2018 Honda Civic Type R Review: FWD Done Right

I've just driven the new FK8 Honda Civic Type R on road and track. It's hugely improved on the outgoing FK2 Type R, making it a stonkingly awesome FWD weapon!

Small changes are sometimes all it takes to make something that’s already great into something mind-blowing. Take grilled chicken for example; smother that bad boy with Nandos Hot sauce, and you’ve got the perfect lunch. Take your own bed, add fresh sheets (bonus points if you didn’t change them yourself) and you get what’s known as a bedgasm. Or how about ordering an Uber? The feeling you get when a Mercedes E-class shows up instead of a Prius is world class.

In the world of cars, manufacturers update existing models (from simple facelifts through to all-new platforms), and while the changes are usually good ones, there are usually a few things that get overlooked, like harsh-riding suspension or a gearbox that feels like you’re stirring a pot of oats. But with the all-new FK8 Civic Type R that I’ve just driven on road and track, every single small change that Honda has made has contributed to a car that is now harder to fault than that movie with Scarlett Johansson where’s she’s in a body suit the whole time. ‘Ghost In The Shell’ I think it’s called.

Honda - 2018 Honda Civic Type R Review: FWD Done Right - Features

So what’s been done to make the new FK8 Type R even more desirable? Well, for starters, there’s slightly more power, up from 306bhp to 316bhp. In reality, you barely feel the difference, but more is always better.

Inside the engine, there’s now a lighter, single-mass flywheel that weighs 8.7kg vs the outgoing FK2’s 14kg. This makes the 2.0-litre turbocharged engine feel keener to climb through the rev range and helps slingshot you out of corners with even more oomph.

Getting even more nerdy, you’ll be pleased to know that the engine’s exhaust valves are now filled with sodium which helps with heat transfer…because I hated that the FK2’s exhaust valves weren’t filled with sodium before.

Honda - 2018 Honda Civic Type R Review: FWD Done Right - Features

Torsional stiffness is also up 38 percent. The car’s track is slightly wider as are the tyres, and the the wheels are an inch bigger (now 20s), filling the arches better than previously. The bonnet is lower than the FK2’s, top speed is up by 2mph (now 169mph) and at the rear, the new car now features vortex generators, which punch the air and directs it to the wing which despite being thinner now, actually creates more downforce (in fact, the Type R remains the only car in its class that produces downforce, while all others simply reduce lift - the more you know).

Honda - 2018 Honda Civic Type R Review: FWD Done Right - Features

Crucially, though, the FK8 has has ditched the FK2’s rear torsion beam in favour of multi-link rear suspension, a feature you also get on standard new Civics. So in theory, at least, the new Type R should finally ride well, something that couldn’t be said about the ‘because racecar’ ride you got in the outgoing model. So here’s how I got on with the new Type R…

Honda - 2018 Honda Civic Type R Review: FWD Done Right - Features

At 8:30 I was given the keys to the new car. My route from a fancy Dresden hotel to the Lausitzring was around 100 miles away, and this being Germany, the derestricted Autobahn lay ahead. But before any top speed runs (which you can watch in tomorrow’s video on the channel), I instantly noticed the improved ride quality. Here is a Civic Type R that rides smoothly enough to be used as a daily driver, and thanks to three driving modes (Comfort, Sport and +R) the car now ticks all the boxes. Even in the harshest +R setting, the ride is perfectly acceptable over bumps, which says a lot about how much higher the bar has been set.

Honda - 2018 Honda Civic Type R Review: FWD Done Right - Features

Navigating out of Dresden, it was time to hit the Autobahn. 169mph was the top speed target to hit, and in no time, that was achieved. I even kept the car there for around seven seconds, but try as I might, a higher number was unachievable. Now 169mph sounds impressive, but it really didn’t feel it; high speed stability in this car is sublime and the slightly wider track and improved downforce helps keep the car pinned to the road. The speed at which the car gets to 169mph is also mighty impressive, so make sure you check that out in tomorrow’s (Wednesday’s) video.

Honda - 2018 Honda Civic Type R Review: FWD Done Right - Features

Having arrived at the Lausitzring, I was paired with my badass Austrian instructor, Robert Lechner. He’s a Formula Ford and Formula Renault champion, won the Nurburgring 24 Hours race in 2002 and the FIA GT1 world championship in 2007. Again, he’s a proper badass. Anyway, he led me onto the track, with both cars set in Comfort mode to get a feel for grip and to introduce me to the corners. Even in the least aggressive setting, I could feel how much grip was on offer, how tight the chassis felt and how hard the thing could take a corner.

Soon, Sport mode was engaged which sharpens the throttle response and stiffens the revised dampers. The pace was upped, and before long I was braking as hard as I could, which revealed just how much more stable the car was under braking compared to the FK2 that would happily squirrel about.

Honda - 2018 Honda Civic Type R Review: FWD Done Right - Features

After being instructed to engage beast mode (+R), I was on the limit of my driving ability, but not on the limit of what the Type R was capable of. Despite this, I could feel the extra punch of the sharpest-possible throttle response, felt the subtle bumps of the track far more than in Sport and was able to trim my line more cleanly.

My instructor, Robert, was impressed with my driving, but I bet he says that to all the girls. And hey, the car did most of the work, but my few laps on the Lausitzring were epic and a lot of fun. I now understand how the FK8 is some seven seconds faster around the Nurburgring than the FK2 with a FWD record of 7min 43.8sec (for now at least, until the new Megane RS has a crack).

Honda - 2018 Honda Civic Type R Review: FWD Done Right - Features

Overall, then, I’m very happy to report that the FK8 Type R has no obvious flaws that I can think of. It now rides brilliantly, is perfectly comfortable over long distances, looks wicked (I know I’m in a minority here) and is a car you can use as a daily driver and as a track car that will embarrass almost anything you put in its path.

If you weren’t sold on the Type R before, then, you should give this new one a very close look.