Honda has widened the appeal of its Civic Type R with the launch of a higher-performance Limited Edition and a subtler Sport Line for 2020. They join the existing GT with a raft of chassis and ergonomic updates, confirming that Honda is far from done fine-tuning its 320hp hot hatch. Type R project boss Hideki Kakinuma hinted that the 100-run Limited Edition could even be followed by another series run model – and Honda Racing partner JAS Motorsport added fuel to the flames by suggesting it would like to get involved with a road car…
For now, though, it’s the Limited Edition – of which 20 are set for Britain – that will fly the Type R flag with its list of upgrades. They include a set of sticky Michelin Cup 2 tyres wrapped around lightweight, flow-formed 20-inch BBS wheels, new dampers honed specifically for this setup and a recalibrated EPAS system to get the best from it all. No less significant is a 47kg diet for the structure, achieved largely thanks to the removal of infotainment, air con and sound deadening. Honda hasn’t gone all out and removed the car’s back bench, so it somewhat bizarrely remains a five-seater with no amenities.
At the other end of the three-variant range, the Sport Line arrives to appease those never won over by the Civic Type R’s aggressive looks. It uses a lower rear wing, smaller – albeit still 19-inch – wheels and slightly squidgier Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres, while the red lines of the CTR’s exterior have been swapped for grey ones. This is mirrored inside by the swapping of red sports seats for black ones, while more soundproofing has been added to the boot and tailgate for reduced road noise and better refinement. Kakinuma said that while the car was slightly softer and heavier with its new bits, the shorter wing-maintained GT-levels of aerodynamic stability.
That the general updates applied across the range are arguably even more tantalising than the new versions emphasise just how serious Honda is about maintaining its lead in the hot hatch segment. All variants receive a new lower intake on the front bumper to enhance engine cooling and maintain peak performance, but to claw back the resulting lost downforce from the new opening, the front air dam has been adjusted. Then there are the new two-part brakes, which replace the original FK8’s single-piece ones for better heat control and a 2.5kg weight saving, directly inspired by the system used on JAS’s TCR-spec machines. It’s properly nerdy stuff.
But there’s more. The suspension has been given lower friction front ball joints all around, while the lower arm bushes are stiffer and there’s a new control algorithm for the active damping. The changes are said to reduce pitch and improve diagonal roll control for better braking and traction, with increased damping forces held when the car is cornering for greater apex speeds.
The changes aren’t just centred around improving overall performance, though, but also driving enjoyment. This is illustrated by the addition of a 90-gram counterweight for the six-speed manual’s lever, which is now an EP3-aping teardrop shape, for improved shift action, and an Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel. Quite the signal of intent for a car already hailed to have excellent handling and a class-leading gearbox.
Naturally in 2020, there are a few digital tweaks, including an updated infotainment system to address one of the car’s weakest assets, an all-new for Honda LogR software that has a GPS lap timer and track driving analysis ability, as well as new engine sound tech for the speakers. The system is designed to cancel out the engine’s tone in Comfort mode, or pipe in more of it for the Sport and +R modes. Oh, and Honda’s added two vibrant new colours to the palette, Racing Blue and a Limited Edition-only Sunrise Yellow, which you may recognise from the original Integra and Civic Type Rs.
You probably won’t be surprised to hear that another Nurburgring lap is on the cards. While the Limited Edition’s makeover isn’t as extreme as the £70k Megane Trophy-R that Renault Sport set its FWD record with, the car only has to make up 3.9 seconds over the original GT’s time to beat its rival. Cup 2 boots and lighter wheels alone ought to shave a significant chunk from that deficit. Even if the limited run CTR fails to make up ground, JAS Motorsport’s business development manager Mads Fischer was eager to tell PH about his company’s dreams of influencing an extreme Civic road car. The firm has reliably tuned a turbocharged K20 motor to 400hp. So watch this space.
As for the confirmed 2020 Type R line-up, the cars are expected to go on sale after their public debuts at the Geneva motor show next month. Pricing will, of course, be confirmed closer to that. Can’t wait? Us neither.