I have a confession to make: I was very much a Civic guy.
Having started driving with an EK Civic, and eventually getting my hands on a Civic SiR, you can just imagine the Type R dreams when we tuned and modded our cars along with fellow owners.
I was a fan up until Honda (in my opinion) stopped building a proper Civic. The ones that followed didn't really excite us; good cars, yes, but not as thrilling as before when compared to the competition.
Thankfully that's all changed, and Honda has its groove back with the Civic that they released in 2016; one had a 1.8 i-VTEC motor, the other one had the enjoyable 1.5 liter VTEC Turbo. Now we've got something better, and it has a very special badge up front: the elusive red H.
The Type R began a little over 25 years ago when Honda first introduced the NSX Type R for its home market in 1992. Following their flagship model, the Integra Type R was next in line for the 'Red H' treatment in 1995. In 1997, Honda decided to add a third 'Red H' car to its lineup with the Civic Type R. Based on an EK4 hatchback with a lighter, stiffer chassis and an uprated 1.6-liter (B16B) engine producing 185 PS, the EK9 had one of the highest performing normally aspirated engines (per liter) of its time.
Until the FK8 Civic Type R's nearly impossible arrival, the EK4 Civic SiR was the closest thing we ever had to a high-performance Civic. It was not till about the same time last year when Honda brought in the 2018 Civic Type R, which made its global debut just months prior, to the Philippines. Back then Honda was merely toying with the idea of bringing it in, saying that "they were still evaluating it".
When Honda officially opened the order books in July, you can imagine what happened to all 100 units allocated for the Philippine market – all gone within 48 hours.
Fast forward to 2018, Honda Cars Philippines invites us to drive the new Civic Type R in its natural element at the Clark International Speedway; along with some of the lucky buyers who managed to snap them up quickly.
The FK8 Civic Type R is, for all intents and purposes, built to make a statement: Honda is back in the high-performance game.
The aggressive exterior, red color accents and the unusual tri-exit center exhaust all hint towards the sporting capability of this model. Under the hood is the 2.0-liter VTEC turbo KC20C1 engine rated at 310 PS with 400 Nm of torque mated to a six-speed manual gearbox. Numbers on paper are well and good, but the icing on the Type R cake was the 7m 43.8s Nurburgring laptime to set the record straight. All told, the new Civic Type R is a street and track fighter.
What better way to experience it than take it on the track, right?
Hold your horses
Before we were unleashed on the track, instructors Georges, Louis, and Stefan Ramirez made us do a few driving exercises to refresh our driving skills and reflexes. Drivers tend to be wilder than cars they don't know, after all. Participants were divided between slaloms and evasive maneuvers, just in case we or the other cars on track make a mistake. While some may find these exercises boring, I took it as an opportunity to feel the car before going into the main event.
Before we begin
After the refresher, we were then directed to proceed to our cars where we did sectional exercises to familiarize ourselves with the circuit. That, and to make sure there were still 101 examples of the Civic Type R remaining after the event.
On to the main event
Once we completed our track familiarization exercises, we flipped the +R switch on and then set out to attack the track. In packs of five cars, we tried to apply as much as much we could remember in taking on the corners, braking, downshifting sans blipping (the car auto blips), and where to accelerate and control the throttle.
With only three full laps and some cornering exercises, I tried to digest as much as I could.
It was apparent that this generation of the Civic Type R had a more solid platform than previous generations, it actually felt a bit more 'Euro' than a Japanese car. This could probably be because they're exclusively built in Honda's Swindon, England factory.
The 4-pot Brembo front brakes were also a huge bonus as it gave this beast all the stopping power it needs; none of those 'it feels like it won't stop' feeling of sub-par braking systems.
If you've become accustomed to high-strung VTEC engines of the past, you'd definitely miss the low to high cam profile changeover sound - VTEC won't kick-in, 'yo. Despite the lack of engine roar, power and torque comes in spades packing a serious punch to propel it out of corners in a rather civilized way.
Torque-steer, a common trait of high-performance front-wheel drive cars, was virtually absent and balance was just very, very good thanks to a stiffer chassis, properly engineered suspension and a mechanical LSD (limited-slip diffential). The gearbox felt very smooth and precise, even for a cable linked shifter. Rowing up or down the gearbox felt very good, adding up to the driving experience chart.
Some may call the rear wing gaudy or ridiculous but it's been placed high enough so it doesn't obstruct your rear view. So I'd give it points for form, aero function and practical function.
This car was just engineered to do virtually everything right. Call me a Civic fanboy, but I'm sure you'd agree if you get to drive it yourself.
I can only sum up the experience in three words - I WANT ONE.