Cars > Encounter

Hot laps with the Honda Civic Type R (FL5)

Pushing the limits in its natural habitat

Getting ready to head out of the pits. PHOTO BY JUSTIN YOUNG

The Honda Civic Type R is a key figure in Philippine car culture, and with a legion of die-hard fans in its cult, it needs no introduction. The previous FK8 generation was the first and only Type R to be sold locally prior to this. It was emphatically received by the local market, which gave us the credibility to receive the latest FL5-generation Civic Type R.

My colleagues already discussed the spec sheet of the FL5 in detail when it was launched back in January, so let me get right down to brass tacks here. What’s it like to drive this hot hatch on track? Well, Honda Cars Philippines invited us over to Clark International Speedway to find out exactly what this new Type R is capable of.

The posted GT-style wing is a very nice touch. PHOTOS BY JUSTIN YOUNG

The biggest enhancement to the FL5 struck me as soon as I walked up to it in the pits. It just looks so good both inside and out. It’s strikingly obvious that Honda has taken a more conservative and mature approach to styling this car, so much so that it feels like an overcorrection of the previous generation’s ostentatious and frankly polarizing aesthetics.

Not to worry, though, as the FL5 still manages to preserve its boy-racer persona. We still get a big wang and a mid-mounted triple-exit exhaust. The decision to switch from 20-inch wheels to 19-inchers is also a welcome change as it lends a meatier stance to the vehicle.

There's much more red in this cabin than the previous model. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

The interior has grown up significantly, too. It employs a variety of textures and materials such as the Alcantara on the steering wheel and the polished metal grates that run across the dash.

Longtime Type R fans will be elated to see the return of red carpeting and floor mats to the Civic Type R. They used to be a signature feature of Honda’s high-performance marque, making appearances in legendary Type R models including the EK9, the DC5, and the FD2. They were oddly omitted from the FK8, but now make a comeback on the FL5.

It's lights out and away we go! PHOTO BY JUSTIN YOUNG

The new Civic Type R packs more torque than the model it replaces, but even with more power to put down, Honda has managed to dial out the violent wheel-hopping that plagued the FK8 as it scrambled for grip off the line. In addition, torque steer is basically nonexistent on both models, but negligible to a more significant degree on the new car, making it much more forgiving of ham-fisted automotive journalists such as myself.

Despite being turbocharged, power delivery from the revamped K20C1 engine is linear throughout the rev range. The slight power bump doesn’t really register on my butt dyno, but given the slightly larger turbo and optimized airflow, I reckon that it carries more tuning potential than the older model. However, the rev-hang issue of the FK8 still persists on the FL5. Lifting off ever so slightly before the redline is the only way to avoid bouncing off the limiter.

Pardon the awkward angle. The photographer risked puking in the brand-new car just to take this. PHOTO BY JUSTIN YOUNG

Good thing Honda has redesigned the gauge cluster to include actual, physical LED shift lights that are clearly visible even without looking down at the cluster. The gauge layout is stellar, by the way, resembling aftermarket digital gauge clusters from the likes of Stack or AEM with OEM fitment.

The FL5 cannot be ordered with a slushbox, but it does have one of the most sublime manual gearboxes in this price range. The shifter feel is almost Porsche-esque, which is high praise for a car that costs a fraction of the price.

But our photographer does take immaculate photos when he's not being thrown around vigorously. PHOTOS BY JUSTIN YOUNG

In the handling department, the FL5 is different, but I’m not sure it’s better. Again, with the reduced wheel hop and torque steer, it’s much more manageable. The steering is slightly lighter than before, but as crisp and sharp as always. The car is sure-footed when cornering at high speeds, and fast switchbacks are easy to pull off. But then again, the same could be said of the FK8.

What’s different is that the FL5 is a little more playful. It lets you dance on the limit. It allows you to get out of shape once in a while, and even then it’s always easy to save. You get a sense that the new car doesn’t take itself as seriously as the old one. Whether that’s better is a matter of preference at this point.

Six of the 40 units brought by HCPI in one photo. PHOTO BY JUSTIN YOUNG

So, how does the FL5 stack up against its older brother? Well, it carries a smattering of incremental improvements across the board, and the end result is the same: incrementally better. It is the more modern package with LogR and Honda Sensing; the styling is more in with the times, too. But it doesn’t feel all-new. If anything, it feels like the best version of the FK8.

If you can get an allocation without having to go through the leeches who scalp these cars, then it’s well worth every penny of its P3.88-million price tag. If not, take the price difference and modify an FK8 to your heart’s content. It will hit the spot just the same.

Simonn Ang

Simonn is just a regular guy who happens to love cars and motorcycles. He also loves writing about them, too.