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A History of the Honda Civic Type R

The 2023 Civic Type R carries on a legend more than 25 years in the making.

By Evan Williams Wheels.ca

Jul 26, 2022 5 min. read

Article was updated a year ago

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Honda's latest Civic Type R is its most powerful yet, but will it be the most popular? And will it become as much of a performance icon as its predecessors? Before this latest Type R, the FL5 for hardcore Honda fans, there were six different Civic Type R models. Here's a look at the history of Honda's hottest hatch.

Honda's first Type R was a version of the NSX. A lightweight special sold only in Japan, it didn't have power windows, A/C, or sound deadening. The Type R Integra of 1995, badged a Honda at home, had similar lightweighting and a special chassis to make the car lighter and stronger, transforming it into even more of a driver's car.

First Generation (EK9) 1997-2000

1997 Civic Type R (EK9)

The first Civic Type R arrived in 1997. Based on the three-door Civic hatchback, the lightest and stiffest, the car transformed the existing SiR into something special. The 1.6L four-cylinder, the now legendary B16B, had its cylinder heads ported by hand to improve flow. Letting it make 182 hp at an impressive 8,200 rpm. That's a power to displacement figure that would be almost impossible to match for another 20 years, when turbochargers moved into the mainstream.

The close-ratio transmission had a helical limited-slip differential for more traction, while the bare chassis was seam welded for rigidity. It had Recaro seats, bright red floor mats, and a special Momo steering wheel. With crank windows and no air conditioning, this was a Civic designed for the racetrack and meant for drivers wanting the ultimate hot hatch.

Second Generation (EP3) 2001-2005

2005 Honda Civic Type R

With a new generation of Civic came a new generation Type R for 2001. This one was built in the UK, and was made just for Europe. It came with a 2.0L K20A2 four-cylinder that made 200 hp. Like the first CTR, it had a seam-welded chassis for stiffness. This time the Type R got a six-speed stick, still a close ratio gearbox, but it didn't have a limited-slip differential. The CTR red Recaro race seats were missing, too.

Honda made a special version for Japan that did get the red seats and LSD. It also used a more powerful engine, with a new intake and exhaust as well as higher compression giving the car 212 horsepower. These engines were built in Japan and sent to England for assembly. The gearbox was fitted with even shorter ratios to help boost acceleration.

Interesting details for this one include only Japan's car getting the signature Type R Championship White paint. Later versions of the Type R for Europe added more comfort features, while 2003 updates made changes to improve steering response and reduce on-limit understeer.

Third Generation

For 2007, the Civic Type R split even more. Japan got a model based on the Civic sedan, which was actually a version of the Canadian-designed Acura CSX. Yes, the 2007 JDM - short for Japanese domestic market it's what many enthusiasts here call cars made only for Japan - was really a Canadian Domestic Market car.

Europe got another hatch, based on the completely different Civic model that Honda sold there in this generation.

FD2 2007-2011 (Japan)

civic type r fd2 JDM
The JDM Civic Type R was a sedan, a first for that body style and the first time it had more than three doors. The car made 222 hp from its high-revving 2.0L four with that power peak at 8,200 rpm. The transmission was a close-ratio six-speed, and Honda used bonded aluminum in the chassis in place of welded steel. This Type R was the first CTR to start to look much different on the outside. It had a big rear wing and more aggressive bumpers along with side skirts to set it apart.

Purists call this one the last "real driver's Type R," because, well, they like to gatekeep. Though this car was the last one to be able to blend into the background like the originals. It was also the last one to have a screaming naturally aspirated engine.

FN2 2007-2011 (Europe)

2010 Honda Civic Type R
Europe's car was still a three-door hatch, and it looked seriously futuristic. The 198 hp engine was the same as the powerplant from the previous Euro civic, with changes to give it more accessible torque. Because the car dropped its independent rear suspension for a torsion beam rear, buyers and reviewers at the time called it a worse car than the Type R it replaced.

From a Canadian perspective, the styling is pretty cool. Even if it's visually the same as the non Type R model sold in Europe at the time. Honda Japan liked it enough that the company brought over around 3,500 of them in 2009 and 2010, badging the car Civic Type R Euro.

Fourth Generation (FK2) 2015-2017

2016 Honda Civic Type R

The fourth-generation Civic Type R was also the first one to get a turbocharger. Once again based on the Euro-spec hatchback and built in the UK, this time it was a five-door instead of three.

A turbocharged 2.0L engine made 306 hp. Torque climbed massively with the addition of boost, with 295 lb-ft available over a very wide rev range. This was a massive change compared with the old high-revving naturally aspirated Type Rs.

It had a mechanical limited-slip differential once again, and a six-speed stick. New were two-stage adjustable dampers and a special front strut designed to stop all of that torque from ripping the wheel out of your hands. Where prior Type R models were automotive scalpels, this one was more of a machete. Still extremely sharp, but far more of a brute on the road and track.

Fifth Generation (FK8) 2017-2021

25th Anniversary Celebration of Type R and Fireblade
The 2018 Honda Civic Type R finally came to Canada. Based on the 10th-generation Civic, it was an all-new car. But it used the same 2.0L turbo four as the European model it replaced. It was built at that same UK factory, which at that point we'd call a Type R tradition. The engine had the same 306 hp here, though it made 316 hp in other markets.

The new Civic had adaptive dampers, a six-speed stick, and a mechanical limited-slip differential. It might have been the largest and heaviest Type R, but it was also the quickest and the fastest. Lap records around the Nurburgring, Spa-Francorchamps, Silverstone, and Mount Panorama put a very solid underline on that statement from the brand.

Sixth Generation (FL5) 2022-

2023 honda civic type r
Then, finally, the latest Civic Type R. A return to the car's original form, this Type R is much more sedate in appearance than any CTR since the third generation. We still don't know much about the car, other than that Honda will offer the same 2.0L turbo-four with a bit more power. That it will still have a six-speed stick. And that it will be fast, having already set a record around the Suzuka circuit making it faster than the car it replaces.




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