Sometimes, all you need is one letter to get the enthusiasts' blood pumping. Put the words Honda Civic and Type R together and it will catch the brand's fanatics attention. The Japanese automaker has been putting the hallowed badge on the Civic for two decades now. Perhaps it's a fitting coincidence that the all-new Civic Type R was revealed on its 20th birthday.
As the first batches of the Civic Type R are being delivered to local customers, let's take a nostalgic look at the cars that paved the way to the all-new model. Starting from the EK9, we trace the roots of the icon and see what made each model unique.
EK9 (1997 – 2000)
The hatch that started it all. While Honda has given the NSX and Integra the Type R treatment years prior, the first-generation Civic Type R widened the appeal of Honda's most sporting brand. Up until today, it has been heralded as one of the most timeless Type R's ever built.
So what makes the EK9 such an icon? On paper, it sounds like any other Civic with a 1.6-liter engine. What makes it special is the way Honda eked out power out of such a small displacement. Utter the words 'B16B' and the fans will rave about the engine for hours on end. From its diminutive engine, it pushed out 185 PS and 160 Nm of torque, making over 100 PS per liter. The high-revving engine then howls its way to a 9,000 rpm redline.
It's not just the engine that helped cement the EK9's place into automotive history books. Honda also did tweaks to the chassis, further enhancing the standard EK Civic's dynamic handling. It had its own suspension settings and parts, a limited-slip differential and a seam-welded chassis for added rigidity. As light as the hatchback was, Honda went as far as putting it on a diet by removing sound deadening materials. There was even a no-frills version with no air conditioning, no power windows, no power steering and no radio.
Perhaps another reason as to why the EK9 is so iconic is because of it being a Japan only model. Unlike the rest of the Civic Type Rs, one had to import an EK9 from Japan in order to have a genuine Type R instead of a clone, based off the EK hatchback.
EP3 (2001 – 2005)
For its second generation, the Civic Type R went international. No longer a Japan-only car, the EP3 Civic Type R made its presence felt in Europe, as well as parts of Asia. Interestingly, this era of Civic Type R was reverse imported to Japan with all units being assembled in Swindon, England. Also, the EP3 is the first Civic Type R to be available in left hand. Most of the units produced were still manufactured in right-hand drive however.
So it's not fully JDM but the EP3 was embraced with open arms in Europe. Being more affordable than the contemporary Golf GTI, European road testers hailed it as a pocket rocket with a lot of bang for your buck. With the Civic of that generation growing in size, Honda also decided to boost the displacement of the Type R.
Under the hood of the second-generation Civic Type R is a 2.0-liter i-VTEC engine dubbed the K20A. Still a rev-happy motor, it produced 200 PS and 202 Nm of torque. Like its predecessor, it comes with its own special suspension components, as well as unique settings that further gave the hot hatch a sporting edge. With the car being sold abroad, it saw success in racetracks in Europe too.
FN2R/FD2R (2006 – 2011)
By the mid-2000's Honda did something rather special to the Civic Type R line. For the first time, and perhaps the only time, the Japanese automaker make gave two body style options to the Type R.
In Asia, and its home market of Japan, the Civic Type R transformed into a sedan in the form of the FD2R. This is no ordinary Civic with a 2.0-liter engine. The K20A mill was given special tuning to stetch its power output to 225 PS and 215 Nm of torque, staying true to the normally aspirated theme of Honda at the time. With a stiffened chassis and more aggressive suspension tuning, Japanese road testers noted that the car was more focused than its predecessor. Front wheel drive was no limitation to the FD2R, notably setting a sports car humbling laptime in Suzuka when it was driven by Keiichi Tsuchiya.
While most of the Asian region received the FD2R, the Europeans got their hands on the FN2R. Similar to its predecessor, it was received well much like when the EP3 when it made its debut in the region. Like it's predecessor, the FN2R was also built in Swindon, England.
The FN2R is powered by the same K20A motor and mated to a six-speed manual transmission found on the EP3, thus making it different from the FD2R. Unlike the sedan, the hatch used a simpler torsion beam for the rear as compared to the complex double wishbone setup of its direct predecessor. It's chassis was also derived from the Honda Fit (Jazz).
Despite being a designated for the European markets, the FN2R was also offered in Japan for a limited time. While the sedan counterpart still had the legs on the FN2R, it was found to be popular in its home market and other Asian countries it was officially offered to for a limited time.
FK2 (2015 – 2017)
It would take another four years before Honda would come up with another Civic Type R. This generation, the FK2, featured a lot of firsts for the model line. It was the first Type R to be powered by a turbocharged engine, allowing it to break the 300 PS mark. The 2.0-liter turbocharged direct-injected K20C1 with Earth Dreams technology pushed out 310 PS and 400 Nm of torque and was mated to a 6-speed manual transmission. Despite the FK2 still being built in Swindon, England, the engine was built from Honda's Anna Engine Plant in Ohio.
Official production of the FK2 began in 2015, marking the start of the 4th generation Civic Type R. Unlike the FN2R, the FK2 chassis was based on an actual Civic and not a Jazz despite still sporting a torsion beam. It was however, the most short lived Civic Type R out of all generations. Production ended in 2017 to make way for the fifth generation Civic Type R, the FK8.
Not much could be said about the FK2 as it was only in production for a year and a half. It was also not sold in most markets apart from Europe. Honda did export the FK2 to Japan with an allocation of just 750 units. Despite the limited sales in Japan, the FK2 Type R would set the precedent for the all-new model.
FK8 (2017 - Current)
With an all-new Civic came an all-new Type R. Based on the 10th generation Civic, it continues where the FK2 left off. This time, the Civic Type R catered to an even wider audience, as past models were only sold in Japan, Europe or select Asian countries. Honda decided to make it a truly global product, making the FK8 the first Type R to be sold worldwide. That also meant we get the much revered hot hatchback in the country officially for the first time.
Like the FK2, power comes from a turbocharged 2.0-liter K20AC1 engine, producing an output of 310 PS and 400 Nm of torque. While the output is retained, that didn't stop Honda from setting a significant record. Earlier this year, the FK8 managed to set the fastest time for a front-wheel drive vehicle on the Nurburgring. With a lap time of 7:43.80, it was more than enough to humble cars with more power.
20 years since it was first launched, the Honda Civic Type R has gone through a dramatic metamophosis. What started out as a potent three-door hatchback has transformed into a Nurburgring record-setter. Even as Honda embraces the concept of turbocharging, the impact of the Civic Type R remains the same. Simply put, it's Honda's rawest expression of performance.