Honda's new Civic Type R is the fastest front-wheel drive car in the world, but it's what made its Nürburgring lap record possible that actually makes it feel so special.

There’s really only one way to summarise the 2024 Honda Civic Type R to get anyone to understand what’s so special about it – simply, it’s the fastest front-wheel drive production car in the world. The sixth-generation Type R in the Civic’s lineage, this FL5 model is the most powerful yet, with it lapping the Nürburgring Nordschleife in 7:39.691, putting it not only half a second ahead of the Renault Megane Trophy-R it nicked the record from, but ahead of fabled hypercars such as the Lamborghini Murcielago LP640.

Mind you, there’s 15 years of technological advancement between it and the Murci, but the point still stands – the Civic Type R is one serious bit of kit, which is why you’ll have to stump up the not-insignificant figure of $72,600 drive-away. If you thought the VTi LX model we’ve reviewed previously was pricey, think again. For reference, it’s about $14k more than the Hyundai i30 N Drive-N Limited Edition, $4k more than a Toyota GR Corolla GTS, and roughly the same as the Mk8 Volkswagen Golf R with on-road costs factored in.

Stand it next to the standard Civic, which is certainly a good-looking car, and the differences immediately become clear. The Type R is drastically wider thanks to its wider track and flared arches, while its big spoiler, side sills, and triple exhaust pipes are the clear giveaway that this is the real deal.

Stand this FL5 next to the FK8 that came before it, and you’ll see just how much of an improvement it is design-wise. It’s smoother, sleeker, and all-around more resolved than its predecessor which was too angular and busy in its design. Of course, the usual red badging remains on it, although the Rally Red finish of my tester does mask it somewhat.

Curiously, it also steps down the size of its forged alloy wheels from 20-inch on its predecessor to 19-inch while increasing the tyre sidewalls to improve ride comfort. The 19s still look plenty big, plus they’re shod in bespoke Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres so the trade-off is well worth it.

The interior also marks a major step up over the model before it. Sure, there’s a lot of plastic on the dashboard and door cards, but it certainly feels a step above your average economy hatch. This is particularly enhanced by the suede trim you’ll find everywhere from the steering wheel to the armrests and of course the seats.

And what glorious seats these are. Sure, they might lose out on power-adjustment and heating which standard Civic variants do feature, but these seats aren’t here for luxury’s sake. Deep and firmly-bolstered, these bucket seats are all about holding you in place when you’re driving this thing the way it was meant to be driven. Credit must go to Honda for how thoughtfully they’ve been designed, as everything down to the thigh and shoulder support has been considered. The best seats in any hot hatch? Easily.

In the front, you’ll find they’re trimmed in red suede just like the carpets and seatbelts, while the rear seats are trimmed in black. Unlike in standard Civics, there’s only room for two on the rear seat rather than three, so do keep in mind that five is a crowd if you own a Type R.

A more positive change over the regular Civic is in the screen department where the grainy displays have fortunately been switched out for higher-quality screens which are now crystal clear. The 9.0-inch infotainment screen is otherwise identical, although this does incorporate a data-tracking program called Honda LogR which can track your lap times and driver performance – and not just on a track like some, but even on your favourite backroad – while also providing a vast array of various temperature and pressure gauges as well.

The digital instrument cluster is similar to that in the ZR-V but also with a few upgrades. For one, there’s the option to bring up gauges such as the turbo boost pressure and a G-meter for through the corners. Put it into +R mode, however, and it changes layout entirely from the standard two dials to a race-spec horizontal tacho with room for three readouts below it from the LogR system. Handily, there are also shift lights installed above the display to help you know when to change gears when you’re fully-focused on track.

Being a hot hatch, it’s still worth noting that a lot of the Civic’s usual practicalities remain. There is a slight penalty when it comes to boot space as there’s no under-floor storage compartment due to the Type R’s complex exhaust system, but the standard boot space is still a handy 410 litres with the rear seats in place and 1212 litres with them folded flat.

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But you’re not reading this to see how practical it is, are you? You want to know about how this fabled car performs. Powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, it produces a potent 235kW at 6500rpm and 420Nm from 2600-4000rpm. There’s only one transmission option available, and it’s what I would call the right one: a six-speed manual. Like most hot hatches, it’s front-wheel drive, but it does feature a helical limited-slip differential to sort out the issues that may otherwise come with that.

