+ NAILED IT
- Even lighter on its toes
- Supreme cross country pace
- Excellent brake feel and unflappable performance
- FAILED IT
- Firmer suspension delivers mildly busier ride
- Still divisive in the looks department
- No radio. Or USB port
Really, it's amazing what Honda's FK8 Civic Type R has achieved in standard trim. The 320hp super-hatch cuts it with the most exotic offerings from Renault Sport and Volkswagen without the need for an ultra-honed Nurburgring setup or deleted back bench. It's been a ferocious offering to the segment since launch - but three years on Honda has now seen fit to turn the excellent FK8 up to eleven with a track-focussed variant. Just 20 of 100 European cars are coming to Britain.
Each Limited Edition - all of which are sold out - weighs 48kg less than the standard FK8 via reduced sound insulation, the binning of air-con and infotainment, as well as the fitment of forged wheels. The rims come wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres as standard, while the suspension has been tweaked to cater for the demands of track use. The recipe has already demonstrated its potential with a new front-wheel drive lap record at Suzuka. The 2:23.993 run sees the Limited Edition hit 140mph on the approach to 130R. We'd say that's a point proven on track. Question is, does it work in Britain?
SPECIFICATION | HONDA CIVIC TYPE R LIMITED EDITION
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)
The FK8 has always nailed the most important bits out of the box. The driving position provided by well-bolstered and iconic red seats is class leading, the reach to the steering wheel and pedals faultless. But the Limited Edition finds room for improvement in tactility with an Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel and teardrop gearknob, which is counter weighted with 90g to ensure the slickest, most positive shift action through the gate. The teardrop shape itself harks back to the shifter of the EP3, adding to the enthusiast edge of a cabin otherwise identical to the standard FK8.
Barring, of course, the removal of the infotainment system and its USB port. Both are gone to reduce the weight of hardware and wiring in the Limited Edition, ensuring that your focus is entirely on the act of driving. That said, the rear bench remains, something Honda says it did to retain real-world practicality in the package - a decision that feels somewhat at odds with the modifications. That Suzuka lap record may owe a few hundredths to the deleting of cabin technology, but you don’t half miss the kit when driving on the motorway. Something that even the most hardcore of circuit drivers are likely to do en route to a trackday.
At least not having a radio or phone connectivity allows you to appreciate the quality of everything else around you. There’s less insulation so road noise and wind noise are increased, but the FK8 Limited Edition cabin remains a docile, uneventful place to chug along at motorway speeds in. It’s functional, with big, easily operated buttons on a smartly thought out dash and wheel layout, so switching between drive modes and adjusting the ancillaries – which, in the Limited Edition, doesn’t include air con – is something you can do without taking your eyes off the road. There are no audible squeaks or rattles. It’s well put together, but seats aside, it’s also a bit bland compared to some European rivals.
ENGINE & GEARBOX
Technically, there have been no changes to the turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder that powers the Limited Edition, nor have there been tweaks to the six-speed gearbox. It's identical to the standard FK8, although you are a little more aware of the work being done under the bonnet thanks to the reduction in sound deadening. Under heavy throttle the motor’s tone is more pronounced, as is the zing from the exhaust out back. Heel and toeing in the FK8 has always been a delight and the auto blip remains brilliant, but now, these actions come with a smidge more audible drama - particularly when you’re wringing its neck.
The gearshift has always been a work of ergonomic genius, so saying there’s an improvement in feel and positivity for the Limited. Edition’s lever is to no detriment of the original FK8 design. The difference is miniscule; the flick of the wrist required to get through the gate is actioned with a small but noticeable increase in positivity. There’s still weight to the shift, but the lever feels keener to slice across the ratios. It’s even more sweetly matched to that springy, feelsome clutch pedal, which provides so much information that it’s a challenge to not nail every shift or slip the clutch perfectly from a standing start. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: the best gear shift this side of Porsche. It flatters you.
With no mechanical differences, the engine's familiar character remains: 320hp arrives at 6,500rpm, but 295lb ft of torque is available from 2,500 to 4,500rpm, so the motor feels muscular and elastic all the way through, as before. There’s reward to rev it out, but you can also find yourself building speed effortlessly without asking too much from it. The Limited Edition’s reduction in weight only adds to this sensation. As ever, the FK8 powertrain is wonderful to command at all speeds; smooth and cohesive (and frugal) at low revs, and rewarding and endlessly capable at full pelt. Memory of VTEC screamers might have faded, but what we have now is still pretty special.
