Despite its gloriously juvenile bodywork, the 2021 Honda Civic Type R is a hugely entertaining and entirely practical four-door hatchback. With a 306-hp turbocharged four-cylinder and a six-speed manual transmission (the only gearbox available) feeding the front wheels, the Type R is not only the quickest Honda Civic, it’s one of the quickest sport compacts. Honda has managed to virtually eliminate the dreaded torque steer that plagues powerful front-drive cars and provides talkative steering, tremendous cornering grip, and a ride that’s surprisingly smooth. Its interior isn’t the fanciest, and its red accents make the cabin look like a crime scene, but the reasonably-sized back seat and ample cargo area give it every-day practicality. Apart from a subdued exhaust note and noisy highway behavior, the 2021 Civic Type R ranks among the most entertaining cars to drive right now and an Editors’ Choice winner.
What’s New for 2021?
For 2021, Honda offers a Limited Edition Type R that lives up to its name, as only 1000 copies total will be built (600 of which are designated for U.S. customers). This model will only come in Phoenix Yellow Pearl paint. It’ll feature a gloss-black roof panel, exterior mirrors, and hood scoop. Most importantly, the Limited Edition is intended to increase the Type R’s performance by shedding 38 pounds and adopting stickier Michelin Sport Cup 2 tires. Honda also says it has returned steering and damper characteristics to work with the specific wheel-and-tire combination.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
The Civic Type R looks like something himself spat on the asphalt, and it goes like a bat out of hell, too. Its exclusive turbocharged four-cylinder makes 306 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. The eager engine always feels alive with a responsive throttle and imperceptible turbo lag. A short-throw six-speed manual is also on hand and the only transmission choice. The Honda’s easy clutch action and precise shifter are as perfectly synchronized as a pair of figure skaters. Too bad the triple-pipe, the center-exit exhaust isn’t as loud as the exterior styling. Sure, its innocuous note is appreciated on long trips, but we want more roar in a car that looks and drives like this one. The Type R is that rare type of car with terrific track ability and amicable road manners. It sticks to the road like bionic Velcro, with steering telepathy that would embarrass Miss Cleo and a chassis seemingly tuned by a Formula 1 engineer. Although its suspension is stiffer than the sporty Honda Civic Si’s, the R-rated version is still surprisingly comfortable. It’s only slightly impolite on rough roads or over harsh bumps, where the 20-inch wheels and low-profile tires yield loud impacts. The Honda’s immense grip was exhibited on our skidpad, where it pulled 1.02 g’s—an impressive feat for any car, let alone one with front-wheel drive. The Type R set the bar even higher with its astonishing emergency-braking distance (70 mph to zero) of 142 feet, which equals that of the $200,000 Acura NSX supercar we tested.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
The Civic Type R boasts above-average EPA fuel-economy ratings and does equally well in the real world. The government estimates it’ll earn 22 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway. The Honda and its competitors all matched or exceeded their EPA highway figure on our 200-mile fuel-economy loop. Honda’s hot hatchback rang in at 29 mpg, beating its rating by 1 mpg.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
The Type R’s interior is rated R for scenes involving gratuitous red accents and obscenely comfy racing seats. Although the styling isn’t subtle, the interior relies on Type R trademarks and racy materials to highlight its sufficient passenger space. The 7.0-inch digital gauge cluster has a red theme—obviously—and a distinct appearance for each drive mode. The Civic Type R may be equal parts track star and daily driver, but it’s also a very practical travel companion. In our testing, it accommodated significantly more ping-pong balls than its rivals and tied the WRX STI for the greatest carry-on-luggage capacity.
Infotainment and Connectivity
Every model is outfitted with a standard 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment screen, which—thankfully—features a volume knob and several physical buttons. Still, the menus are outdated and not particularly responsive. Otherwise, the infotainment system has desirable standard features, such as integrated navigation, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a-rockin’ stereo.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
The 2021 Civic Type R hasn’t been crash-tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Honda also provides a host of standard driver-assistance technology—not that anyone who loved the Type R’s decidedly analog personality asked for such equipment.