Porsche 911 GT3 RS or a Mercedes-AMG GT R. Apparently the Type R’s World Touring Car looks don’t rate highly. Maybe if Honda charged $150,000 for it, some folks might like it better.

Move past that debate, though, and there was universal agreement about anything associated with the Type R’s performance. The Honda-developed seats are very comfortable and supportive for everyday street driving and track use. The steering wheel and pedals are well-placed, providing excellent usability. Seat adjustment is manual; we had no issues finding a perfect driving position.

The engine pulls hard enough to make you think this Civic has more than 306 horsepower. Amazingly, it exhibits zero torque steer under full acceleration, thanks to its brilliant dual-axis strut suspension up front. The engine/induction/turbo sound inside the cabin is most pleasing in Race mode, but even then it’s still pretty quiet and not as racy-sounding as, say, the Ford Focus RS.

The brakes are superb and exhibited no fade while lapping at full-tilt speeds in the process of trying (and managing) to lose a well-driven 603-horsepower Mercedes-AMG E63 S. Talk about an overachiever. The Type R’s handling is so well-sorted that I’m not sure I’ve ever driven a better-handling street car on a track right out of the box, not counting far more exotic models that usually have a starting price four to five times greater than the Honda’s.

The six-speed manual gearbox is brilliant. The shift gates are spaced perfectly, and it’s easy to shift ridiculously fast. I only heard praises for this wonderful transmission from our judges at All-Stars, and not a single grind was heard on street or track.

I used the most comfortable settings most of the time while driving on the road. This nicely softens the suspension and the throttle response, effectively turning the R into a compliant and economical daily commuter. (I saw better than 34 mpg during one 90-minute run.) Wasef summed it up best, praising “a delightfully revvy powerplant, nimble handling that belies its front-drive configuration, and a driver-focused demeanor that begs for apex hunting.”

When it comes to real-world performance on today’s roads, the Type R delivers about as much fun as we would ever want or can reasonably use. On a track, the R will ably punch above its weight, and it’s no stretch to put it in the same driver-satisfaction category as the Porsche 718 Cayman S, a major compliment. The Honda Civic Type R is a practical rocket ship, an incredible value, and a most worthy All-Star.

2018 Honda Civic Type R Specifications

PRICE $34,775/$34,775 (base/as tested)
ENGINE 2.0L DOHC 16-valve turbo I-4/306 hp @ 6,500 rpm, 295 lb-ft @ 2,500 rpm
TRANSMISSION 6-speed manual
LAYOUT 4-door, 4-passenger, front-engine, FWD hatchback
EPA MILEAGE 22/28 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H 179.4 x 73.9 x 56.5 in
WHEELBASE 106.3 in
WEIGHT 3,106 lb
0-60 MPH 5.4 sec
TOP SPEED 170 mph