It’s the chassis that provides the biggest departure in the Limited Edition model. The damping has been retuned with a greater focus on outright performance. You’re aware of this alteration from the get-go. Where the regular FK8 is surprisingly supple, the Limited Edition’s Cup 2-shod lightweight BBSs are busier. It's never crashy or brittle, but the cosseting is somewhat less assured.
What you get instead is a car with such fabulous reserves of body control under load, tremendous responses over the front axle and the sort of rear end composure that must be scaled like a mountain. On a bone-dry stretch of tarmac, the level of commitment required to reach the chassis’s limits is astounding; where an FK8 can worry sports cars, this thing feels capable of hanging onto supercars through bends. It keeps those four Cup 2s so permanently and evenly pressed into the road that you can practically nominate a speed and start pointing the nose at corners. You can play with the balance, but the effects on angle are small because on the road, the Limited Edition just grips and grips.
This sort of hair-on-fire commitment is maintained in all the control surfaces, with the new discs said to offer less warp under heavy load so the pedal feel is stronger. It is; you’re able to properly abuse the brakes and still feel eminently on top of what they’re doing. Same goes for the limited slip diff, which thanks to the enormous bite of the rubber, hauls you towards an apex with even greater vigour. Before long you’ll be flicking the car into bends and using the throttle to decide the exit line. On the road this performance is little short of astounding, although you get the impression that it’s on circuit where the setup will truly come into its own.
The bubblier ride is a reminder of that fact. Comfort is now the default setting for UK roads, which hardly matters given the level of body control on offer - but you'll be reacting more to the road surface than you do in the standard model. In some ways it adds to the experience; there’s nothing like a lifted front wheel over an inside corner bump to evoke feelings of a BTCC racer. But where the FK8 feels accommodating of a road no matter the quality of the surfacing, the Limited Edition is more interested in doing things its own way.
There are two problems here. The first is that at £39,995, the Limited Edition is seven grand more than the ‘base’ FK8 and five more than the GT. And the second is that all Limited Editions are spoken for. Ah. Even if they weren't, though, you’d have to be a proper trackday regular to justify that premium, given that the standard car is so ideally suited to the demands of fast road work. And to be honest, the regular car is pretty well sorted for track use anyway; the Limited Edition just raises its limits by a step or two.
But for whatever you gain in outright performance, you lose a step in comfort and usability. And with no radio to distract you, the firmness of the ride is all the more noticeable, especially on a long motorway stint. The flip side, of course, is that when you arrive on a smooth section of road or circuit, the car is barely a step down from proper track stuff – and given the uprated hardware, consumables should last a fair bit longer, too.
Considering all that, the Limited Edition doesn’t feel overpriced - especially when the Renault Sport Megane Trophy-R adds another £10k, and is not at its best until you’re spending over seventy grand. The Limited Edition is rarer, too, plus it wipes the floor with the likes of the AMG A35 and BMW M135i, both of which are about four-grand cheaper but are a big step back in outright performance and engagement. It’s honestly more comparable with a Porsche Cayman GT4 than that lot, so for someone wanting the most extreme hot hatch this side of the Megane, this is it.
But the real elephant in the room is the standard Type R. Because while your circuit times will be marginally lower, the overall enjoyment isn’t necessarily higher. Moreover, the lower mechanical grip (relatively speaking) of the regular FK8 means its adjustability is in easier reach - which in turn means you're rewarded from a lower speeed, more often. You don’t have to embrace wide-eyed insanity to know you've got the best from it. And frankly that's a good thing in a hot hatch.
Honda is obviously well aware of the Limited Edition car's limitations on road. The ultra-low production numbers mean that only ultra-commited Type R fans need apply - and they have. Those buyers will be satisfied that the car's narrowed focus lifts the FK8 to never before reached performance levels.
But to that end, a car fitted with harnesses and relieved of its back seats might have been easier to understand. Certainly the sterner damping and lack of infotainment would make more sense. At times the Limited Edition feels like a job half done: it's a road car capable of carrying the whole family, but there’s no air con to keep them cool and no radio to keep them sane.
Of course, the glass half full way of looking at it is that Honda delivered the flipside: car made better at one single-minded thing without unduly sacrificing it's usability elsewhere. That will have made it easier for some to justify buying, and no one will be paying attention to the rear bench when they're gleefully filling the mirrors of six-figure sports cars. So perhaps it dovetails perfectly: anyone who has bought a Limited Edition can rest assured that it's the most capable, commitment-draining Type R you can buy. Anyone who didn't can reflect on the fact that the more expensive model is a super-fast hatchback made faster. But not necessarily better.
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