Being turbocharged, it’s not the sort of rev-hungry engine you’ll be used to from Type Rs of old. Rather than being all about power, this is all about torque. Plant your foot on the throttle and after a hint of customary initial lag, it absolutely hurls itself forward, the PS4S tyres providing enough traction to harness every last Newton-metre to the ground. Rather than necessarily being explosive, the Type R surges forwards which in my opinion is far more manageable in the real world. Perhaps all you can flaw this engine for is not sounding terribly exciting even despite the ornate tri-pipes sticking out the back.

Credit must go to the trick differential as well, which is the key thing that makes the power the Civic Type R has on offer actually usable. Unlike a locking diff, this helical LSD still allows the front wheels to spin at different speeds through corners, meaning not only can it lay down the power in a straight line but it makes light work of managing it as you power out of a bend. Sure, there’s still the odd hint of torque steer detectable in the latter case, but it’s about as good a front-wheel drive platform as you’ll find with this much power to handle.

The six-speed manual gearbox is phenomenal as well. With a solid aluminium shift knob and ideally short (but not too short) throws, flicking between ratios feels incredibly satisfying. It’s perhaps not the absolute smoothest gearbox of its kind – Volkswagen was long the benchmark for manual shifters before discontinuing DIY ‘boxes from the Golf GTI and R – but it’s spot on for what you’d want in the Type R. The weighting and forgiveness of the clutch is well-balanced for both aggressive driving and the daily commute, too.

But it’s the chassis that needs to be given the most praise when it comes to the Type R as it is quite simply phenomenal. Hurl it into any corner at any speed and it simply chews it up and spits it back out like it was nothing. There’s no body roll or drama of any kind, but instead just pure, face-melting grip.

With its weighty, razor-sharp steering which feels telepathically connected to the front wheels, it cuts lines through corners with the precision of a surgeon’s scalpel, with those bright red bucket seats doinga sublime job of keeping you in place so you can really squeeze every ounce of what the Civic Type R has to offer out of it.

Yet despite this precision and composure through the corners which will endear to those who regularly hit the track or challenging backroads, the everyday motorist hasn’t been forgotten either. Sure, it doesn’t ride like a luxury saloon, but it’s still remarkably comfortable on city streets for a car that can be exploited to that degree on a track. What a marvel adaptive dampers are, hey?

The four-piston Brembo brakes also deserve a mention as they too find the right sweet spot. When you’re thrashing it, the pedal remains firm and confidence-inspiring; when you’re driving to work, the breaks aren’t squealing ‘because racecar’.

If you were to plot hot hatches on a spectrum between ludicrous performance and daily driver comfort, this thing would be smack bang in the middle. Where many can feel a bit too approachable and others too extreme, this really does offer the best of both worlds without compromising on either.

There isn’t even a big price to pay for the performance when it comes to fuel consumption. I was thrashing it during my 906km of driving it and still managed 9.2L/100km, not much over the 8.9L/100km claim. Do consider, though, that it only has a 47-litre fuel tank meaning you’ll be stopping at the servo with relative frequency.

As with all Honda models, the Civic Type R is covered by a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty, along with five years of complimentary roadside assistance. You’ll also get a five-year free subscription to the Honda Connect smartphone app and five years of free map updates.

Only sweetening the deal further is the ridiculously cheap servicing which is capped at just $199 for each of the first five visits. Even with a 12-month/10,000km interval, that’s far cheaper than you’ll see in any other hot hatch out there.

Simply put, the FL5 Civic Type R is sublime. I know, I know, it’s certainly quite pricey, but when you consider how it drives it’s completely understandable in my eyes. Technical, engaging, and yet still characterful, it’s rare to find a car that really scratches the car-person itch quite like this these days.

With bucketloads of torque, the best front-wheel drive chassis out there by a mile, and the sort of GranTurismo gadgets that are quintessential in Japanese performance cars, it’s hard to find reasons not to love this car.

Whether you’re on the track or on the way to work, this is the sort of car you can’t help but grin while driving, it’s simply that good on every level. Kudos, Honda, the hot hatch crown clearly belongs on the head of the Civic Type R.

2024 Honda Civic Type R Drive-Away Price: $72,600
  • 9/10
    Performance - 9/10
  • 9.5/10
    Ride & Handling - 9.5/10
  • 8.5/10
    Tech & Features - 8.5/10
  • 8/10
    Practicality - 8/10
  • 7.5/10
    Value for Money - 7.5/10

Pros: Incredible chassis, smart yet aggressive looks, amazing bucket seats, clever in-cabin tech for your next track day
Cons: Some may baulk at the price, engine doesn’t sound too enthralling, no spare tyre 

Photography by Marcus Cardone.

Full Disclosure: The vehicle tested here was provided by Honda Australia for a week with a full tank of fuel. All additional fuel costs were covered by the author.

Patrick Jackson
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