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Honda Civic Type R (FL5) is a more desirable example of ‘form follows function’

A hot hatch that is fully worth its asking price

It's the best Honda Civic Type R yet, and we think you'll love it as much as we do. PHOTO BY JASON DELA CRUZ

Since getting behind the wheel of the previous Honda Civic Type R, it has been stuck in my head. It’s one of those performance cars that you have to experience, and it’s one of the best cars I’ve ever driven.

But no matter how good a car drives, you also want it to look good. The combination of both gives you total satisfaction. I’ll be frank. I don’t like how the FK8-generation Civic Type R looks. It’s too boy-racer with an abundance of fake mesh. Not something that’ll age well, surely.

When photos and videos of the FL5-generation Civic Type R surfaced on the Internet, I thought to myself: “Now that looks good!” While the previous model seems to have targeted the younger crowd, the new one caters to a more mature set. Having said that, however, I wanted to see it in the metal.

If you like your hot hatches subtle, the FL5 Type R is up your alley. PHOTOS BY JASON DELA CRUZ

I waited three months for my schedule with the demo, timing it with my next visit to Manila (I’m based in Cebu). I was hoping to have it on a Monday to a Thursday as my wife and I were staying in Santa Rosa with relatives the whole time, which meant light travel to Silang, Tagaytay, and beyond.

Instead, I had it on a Friday to a Monday, right smack on Chinese New Year weekend. My feeling of excitement was bothered by the thought of heavy traffic around the area. I just had to adjust then.

No fake grilles or su​per​flu​ous​ aero here. Hallelujah! PHOTOS BY JASON DELA CRUZ

Once the Civic Type R was in my possession, I couldn’t stop looking at it. Smooth lines now flow all over with gloss-black bits where it matters in place of sharp lines here and there and all that fake mesh.

The rear wing is purposeful yet tastefully done. Wheels downsized from the previous 20-inchers on 245/30 tires to 19-inchers on 265/30 rubber, meanwhile, provide a proper stance and are offset with those wide hips. And with it, an impression of a more tolerable ride.

It's a simpler, more driver-focused interior. PHOTOS BY JASON DELA CRUZ

The interior reflects the exterior’s approach. An Alcantara steering wheel replaces the two-tone black-and-red leather wheel in the FK8, and solid-red suede bucket seats likewise replace the red with black backrests.

Type R trademark red carpets and floor mats also make a return (yes!). The digital instrument cluster also lends a more analog feel with twin tachometer and speedometer gauges, compared to the central tach with a big digital speedo display in the previous car. All in all, this Type R is subtle and clean.

You know that Honda is serious with helping the driver squeeze out as much performance as possible from this car. PHOTOS BY JASON DELA CRUZ

There are some cars that when you look at them and hold the wheel, they communicate with you. The Civic Type R is one such car—plus, the low buckets feel really good. There now is LogR, featuring a performance monitor via the touchscreen, displaying vehicle information, a G-meter, and tire friction. It does remind me of the display in the Nissan GT-R.

LogR also features auto score (scoring, drive-data summary, map track, and data recording) as well as data log (lap-time information, ranking, heat map, and data recording). Capping off the dashboard are brushed aluminum trim spanning across it and A/C knobs à la Audi.

Downsizing to 19-inch wheels helps a lot with daily driving. PHOTOS BY JASON DELA CRUZ

On my first day with the car, I drove around searching for potential places where I could see what the Type R offered, followed by a drive to Silang where my wife and I were meeting friends for dinner.

The ride is firm (as it should be), but feels more compliant due to the downsizing. I feel the clutch is a little firmer though, or perhaps I felt a little more strain dealing with more inclines, particularly in some portions after the CALAX-Santa Rosa/Aguinaldo Highway intersection. Still not bad to live with around town.

Once sections freed up, I was able to row through the gears. The six-speed manual gearbox is superb. This is one of the best gearboxes out there.

This is pretty much the same engine as the FK8, just refined. PHOTO BY JASON DELA CRUZ

I woke up early the next few days for a more spirited experience. I last drove the FK8 Type R six years ago, and the FL5 picks up where it left off.

While it’s clearly the looks that are the biggest difference, you will have to dissect the performance of both cars to see where they are similar and different. And that’s a good thing. The FK8 was already so good that engineers simply fine-tuned various aspects of the FL5.

There’s so much pull from the low end with the rev band linear all the way to the 7,000rpm redline. It delivers 316hp at 6,500rpm and 420Nm at 2,600-4,000rpm by way of a slightly larger turbo and better breathing. With 10hp and 20Nm more, it makes this the most powerful Civic Type R yet. But I can’t say for sure if I feel the slight increase.

One of the best six-speed manual gearboxes in the business today. PHOTOS BY JASON DELA CRUZ

You can channel Max Verstappen via a series of shift lights—amber lights when reaching higher rpm, and red lights when you hit the redline. Together with the Rev Match Control System, which works and keeps the rpm where it needs to be, and it’s playtime.

Steering, meanwhile, is light (maybe a little lighter than the FK8 if my memory serves me right), but still very precise and more engaging with the Alcantara wheel.

The only time plastering a badge everywhere is justified. PHOTOS BY JASON DELA CRUZ

Similar to the previous Type R, the front also feels skittish at first when you accelerate hard (Sport mode is the default setting, which I was on most of the time while sampling +R whenever possible).

It settles very quickly, however, leaving behind any thought that this car is front-wheel-drive—thanks to the dual-axis strut front suspension and the helical limited-slip differential. There’s hardly any torque steer (if any), and no tugging from the steering wheel. It simply goes to where you’re pointing the car.

Power delivery and that sublime gearbox supported by the suspension and the diff truly bring out the Civic Type R’s character.

The Civic Type R (FL5) is worth its asking price. PHOTO BY JASON DELA CRUZ

When it comes to performance cars, it comes to how much you need to cough up in the end. The Civic Type R costs P3,870,000, quite a leap from the previous model’s price tag of P2,800,000. One can argue about the effects of inflation, but it’s still hard to justify.

I keep telling myself that you can get a Toyota GR86/Subaru BRZ and a Suzuki Jimny for that price. Or get a cheaper hot hatch and a homologation special with the Toyota GR Yaris. Or consider the Nissan Z for almost the same price.

But there’s a reason why the Civic Type R is stuck in my head, and why I constantly tell others it’s one of the best cars I’ve driven. If you love driving and you’re fortunate to afford the asking price, you won’t regret having this Honda in your garage. And you’ll probably spend an extra moment staring at it.

Jason Dela Cruz

Jason is a veteran member of the motoring community, having worked as an automotive journalist and a car industry executive. He is now based in Cebu, where the car culture is vibrant.