The Honda Civic Type R Is Tearing Me Apart
The Type R may not be very polarizing for the car community, but it is for me.
Make no mistake, the Honda Civic Type R is a good car. A really f***ing good car.
It's practical. It's easy to drive. It's reasonably comfortable in city traffic. It's relatively cheap to fuel. It's reasonably fast in a straight line, hitting 60mph in around 5 seconds. And it grips harder than a strip of duct tape attached to your face. Best of all is that driving the Type R fast, at its limit, even, is easy. It never wears you out. And it never points out any of your flaws as a driver.
Unlike a Subaru BRZ or Camaro SS which will gleefully expose the extent of your pitiful driving skill, the Type R lets you believe that you really are that good. Like its fake vents and fake carbon fibre, it's perfectly happy to lie to you about your skill level. And I don't mind that at all. Lies are nice. Just think of how many you tell yourself each morning in the mirror just to get through the day.
Of course, the Type R driving experience has its foibles. The seats are a little too stiff for longer drives. The Continental SportContact 6 tires are too loud and even in 'Comfort' mode, translate every bump in the road directly through your spine. The engine and exhaust are also too muted. There's no theatre or drama to the way the Type R accelerates.
But overall, the Type R's party piece is clear. It's an incredibly capable track-ready weapon that's stupidly easy to live with and use as an every day car. I don't know if I've ever driven another car that offers the exact same amount of practicality as it does fun. The Type R is as well-suited to take on a trip to the grocery store as it is exciting to drive there and back.
It's a lot like a pair of yoga pants. Both totally capable of being used for athletic activities and a comfortable option to wear out to brunch. Or, so my girlfriend tells me.
However, like the yoga pants, there is one big problem with the Type R. And you already know what it is.
You can't wear yoga pants to the office. Not really.
Through various allocations for press cars from Honda Canada over the past two years, I've spent almost a month's time behind the wheel of a Civic Type R. And I've absolutely loved every minute I had with the car. Almost.
Over that time, I used the Type R for everything. I put my dog in it and went for a long drive out of the city, up to the country for a hike. I used it to pick up tools and even a bit of lumber from a hardware store. I ripped up back roads, putting as many smiles on my passenger's face as my own. I even dropped in on a few parking lot car meet ups — because enthusiasts love a Type R, almost as much as they love ripping on whatever car you drive to soothe their fragile egos. Everywhere I went in the Type R, I got thumbs up. People asked me a million questions about it and teenagers begged me to squeal the tires. Finally, a car with all the perks of an enthusiast car with seemingly none of the typical drawbacks.
But there was one situation where the Type R completely let me down. That was when I had to drive a few account managers from my day job at a marketing agency to a client meeting. Normally, we'd take an Uber, but I was so enthralled with the Type R I had on loan that week that I insisted on driving.
Man, did I look like an absolute idiot. Worse, actually. I looked like a child. The kind of person you wouldn't even buy weed from, let alone a $50,000 marketing campaign.
My passengers hated it too. They felt uncomfortable and embarrassed to be seen in the Type R. Its red seats and matching red seat belts made them question my intelligence, maturity level and sanity. And that was just the inside. The exterior styling they deemed simply as a "bad fashion choice".
I might as well have turned up in a Supreme hoodie and a pair of overpriced Air Force 1s. Driving the Type R simply wasn't seen as "acting my age".
And it made me start thinking of all the other situations you could never use a Type R for. Funeral procession? Forget it. Applying for a mortgage at a bank? Better hope they don't see what you pulled up in. Meeting your girlfriend's parents for the first time? Hell, imagine even turning up for a first date in a Type R? They'd start questioning whether you were going to use a fake ID to order a drink at dinner.
Now you, the brooding and dedicated car enthusiast, may proclaim that you don't give a damn "what people think". What matters to you is a car that's as fun and easy to drive fast as the Type R. And there is a certain kind of nobility in that. However, I'm also willing to bet you still own the hooded sweatshirt you wore every day in high school. You have at least one glass bong in your garage. There is still a Linkin Park CD in your car. You're still wearing DC skate shoes and drinking Bud Light, exclusively. Your favourite restaurant is Jack Astors—the one in the mall.
And if that's what you're about—if you don't want to grow up, all the power to you. You do you. But I prefer to grow old gracefully.
Because I simply can't separate the idea that cars, even more than a form of transportation or a piece of sports equipment, are fashion. You can tell a lot about someone from their shoes—at least, we assume a lot about them. And the same is true of cars.
Photo by Clark Devins
Don't pretend like you, Mr or Ms "I Don't Give A Damn What People Think" don't also judge people immediately for their shoes... or their car. You can lie to the rest of us, but not yourself. When you take a look at the kind of car someone drives, for better or worse, you begin to assemble a picture of what their entire life is like.
That's my problem with the Type R. What does it say about me—to the world—when I drive it?
In my heart of hearts, I absolutely love the Honda Civic Type R. I even like the bonkers styling. It never gets boring to look at and that's so much more than I can say of so many other cars—especially those in the same category as the Type R.
Photo by Clark Devins
I would defend the Type R to the hilt, to my very last breath in any argument. But despite its lack of compromise in terms of practicality and despite its grin-inducing performance, I just don't know if I could bring myself to buy one. Even though I want one. Badly.
It's the same way I wouldn't buy a rare comic book or reproduction movie prop. I love that stuff. I think it's cool. But it just feels so silly to spend money on. And worse, so exhausting to then have to explain to people.