The Honda Civic Type-R Limited Edition Is Obscenely Good, But It Will Cost You
Loads of tweaks and plenty of weight reduction makes the best hot hatch better than the sum of its parts.
Hot hatches are special to me, and should be to any automotive enthusiast. Quick, small, practical cars, at a reasonable price. Honda is no stranger to this segment, with a long history of slapping red R badges on its most fun models for decades. By no means are Honda Civic Type-R models subtle, with looks that are better suited to a Fast and Furious set, but the visceral experience often matches to the appearance.
When I reviewed the updated 2020 Civic Type-R last summer, I considered it to be the most fun, best handling car you could get for the money, while easily outperforming cars that cost way more. Honda couldn't settle on this wonderful hot hatch, and wanted to give this tenth generation Civic a proper send-off before the new 2022 models arrive in the near future. Enter the Honda Civic Type-R Limited Edition.
Aimed at reducing even more weight, improving handling, and making a statement to drivers and onlookers alike, I had to see if the Civic Type-R Limited Edition (with just 600 examples produced for the United States market) worth the hype--and massive dealer markups--surrounding it. Thankfully the fine folks at Honda let me call in a favor, and shipped one of the very few press models to me in Austin.
The Specs That Matter
Like its "normal" Type-R sibling, the Limited Edition packs Honda's turbocharged 2.0-liter four-banger that cranks out 306 horsepower @ 6,500 RPM and 295 lb-ft (400 Nm) of peak torque from 2,500 - 4,500 RPM, with a 7,000 RPM redline. Carrying over the same superb six-speed manual transmission and Helical limited-slip differential, the Civic Type-R Limited Edition powers its front wheels to scream from 0-60 MPH in the low 5-second range.
What immediately catches your attention is the unique Phoenix Yellow paint that was made famous on Acura's 2001 Integra Type-R. Giving the exterior a bit more contrast, the Type-R Limited Edition also gets a gloss black roof, hood scoop, and door mirrors. Changes to the Civic Type-R Limited Edition may not seem so dramatic on paper, but Honda made a bunch of tweaks to improve handling and driving sensations.
At 3,121 pounds (1,415 kg), the standard Type-R isn't exactly heavy, but Honda found ways to shed some mass. Ditching 50 pounds, the Limited Edition loses the rear window wiper, cargo cover in the hatch, and a bit of sound deadening, but the unsprung weight reductions are what really matter. Fitting a set of forged aluminum 20-inch BBS wheels wrapped in sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, the Type-R Limited Edition drops 22 pounds where it matters. To accommodate the unsprung weight changes, Honda also recalibrated the adaptive damper system and electric-assist steering to sharpen handling.
Pricing adjusted accordingly, as forged wheels aren't cheap, and the Cup 2 rubber adds cost too, but Honda adopted the popular method of charging more for less concept in the case of the Civic Type-R Limited Edition. The standard Type-R has a sticker price of $37,950, and the Limited Edition has an MSRP of $44,990. Those figures are before any dealer "market adjustment" bullshit.
The Daily Usability Test
2020 revisions to the Type-R included a significantly quicker calculating adaptive suspension to improve daily driving ride quality, while sharpening response in the R mode. In the Limited Edition, the lower unsprung weight and retuned electric-assist steering combine to give you smooth steering in any drive mode, while still being somewhat civil in the city. The big wheels and tiny sidewalls do offer some harshness when you hit cracks and potholes, so do your part to avoid those, and make sure to engage the comfort drive mode in town.
The 306 horsepower engine doesn't scream with a high redline like the classic naturally-aspirated VTEC engines, but the power band and loads of torque are flexible across a wide rev range, giving you a fun surge around any city streets. Behave yourself with the fun pedal, and you'll easily hit the EPA estimated 22/28/25 MPGs. Because there's less insulation installed, you will hear a bit more tire noise and engine notes, but I'm not knocking the Type-R Limited Edition for this.
As you'd expect from a Honda hatchback, the Type-R Limited Edition is functional for plenty of drivers, with seating for four and a big boot. Cabin appointments are just as you get in any other Civic, with dual-zone climate control, standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and SiriusXM satellite radio. The Type-R LE also gets the full slate of safety systems in the Honda Sensing package.
Prepare To Assault The Twisty Stuff
To best exploit the upgrades to the Honda Civic Type-R Limited Edition over the standard—and already exceptional—Type-R, I suggest finding a remote stretch of country road that’s filled with fast sweepers. In this environment, you'll get a proper demonstration of what Honda was focused on accomplishing in the Type-R Limited Edition.
