2021 Honda Civic Type R Limited Edition first drive review: A sharper track weapon


Honda has an ulterior motive with the Civic Type R Limited Edition. That’s not to say there isn’t a market for a lighter, sharper, limited-run Civic Type R, of course. But Honda’s got a special goal for this car that doesn’t really involve you, dear customer.

Let’s back up real quick. After the Type R launched in 2017, Honda used it to set a blistering 7-minute, 43.8-second lap of the Nürburgring Nordschleife, making this Civic the fastest front-wheel-drive production car to run the infamous German course. But then the Renault Megane RS Trophy-R came along and trounced the Type R’s record, beating the Civic by four whole seconds. When the Type R Limited Edition debuted earlier this year, a Honda executive told me it was born out of the desire to reclaim that FWD hot lap title. And following the Type R LE’s recent record lap at the Suzuka Circuit in Japan — where it beat the Megane Trophy-R, by the way — Honda’s pretty confident the ‘Ring crown will soon belong to the Civic once again. 

In order to shed time while shredding laps, Honda opted to cut weight rather than boost power. The 2.0-liter turbo I4 carries over from the base Type R unchanged, producing 306 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 295 pound-feet of torque at 2,500 rpm. The 2021 LE’s six-speed manual transmission, limited-slip differential, suspension hardware and Brembo front brakes are all identical to those on the 2020 Type R, too.

Instead, Honda cut 50 pounds out of the US-spec Civic Type R by deleting the rear wiper, removing the cargo cover, fitting lighter-weight BBS wheels and removing a whole bunch of sound-deadening material — 28 pounds worth, in fact. That “US-spec” qualification is important, as Limited Edition models sold in other markets drop an additional 30 pounds thanks to the removal of the audio system and air conditioning.

Now, before you bitch about the US not getting the full Limited Edition lightweight experience, here’s another history lesson. When Honda launched the track-ready S2000 CR in 2007, the radio and air conditioning were optional, but only a super-duper-small percentage of Americans ordered the CR this way. So unless you’re planning to use your personal CTRLE to set a lap record, which you aren’t, maybe just crank some tunes and enjoy the cool breeze of your AC. Americans always think they want a stripped-out car until they actually have to live with it.

A set of forged-aluminum BBS wheels lowers the Type R’s weight by 18 pounds.


Honda

Because it’s lighter, the Limited Edition has slightly different adaptive damping and electronic steering calibrations than a standard Type R. The dampers keep the Civic controlled while accounting for the trimmer body and after driving a Limited Edition back to back with a Type R Touring on track, the steering tweaks are really noticeable. Turn-in is much sharper with quicker response, but there’s still tons of feel and feedback through the wheel. I’m into it.

Honestly, the Limited Edition just helps reinforce what makes the Civic Type R so great to begin with. Lots of turbo power, a slick-shifting six-speed stick and an incredibly capable front-wheel-drive setup makes for a seriously chuckable little hot hatch. The LE simply hones the things that make this rowdy little rascal a peach.

The lack of sound-deadening material does result in a lot more cabin noise, but it’s not that big of a deal out on the track. That said, I wasn’t able to spend some quality time with the Limited Edition on public roads and I could see the increased volume getting a little annoying on longer drives. But I suppose if you’re opting for the slightly more rambunctious package, it’s a tradeoff you’re willing to make.

This little thing’s a real track-slayer.


Honda

As far as creature comforts are concerned, the Limited Edition has everything you’ll find on the normal Type R Touring. The sport seats are as supportive as they are cushy and a 7-inch central touchscreen has embedded navigation as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. You get a whole mess of driver-assistance features, too, including forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise control. The only thing that’s missing? Heated seats. Sigh.

Honda will build 1,000 examples of the Civic Type R Limited Edition for global distribution, with 600 coming to the US. They’ll all be painted Phoenix Yellow and will have a serialized plaque on the dash.

With a $44,950 price tag (including $955 for destination), the Limited Edition costs $6,500 more than the 2021 Type R Touring. I’d probably just stick with a Touring, personally, since it’s 95% of the car for a lot less money. But I totally get the allure of the Limited Edition, and I’m sure Honda will have no trouble moving every single one. Besides, it’s not like Honda needed a strong sales case to green-light this project, anyway. Which reminds me: Good luck with that ‘Ring run.



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