In the late 80s up to the early 90s, Honda was at the top of their game as an engine supplier in Formula One. At their peak, Honda engines were the weapon of choice due to their power, reliability, sophistication, and proven track record. By the end of the 1992 season, Formula One cars with Honda engines at the back had won 71 races, with a large part of that coming from McLaren and Ayrton Senna.
Naturally, all those learnings in Formula One eventually made their way to Honda's passenger vehicles, and the original Type R was born – the NSX-R. The mid-engined sports car provided all the fundamentals for red-badged Hondas that came after it: motorsport-derived engineering, potent high-revving powerplants, and impeccable driving dynamics.
In 1997, five years after the birth of the NSX-R came the Civic Type R, which rewrote the rulebook on the very definition of a hot hatch. Now that its sixth-generation model has arrived, let's take a look at how the Civic Type R over 25 years to deliver the most exciting driving experience from a front-engine, front-wheel-drive car.
EK9 (1997-2000) The original Civic Type R
Honda introduced the very first Civic to receive the Type R badge back in August 19, 1997. Otherwise known as the EK9, the first-generation model shared a lot of the philosophies applied to the NSX-R and the DC2 Integra Type R, but was more affordable and accessible for everyone.
The EK9 was a Japan-only model, and in its heart lies the hand-ported 1.6-liter B16B DOHC VTEC engine that produced an impressive 116 bhp per liter, which is still one of the highest per liter output naturally-aspirated production engines ever made. Combined with a short-ratio 5-speed manual gearbox, double wishbone suspension, and helical limited-slip differential, the lightweight EK9 had an overwhelming success. To this day, the EK9 is still being picked as a weapon of choice for racing enthusiasts.
EP3 (2001-2005) The first K-engined Type R
The second-generation Civic Type R was the first model to be offered outside Japan and was manufactured in Swindon, England. It was also the very first Civic Type R to have the 2.0-liter K20A DOHC i-VTEC engine that produced 200 PS in the European Domestic Market version, and 215 PS in the Japanese-spec version.
The EP3 had uprated brakes, a new close-ratio six-speed transmission, and a chassis that was 80% stiffer than the EK9. However, most enthusiasts see the EP3 as the “softer” Civic Type R compared to the hardcore EK9, as it lost the renowned double wishbone suspension in front for MacPherson struts and electric power steering that somewhat had less steering feel than the EK9 which had a hydraulic unit.
FD2 / FN2 (2007-2011) Civic Type R in two flavors
In the Civic Type R's timeline, so far the third-generation was the most unique – in a way that Honda developed two Civic Type Rs depending on the market, with each matching the availability of their standard 8th-generation Civic counterparts.
If you wanted the original hatchback body styling, the FN2 was available in the European and International markets. Called the Type R Euro, it still had the naturally-aspirated K20A engine. But its rear suspension was revised from a double wishbone setup to a more conventional and less complex torsion beam axle.
On the other hand, the Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) had the FD2 four-door sedan, which was wider, bigger, and heavier than the EP3 Type R. To counter the increased weight, Honda increased the K20A's power output in the FD2 to 225 PS. And unlike the FN2 Type R, the FD2 had a helical LSD and independent rear suspension, which gave the car better track performance than the Euro model.
FK2 (2015-2017) VTEC Turbo Type R
It wasn't until 2015 that Honda turned out with a new Civic Type R. And in that four-year absence, the Civic Type R totally transformed into the turbocharged front-wheel-drive sports car that we know today.
Honda engineers developed the new 2.0-liter K20C1 engine with VTEC Turbo and produced 310 PS. To better control torque steer that's usually encountered in high-output front-wheel-drive cars, the Dual Axis Strut Suspension was introduced for the first time to go along with the usual limited-slip differential. In motorsports, the FK2 was a successful race car and won multiple touring car titles around the world.
FK8 (2017-2022) The advanced Type R
The first four generations of the Civic Type R mostly relied on mechanical improvements and clever suspension engineering to extract more performance. But for the fifth-generation model, Honda significantly evolved the Civic Type R using electronic wizardry. The FK8 was the first Civic Type R to feature adaptive dampers and used aerodynamic solutions to boost the hot hatch's downforce.
Using the same K20C1 engine, the FK8 now has 320 PS and a top speed of 272 km/h. Despite incremental changes to the FK8 stats-wise, the car was 7 seconds faster than the FK2 at the famed Nurburgring-Nordschleife circuit.
FL5 (2022-) Advanced Type R 2.0
Honda used the same DNA that can be traced back to the FD2-generation Civic Type R in developing the next-generation model. The FL5 further evolves, matures, and refines the incremental revisions applied to the first turbo Civic Type R. The result is what the Japanese brand claims as “the fastest Civic Type R yet”.
With the developmental unit already breaking the track record at Suzuka, Honda has set the bar higher once again. We're confident the FL5 is a fitting car to celebrate 25 years of the Civic Type R nameplate.