Jahn here- Okay let's get this out of the way- the aesthetics of the new Civic Type R to put it nicely are polarizing with a love it or hate it styling that can be debated and discussed for hours. What this article is about is the harsh criticism this car is getting, at least here in the US where I am based. I believe part of this craze is due to what is available in the USDM market compared to that in the UK or globally. Additionally, there is a current trend of "why would you get FWD when you can get AWD" which is becoming more and more the norm such as new M5 and E63 AMG that will be AWD. Now I think AWD cars are great and help aid in additional traction, but that said, the Civic Type R was never meant to compete with AWD vehicles as many individuals ask, "why not the Focus RS or Golf R?"
Image from: https://www.topgear.com/sites/default/files/styles/16x9_1280w/public/cars-car/image/2016/07/li3267380rh_focusrs-549.jpg?itok=OvddLkMj
What some individuals forget is perspective. There is a certain challenge in mastering a FWD vehicle that some people enjoy. It requires a modification in driving style and technique which is why I take some automotive reviews with a grain of salt. One journalist may be a master at RWD or possibly AWD but may not know how to adapt to a particular vehicle's FWD characteristics.
That all said, there are a few handful of cars from different markets other than the US that offer a track focused front wheel drive vehicle. The one that first comes to mind for me is the VW GTI Clubsport S. A quick search shows that this vehicle costs 34,000 euros which equates to about 38,000 USD(without adjustment for importation to the US). The Type R costs about $35,000 USD. It delivers exactly the same amount of horsepower and just a smidge more torque than the VW. Performance wise, these two vehicles are comparable since they are built with Nurburgring lap times in mind. Now those people who say they would rather have an AWD Golf R for a little bit more money than a Type R forget that it isn't about the money since there is a FWD GTI that is nearly the price of the Golf R but it is about holding the title of the best performing FWD car.
www.topgear.com/car-news/chris-harris-drives/top-gears-speed-week-chris-harris-vs-vw-golf-gti-clubsport-s :See Chris Harris' review to understand the fun a FWD vehicle can be. I'm sorry this isn't an easy to play youtube video but I promise it is worth the watch. Don't believe me? See around the 2:15min mark of Chris Harris sliding the Clubsport S around. That is genuine laughter and fun he is having. Any vehicle that can invoke a physical emotional change should be given a moment of consideration.
Another vehicle that comes to mind although not QUITE exactly comparable is a Seat Leon Cupra ST. Although this is more of a road friendly estate car instead of the hardcore compact vehicle, the older Leon ST Cupra 280, which is comparatively has less power than the Honda or VW, ran a respectable ring time of 7:58. 11 seconds slower than the Clubsport S and 15 seconds slower than the Civic Type R. The Nurburgring being a huge course compared so something like Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, second differences are not as massive of a difference in my opinion although the Cupra ST is not really in the same weight class. See Dale of Bridge to Gantry have fun in his personal car describing how the car handles along the Nurburgring. It always amazes me how some people are able to talk while driving spiritedly. Dale's particular car started at about 28500 Euros or $32,000 USD. That sounds fantastic to me.
Lastly, another car that comes to mind the Renault Megane 275 Trophy. Cost is about 29,000 Euros or about 32-33,000 USD. This is an amazing capable vehicle. I think the styling is excellent and is something I would drive on the road without wondering how many necks I'm snapping with people trying to catch a glance. There are so many global cars I wish we got here in the US.
So in conclusion, remember what the Civic Type R was built to compete with and it makes more sense than just what is available in one market. Unfortunately in the US, I don't believe there is a comparable car therefore it stands alone for others to compare on price alone. It takes a global perspective for the Civic Type R to make sense.
P.S.- Slight rant. I just need to get this off my chest. It has always pissed me off when I got wind and confirmation that the new Civic Si was going to be powered by their 1.5 liter turbo engine. It makes about 205hp and Honda's answer to why it only makes so little power is because they want it to be reliable. Okay that makes sense but....THEY PUT THE WRONG ENGINE IN THE SI. The 1.5T in sport trim should be made to compete against the 1.8T Golf GTI or 1.6T Fiesta ST. The Civic platform is naturally competing against the Ford Focus ST and the Volkswagen GTI both which are powered by 2.0 liter turbo engines. WHY DIDN'T THEY USE A DETUNED VERSION OF THEIR CIVIC TYPE R ENGINE?! My 2015 MK7 GTI has makes I believe 17-18psi of boost pressure. The Civic Si is pushing a bit north of 20psi. The Si trim has been watered down to just a "Sport" trim. I'll tell you why they didn't use the 2.0 liter in the Type R... They were afraid they would have shot themselves in the foot. It is widely known that today's turbo engines can make large amounts of additional power with a simple ECU tune. What Honda wanted to do was make a market case for why a person should spend more for money for a Civic Type R than buying a Civic Si and tuning it to the power levels, if not more, of the Type R. That is what I believe is the sole reason. Why do I think that? Because the upcoming new Accord is dropping their V6 engine and offering either the 1.5 liter turbo engine or a 2.0 liter turbo engine. I had the same similar thought when Volkswagen dropped their 3.2L VR6 engine in the Golf R32 for a 2.0 liter turbo in the Golf R. Most likely than not, the 2.0 liter turbo engine will be based on the engine already engineered in the Type R. Damn it Honda... fix yo shit.