Honda states the Type-R Limited Edition's handling improvements, thanks to the lighter forged BBS wheels and Michelin Cup 2 tires (that replace a good set of Continental SportContact 6 rubber), were aimed to mimic steering feel of the legendary NSX-R. I can confirm this Phoenix Yellow hot hatch rips around the bends with a level of competence no other front-wheel-drive car can match.
Turn-in through the Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel is wildly precise, with absurd levels of grip, even when you carry too much speed into a corner. The helical LSD works hard to keep the front wheels stuck to their line as the boosted engine exhibits the tiniest hint of torque steer. How the Type-R transitions on fast S-curves is phenomenal, with zero body roll, offering a predictable introduction of oversteer if you offer the slightest throttle lift through a corner.
Go for Sport mode if you don't want the suspension to be fully stiff on less than smooth roads, but flip the drive mode into R to set this hottest hatch free. Exhaust tones get louder, suspension response quickens, and the engine response becomes hummingbird wing fast. In a world of supercars with 700 horsepower becoming more common, 300 is plenty in this better-sorted Type-R. Never was I craving more juice under the hood, as there's sufficient usable power, so long as you keep the needle above 2,000 RPMs.
Honda's bright red Alcantara bucket seats up front will keep you planted in any fast corner, and provide a surprising amount of comfort when you aren't flogging the Type-R LE. The center screen of the Civic's instrument cluster can be customized to show boost, shift lights, G forces, or a stopwatch for lap times, in a clear display right in front of you.
The unsung hero in the Civic Type-R Limited Edition is the shifter. As manual transmissions are now an endangered species, this hot hatch has the best non-Porsche gearshift you can currently buy. Throws are short and precise, and the knob Honda gave the Type-R in 2020 was reshaped to better fit your hand while a 90 gram counterweight was added to the knob's base to improve feel.
Pedal placement is something Honda nails in nearly every car it produces, and the Civic Type-R Limited Edition continues this trend. If you aren't a heel-and-toe champ, there is a rev match system to give you the intended effect. Braking inputs are spot-on, with confident pressure applied via massive Brembo monoblock calipers that clamp down on big steel rotors that switched to lighter two-piece units in the 2020 Type-R--which also provide greater durability in demanding conditions.
The Good And Bad Stuff
The Civic Type-R Limited Edition boasts plenty of power that doesn't overwhelm the chassis, the grip is exceptional, and there's an involved driving experience I crave. It's just mechanical and analog enough to remind you what pure driving should feel like. Cars like this are a dying breed.
Despite being a more hardcore version of Honda's most sporty car, this Civic is still functional. Unlike the Mini Cooper JCW GP I reviewed, the Civic Type-R LE doesn't lose its backseat--and plenty of practicality--to save weight. I'm glad Honda opted to make the five-door hatch the raciest Civic model.
As a 41-year-old guy, I'm not sure I could escape judgement from others in my age group for driving a bright yellow hatchback that looks like it attacked several ads in the back pages of an issue of Sport Compact Car with a stolen credit card. I wish the iconic Championship White was an option on the Type-R Limited Edition.
I've complained about this when reviewing other Honda models of late, but the infotainment system is behind the curve. Not only does the software look dated, but the screen is somewhat small, and the resolution is less than great. Thankfully Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard in the Civic. Losing the fabric cargo cover was a trivial weight-saving effort, and I wish that stayed put to provide some privacy in your trunk.
If you aren't flogging back roads on a daily basis, you'll want a hint more comfort from the Type-R Limited Edition. Particularly in the wheel and tire department. I understand that Honda needed to fit 20-inch wheels and little sidewall rubber to allow for better brake cooling, but I wish there were slightly smaller wheels and some thicker tires.
An Exceptional Hot Hatch
By far, the Civic Type-R Limited Edition is the best handling production front-wheel-car I've ever driven. It's easy to toss around corners at wild speeds, and provides a fun-to-dollar ratio few can beat. The Civic Type-R Limited Edition is easily the best new hot hatch currently on the market, and just might be the best one ever produced.
Honda gave the Type-R Limited Edition a fair price increase, given its performance-focused upgrades. Dealers are ruining the experience for any would-be Type-R Limited Edition buyers, slapping massive markups on the allocations they're lucky to score. With some nearly doubling the sticker, this brilliant car is sneaking into the price range of some serious performance cars. You either have to have silly amounts of money in the bank or be a complete schmuck to give a dealer a single cent over MSRP for this car.
If you can't get your hands on one of the rare number of Civic Type-R Limited Editions sold, you'll still be happy picking up a standard Type-R instead, and you won't have to pay a stupid amount of money over sticker to get it.