The ultimate turbocharged front-wheel drive hot hatch, and arguably one of the greatest cars to ever wear the ‘hot hatch’ tag full stop.
That the FK8 Honda Civic Type R is one of our favourite front-wheel drive hot hatches is not in question – the recently revised version has only cemented its position in our affections. However, the range is expanding, with a less aggressive looking Sport Line model at one end and then this, the Limited Edition, at the other. The simpler Sport Line is not coming to Australia, but the Limited Edition, despite how hard it was to get one, did. In fact, we could only get this road test done with our colleagues at evo in the UK.
Just 20 of these very yellow, hardcore Type Rs were made available to Australia out of a worldwide production run of just 1020, with the majority headed to the US (600). On paper, the limited Edition still doesn’t look quite such a focused machine as the Renault Megane RS Trophy-R but if the FK8 has taught us anything it’s not to be underestimated.
There are no changes to the specification of the revised Civic Type R powertrain, but at 236kW and with arguably the finest six-speed manual box on sale, neither are there any complaints from us. The LE’s maximum speed of 272km/h is identical to the standard model, GT and Sport Line models, but the 0-100km/h time drops by a single tenth to 5.7sec, presumably due to the weight loss.
Honda has managed to shave 47kg from the overall weight of the car – when compared to the GT model, that is. Some 14kg is from removing sound deadening material in places like the roof and behind the dashboard, plus various plastic trims like the spare wheel housing lid. A further 10.4kg is lost through omitting the air conditioning system, and another 5kg from there being no infotainment setup – including no audio whatsoever.
Forged BBS wheels are both stronger, but also 10kg lighter for the set, and are now shod with Michelin’s Cup 2 tyre instead of the standard and GT models’ Continentals. Honda has remained coy on what chassis changes have taken place, remarking only that the steering has been ‘revised’ and that the adaptive damping has the ability to, err, ‘adapt’ to the different weight of the car.
Tracking down a Limited Edition may be almost impossible, but you’ll know when you see one on account of the Sunlight Yellow paint, a nod to Type Rs of the past, with gloss black detailing for the roof, mirrors and engine intake.
The weight loss may look relatively minimal on paper, but as a percentage of the total it’s well worth having, and sure enough, the additional keenness of the Limited over the regular Type R is immediately obvious. It’s just that bit feistier to accelerate, that much more alert on direction change; it positively fizzes with energy, which immediately ratchets up the excitement level behind the wheel. The turbocharged four-pot isn’t as smooth as a Golf GTI’s, but it loves to rev and of course, it’s connected to a gearbox that’s so rewarding to use we could fill the rest of this review with superlatives on it alone.
For all of its more hardcore persona there’s also very little compromise on the road required over the GT version. Sure, with no infotainment whatsoever you’ll have to be comfortable with simply your own thoughts on a long journey, but the lack of sound-proofing isn’t overly obvious even on the motorway and the car’s ride quality remains fluid and beautifully controlled, if on the firm side.
In wintry conditions the Limited is always going to be compromised by its low speed traction. Its limited-slip differential works in a sophisticated way, but the fact remains that the Limited’s hit of torque will often require the intervention of the traction control (or set the front wheels spinning up if you’ve loosened off the systems) and plenty of throttle sensitivity is required.
On the plus side, while we’ve been awed about the dynamic abilities of the latest Type R, there’s no doubt the Limited takes things to another level again.
There’s more positive weight to the steering, with a beautifully natural feel to it and unerring precision, and in mild ambient temperatures outright grip of the car is sensational, yet not at the expense of possessing adjustability with the throttle. Add to that a brake pedal with a sturdy and beautifully resolved feel and you have a real driver’s car that flatters you every input.
Taken to a circuit the Limited Edition reveals another layer of performance and ability. With the security to push that much harder, the car’s mobile tail is much more obvious: it’ll oversteer on demand, but it’s a more controlled characteristic than in the wild Trophy-R.
The engine has it all – power, torque and response – and the braking power and stopping stability are particularly noteworthy. So much grip is generated through the front axle on a corner’s exit that the Limited almost hops out of the corner with the conflicting longitudinal and lateral forces at play. It’s this extreme ability that leads to the Limited setting the quickest time yet around the latest layout at Bedford Autodrome, smashing the Trophy-R’s time by half a second – and in slippery conditions, too. For further reference, that lap time is quicker than a Porsche 718 Cayman S.
The Limited Edition was priced at $70,000 driveaway and buyers decided by a lottery system last year, but given its abilities – and what people will pay for a German brand of hot hatch – that seems excellent value. It’s just such a pity that only 20 examples were made available to Australia. Honda boasts that it could have sold many more, which makes you wonder why they weren’t just a little more ambitious in the first place.
The obvious contemporary rival to the Limited is the Renaultsport Megane Trophy-R, which like this Civic is also now unavailable. The Megane is an even more intense experience, but it’s not as well resolved as the Honda, and neither is it as fast on road or track. The fact that the Limited is massively cheaper ends the argument.