It's a predicament faced by a lucky few manufacturers: how on earth to replace a class-leading car? In one fell swoop, everything that was good about the current model should be retained - for fear of alienating existing customers - while also introducing sufficient alterations for it to feel like a worthwhile upgrade. Because that's how you get the buyers in that weren't interested previously.
It's an enormously tricky feat to pull off, one that these new pictures show Honda attempting with the Civic Type R. Even allowing for three years on sale and some decent rivals introduced since then, the FK8 remains - by a margin - the best front-drive hot hatch available. Possibly the best full stop. This car must retain the traits that have earned it class-leading status, while tackling those issues (most likely around the exterior styling, and interior sense of occasion) that put some people off.
Even with the heavy disguise, it's evident that the new Civic Type R will be no less modest than today's car. There's still a giant wing out back, still an air intake in the bonnet (now even bigger) and still part of the rear bumper cut out for a centre exit exhaust. The dangling drainpipe reflects this Civic's prototype status rather than an upcoming option; the space behind the tow bar (as seen in some of the pics) is most likely where the production exhaust will go.
Other points of note include wheels carried over from the FK8 Type R, with red Brembo calipers as well. Oh yes, and the vivid red seats. This next iteration will clearly be a different Civic Type R again, with an altered look if reasonably familiar proportions, but it seems trademark features will be carried across.
It's also being suggested that this Civic will debut as a 2022 model, which would make some sense, following three years of the original FK8 Type R and two years of the facelift. Quite what the fast car world might look like, even by then, is up for debate, although with the Volkswagen Golf GTI carrying on in much the same vogue, there's a fair chance the mighty VTEC will be carried over. Of course that does not preclude the possibility of mild hybrid assistance or the option of an automatic - which, frankly, seems likely. Most importantly of all, can Honda make a Civic Type R that people like the look of? Only time will tell...