Sunday, January 23, 2022
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Is the 2021 Honda Civic Type R a JDM icon?

FORGET the harsh suspension, or the fact it’s front wheel drive, or even the dodgy as hell infotainment system, the 2021 Honda Civic Type R is an icon – the usurper to the hot hatch kingdom and a JDM fan boi’s dream.

Ignore the randomly overzealous lane keep assist too, and simply bask in the glory that is this car. Marking the end of line for the current spec Civic Type R, Honda has ceased sales, ahead of its replacement by a next-generation model, most likely in 2022.

Yes, we really did say, you can’t buy a 2021 Honda Civic Type R anymore. At the time of testing, we were aware that the press car provided by Honda Australia was literally the last brand new FK8 in this country, that hadn’t been sold.

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And that’s part of this car’s charm. The unavailability of the thing, fresh out of the box, makes us, and you, want one even more. Talk to owners, who are invariably lovers of this car, and they’ll tell you it looks mostly family friendly, despite the rear wing.

They’ll also tell you it’s secretly a monster. It has handling for days, it’s great on fuel on long drives (but will chunk its way through around 10.4-litres/100km in suburbia), has a good engine noise, comfy seats that feel amazing, and a decent audio system.

interior
Inside the 2021 Honda Civic Type R

It rides on 20-inch wheels, which is a thing too (although plenty recommended ditching the factory option for a good set of sexy 18-inch alloys). And because of our chats with a few owners, this isn’t really a car review (hence the lack of ratings at the bottom).

We saw their passion for the Civic Type R, listened to their thoughts (good and bad) and figured that rather than penning a critique, we’d make this a nod to a modern classic, or perhaps even a legend – warts and all.

The Type R – a Japanese symbol of hot hatch goodness, or is it? (well okay, it mostly is, but we’ve outlined some of its flaws, and there’s a few more). For starters, it needs a better exhaust system to pump more noise from its 228kW/400Nm powerplant.

Despite triple outlets at the end of the pipes, and the 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbocharged engine sounding good, the back end has a pretty sucky note, and there’s no real snap, crackle and pop, like you might get from say the 2022 Hyundai i30 N.

The red interior isn’t for everyone either. That creates a conundrum between owners, because if you love it, it can be an immense part of the good side of the Type R. But if it’s not your cup of tea, and you own this hot hatch, you probably purchased the wrong car.

engine
Under the hood of the 2021 Honda Civic Type R

High on the wish list for people lucky enough to have a set of keys to an FK8 Civic Type R are the things they’d like to see in the next generation model (to be known as the FL), when it arrives (some time in 2022).

A vastly improved infotainment system and phone charging are right up there. Many also wanted (like really wished hard) that the next offering from Honda is either all-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive.

And yes, they know that breaks the formula, but to quote one of them; “imagine the 6-speed manual paired with AWD, it’d be epic”.

On the plus side, the high performance Honda (which save for the no longer produced NSX, is the brand’s only go-fast option) can be enjoy without modifications, delivering a package that most buyers would be genuinely satisfied with.

One owner described it as a car with a genuine split personality, and consequently a dual audience. It could be a car that will get the wife’s approval for family use, he said, but still had enough get up and go to eat its way through twisty winding country roads.

2021 Honda Civic Type R
2021 Honda Civic Type R

That dual audience thing though – he described the Civic Type R as being seen by those who didn’t favour its over the top looks or like its departures from its predecessors, as a set of wheels for blokes having a mid-life crisis.

Those owners who do use their Type R to support their young family all point to similar annoyances too, including the lack of rear air vents, poor utilisation of storage options and the forgotten sunglasses holder.

Funnily enough, every owner of a current generation Honda Civic Type R we talked to, did agree on one thing. When asked if, given their time of ownership, and the car’s good and bad points, they’d buy one again – not one of them said no.

Our final word, or words, on the 2021 Civic Type R come in the form of a question, or rather a few of them. Is Honda’s hot hatch an icon? And do you agree with our owners, and us, of course? Tell us your thoughts.

Our test vehicle was supplied by Honda Australia (after its sale had ceased). To find out more about the 2021 Honda Civic Type R, visit your local Honda dealer. Images courtesy of Mitch Zeinert Photography.

2021 Honda Civic Type R
2021 Honda Civic Type R
Mark Holgate
A journalist with more than 24 years experience, Mark Holgate has worked with a number of regional, suburban and metropolitan newspapers, as well as stints with motoring specific publications like Which Car? Motorsport News, Auto Action and Street Machine. He is also a contributor to DriveTribe.

1 COMMENT

  1. Having owned two FK8 Type Rs (MY18 and now a MY21 LE) I’m still amazed at how good they are. For those of us who looked past the boy racer looks we were treated to what more than one motoring journo described as the most cohesive driving experiences this side of a Porsche GT3.

    That it can go from a docile daily grocery getter to a corner carving monster speaks volumes for just how right the Honda engineers got it. The improvements for the MY21 in areas the FK8 was already miles ahead of its competition show just how good a platform it is.

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