Friday, September 22, 2023
Reviews 2021 Honda Civic Type R Review: Under the Spell of FWD Perfection

2021 Honda Civic Type R Review: Under the Spell of FWD Perfection

This is a farewell review of the greatest driving FWD car ever

  • The CTR is priced at $46,200 in Canada, $37,895 in the US.

  • This is the final model year for the 10th-generation Type R.

  • If you’re thinking about buying one, you’re too late.

In my 20+ year career of reviewing cars and driving more than 2,000 of them over this period, I’ve only felt an overpowering urge to buy an example a handful of times. The feeling has once more reared its face after spending a week with a 2021 Honda Civic Type R.

2021 Honda Civic Type R | Photo: Olivier Delorme

In the past, I’ve purchased used examples of a 2004 Volvo XC70, a 2003 Subaru WRX wagon, and a 2012 Volkswagen Tiguan following drives and reviews that took place years prior. My most recent acquisition, a 2018 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen, was also the result of many a test drive with an MK7 Golf wagon. And now, I’m haunted by the Civic Type R.

I need a CTR

I’ve also driven it a number of times since my first encounter in the fall of 2017 at the regional launch event held at the fantastic Circuit Mont Tremblant. The Civic Type (CTR) is/was a member of a truly exclusive club of hot compact cars. This group, which once consisted of the Volkswagen Golf R, Ford Focus RS, Subaru WRX STI, and Mitsubishi Lancer EVO, has been reduced to nearly nothing of late. By this fall, this niche club will more or less have died off as only the STI will still be offered for sale, that is if the anticipated new one isn’t delayed, create a time gap.

2021 Honda Civic Type R | Photo: Olivier Delorme

Not all is lost however as we know there will be a new WRX/WRX STI combo coming, the all-new MK8 Golf R is on its way, as will be an all-new 11th-generation CTR. About the latter, I cannot be convinced that the new next CTR will be as analog, communicative, raw, and visceral as the 10th.

Recipe for FWD perfection

The appeal in the 2021 Honda Civic Type R is its unmatched efficiency as an affordable driver’s car and a front-wheel-drive one at that. A connection, an uplink if you will, is immediately achieved the moment the start button is activated. And best of, the CTR doesn’t intimidate like so many other sports cars.

2021 Honda Civic Type R | Photo: Olivier Delorme

It helps that the turbocharged 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine is relatively quiet even on start-up. A quick prod to the clutch pedal reveals resistance but not the type that will be exhaustive and cramp-inducing in traffic. While the clutch is in, one must work the shifter through the “H” pattern, at once discovering short stiff throws that, like the left-hand pedal, won’t cause one’s arthritis to swell.

Still, from the driver’s seat, nervous energy builds as the CTR’s 306 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 295 lb.-ft. of torque from 2,500 rpm to 4,500 rpm begin calling. Set to Sport drive mode by default, the Civic is always at the ready. A satisfying “snick” into first gear and the relationship is engaged. The CTR is easy to drive whether cruising about or when thrashing it on a track. The combination of the engine’s most generous powerband (there’s some minor turbo lag from the single-scroll charger that produces up to 23.2 psi of boost) and the chassis are what make it possible.

Chassis’d to perfection

2021 Honda Civic Type R | Photo: Olivier Delorme

The suspension’s rear multilink setup complete with adaptive dampers combines for a level of magic that is unheard of. Set in comfort drive mode, the dampers compress and rebound with relative ease, proving the CTR’s viability as a daily driver. In the default sport mode, they tense up but still manage to travel with such finely tuned progression that, even over rougher roads, the ride is beyond acceptable. Then, there’s the aptly named track mode. The only fault in this car’s driving dynamics is that the dampers cannot be independently adjusted to combine a “sport” powertrain with “comfort” dampening.

The other key elements are the helical limited-slip differential and the dual-axis front suspension setup. The former is fabulously capable of putting a maximum of the car’s firepower to good use. When it kicks in, as it fights off torque steer, the driver can feel it dig its heels in. The front suspension was designed to handle the power and isolate steering from the front struts. The result is unmarred ideally assisted steering that precisely obeys every input it receives.

2021 Honda Civic Type R | Photo: Olivier Delorme

The 2021 CTR is not as pampering as the Volkswagen Golf R once was. Even so, the thin line between high-performance handling and comfort on which it rolls could not be better defined.

Big wing, big price jump, big crush

Comments and opinions on styling, both inside and out, can be summarized as follows: The massive rear spoiler is a beacon for unwanted attention that will see Mustangs, GTIs, WRXs, and random Veloster Turbos wanting a go – best to ignore them all. As well, the ultra-spacious cabin has superb house-designed sport front seats, red accents, while everything else is all 10th-generation Civic.

In the near four years since the Civic Type R arrived in Canada, pricing shot up from $40,890 to $46,200 for no other reason than Honda can, or could. This car is epic and if I find myself quite nearly needing one in my life, it’s because there won’t be another one like it ever. Perfection like this only comes about when Honda engineers are not told what to do. Emission and safety regulations and whatnot will dictate the next CTR.

2021 Honda Civic Type R | Photo: Olivier Delorme

2021 Honda Civic Type R | Photo: Olivier Delorme

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Matt St-Pierre
Trained as an Automotive Technician, Matt has two decades of automotive journalism under his belt. He’s done TV, radio, print and this thing called the internet. He’s an avid collector of many 4-wheeled things, all of them under 1,500 kg, holds a recently expired racing license and is a father of two. Life is beautiful. Send Matt an emai


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