Perhaps more so than any other mainstream manufacturer, colour is significant to Honda. Think Integra in Championship White or Accord Type R in Milano Red. For the really special stuff (and the Civic Jordan), yellow is rolled out. It evokes mad Spoon creations, the NSX-R and very rare Integras - Type R royalty, basically. And, now, the Civic Type R Limited.
Officially this is Sunlight Yellow, as seen 20 years ago on the very first Civic Type R. Like that car this Limited gets red seats as well for an unmistakable colour scheme; crucially, though, there's a lot more to be excited about than just new paint. You're probably aware of the shortlist by now, though the key Limited tweaks are worth reiterating: 48kg gone through removal of some insulation, the air-con and the infotainment (as well as the fitment of forged wheels), with Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s now standard and the suspension ever so slightly tweaked to take account of the lower kerbweight. There will be 100 in Europe, and just 20 in the UK, with deliveries beginning in November. It holds the Suzuka front-wheel drive lap record, and don't be surprised if it goes for a couple more...
For now, the test route is limited to a few laps of a tight and technical test track, where you're mostly in second gear and never out of third. And it's chucking it down. A more unsuitable test of a circuit focused Honda Type R it'd be hard to think of. That said, ill-suited assessments tend to be the most revealing - no one shows off their best in comfort zone mode.
Immediately the Limited puts you at ease, primarily because much of it is familiar from the outgoing, pre-facelift FK8 Type R. The seats are great, the driving position spot on, with additional appeal added by a new Alcantara wheel and a 90g counterweighted, tear-drop shaped gearlever. They exist primarily for feel and engagement - as good a pair of reasons to change anything in a car - and work a treat, because Alcantara always does and the new knob somehow improves on a manual transmission that was already near perfect. Plus, it looks a bit like an old Type R gearknob, the little titanium lozenges on Integras and whatnot - perfect.
Handily for those having to justify the Limited's £5k premium (both those selling and buying), the Sunlight Yellow car straightaway feels different to any other FK8 Civic Type R. That's because - you've guessed it - the Michelins deliver turn in bite and precision that simply didn't exist before. Even in less than ideal conditions, its tenacity for an apex is pronounced, heightened by the additional weight through the steering that the Cup 2's stiffer sidewalls tend to offer. The Limited very quickly feels a pretty serious proposition, and not just because of the big blanking plate where the infotainment screen used to be.
Even when chasing the throttle sooner than expected, even with those tyres and even in second gear, the Civic delivers mighty traction, chomping through the tarmac on the first straight. So viciously, in fact, that it smashes into its rev limiter before grabbing third gear - doh. But it reveals another nice attribute of the Limited: less insulation means more noise. The 'bap-bap-bap' rings through the cabin announces itself more vividly than it ever has, zinging from the exhaust and really helping the road-racer vibe.
Another second gear corner and, much like the gearshift, the Limited brakes provide ample evidence of its attention to detail, bettering a brake setup which was already class-leading. With two-piece discs now instead of one to reduce disc tilt under hard braking, the middle pedal is even firmer and more resilient than it was, while still allowing sufficient pedal travel to accurately modulate the braking performance. Which, complemented by the super sticky tyres, is formidable. It's the best braking setup this side of a GT Porsche. The pedals remain perfectly placed, moreover, for those attempting to better Honda's rev match system. (Spoiler: you won't.)
Inevitably, it's the rain which highlights the shortcomings of all this incisiveness. Be too greedy on corner exit and the front will inevitably wash wide (in a way it surely wouldn't on more accommodating tyres), and there's wheelspin at points in a straight line where, once more, something more 'normal' might not. It's far from the end of the world, however. Not only is the traction control intelligently calibrated, intervening late and pretty discreetly, there's enough feedback from the car to know when the limit is approaching - and sufficient responsiveness to throttle and steering inputs to bring it back into line. Anything untoward is well communicated and easy to manage; it would be hard to ask for much more from something tuned with circuit driving in mind.
Hand on heart, it's difficult to detect much discernible performance difference for the lighter Limited, the gains coming around a circuit in traction, grip and braking. That's hardly a major issue, however, given the quality of the Civic's powertrain: there's not much lag, an effervescent top end and sensibly spaced gear ratios to make the most it.
On this evidence, there's much to be encouraged by, certainly to justify the excitement of anyone about to take ownership. Though by a small margin, this is a more agile, more rewarding, more engaging version of the best hot hatch out there. Which makes it fairly awesome. It's an easy car to be cynical about when almost a quarter of the weight saved comes from ditching the air conditioning (thus spoiling it for everyday use), and it's certainly not as extreme as something like a Golf Clubsport S or Megane Trophy R. But the Limited earns its spurs, and suggests that were Honda inclined to do something even more uncompromising - and faster still - there is a terrific foundation here to work on. The campaign for a runout Type-RR begins now...
SPECIFICATION | HONDA CIVIC TYPE R LIMITED
Engine: 1,996cc, 4-cyl turbocharged
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Power (hp): 320@6,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 295@2,500-4,500rpm
Top speed: 169mph
Weight: 1,358kg (kerbweight)
MPG: 33.6 (WLTP)
Price: £39,995 (sold out, deliveries from November)
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