2019 Honda Civic Type R Review - Haunting My Dreams

Chris Tonn
by Chris Tonn
Fast Facts

2019 Honda Civic Type R Touring

2.0-liter turbocharged four (306 hp @ 6500 rpm, 295 lb/ft. @ 2500 rpm)
Six-speed manual transmission, front-wheel drive
22 city / 28 highway / 25 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
26.1 (observed mileage, MPG)
10.6 city / 8.3 highway / 9.6 combined (NRCan Rating, L/100km)
Base Price: $36.620 US / $43,476 CAD
As Tested: $36,620 US/ $43,476 CAD
Prices include $920 destination charge in the United States and $1786 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can't be directly compared.
2019 honda civic type r review haunting my dreams

As I’ve mentioned before, reviewing cars here at TTAC is not my primary career. At best, I get a few hours a week working in my basement office to pound out prose that the Best and Brightest loves to critique. As such, I don’t always get around to writing about each car I’ve driven until several weeks (or more) later.

As the calendar pages tear away furiously toward a new year, like many I’ve taken stock of what I’ve done over the past eleven months. I’m realizing that of the cars I’ve had the pleasure of wheeling, there are only a few that I can legitimately picture myself buying. These cars are objects of desire and obsession for a gearhead like yours truly.

The 2019 Honda Civic Type R is at the top of the list, certainly. The blend of incredible performance and everyday utility make it a favorite of many reviewers. But that’s the problem – everybody’s written about it. What can this part-time auto scribe say about it that hasn’t yet been said?

Plenty of derision has been heaped upon the styling of the Type R. Yeah, the wing is a bit garish, but it’s mounted high enough to not interfere with rear visibility. I’d be tempted to consider a delete option if it were available, but it’s not a deal breaker. One doesn’t buy a Civic Type R to blend into a crowd.

That is exactly why I’m puzzled by the Sonic Gray Pearl paint applied to my tester. It almost looks as if it should be a matte finish, though it’s glossy like any other typical paint. It simply looks dull. I’d love it if Honda would open up the cabinets in the paint shop a bit – Phoenix Yellow from the fabled Integra Type R would be lovely. Otherwise, it’s Championship White for my CTR.

Oh, for those who really care about such things, the 2019 Civic Type R has one major change inside: it has a real volume knob for the stereo.

I’m a bit bothered by the mismatch between the front and rear seats – front seats are primarily red with touches of black trim, while the rear bench is black with red stitching and seatbelts. I know that Type Rs of yesteryear have been finished this way, but it’s jarring to my eye. It reminds me of tuner cars with mismatching seats, fitted when the cash-strapped owner could manage to afford something. I could learn to live with it, I’m sure, as the front seats are marvelous. The bolsters, while deep and firm, are set just wide enough to squeeze my ample backside in place when hucking this ultimate hot hatch into corners at inadvisable speeds. They’re no substitute for proper fixed-back racing shells, but they will suit weekend warriors at track days or autocrosses perfectly.

Like any other Civic, of course, the rear seat is plenty comfortable for my ever-growing tweens – but just those two, as the Civic Type R has but two seatbelts and a hard plastic cupholder situated where a third butt might normally sit. It’s not often I need to haul five – and I do have a minivan for that purpose – but when we need to run my daughter’s friend to a birthday party it’d be nice to have the option to do so legally.

Honestly, though, I’d really prefer to drive the Civic Type R solo – at least when pointed toward the more enjoyable roads in Southeastern Ohio. The lack of bolstering on the rear seat cushion would lead to a pair of kids sliding to and fro as I hustle through the twisties, with a better-than-average chance at a minced oath or three being uttered while they fight back motion sickness. This car simply sticks. At least at the speeds I subjected it to (I couldn’t manage to get to a track day during my week with the CTR), this hottest hatch just kept going with no drama.

Three hundred and six horsepower – paired with 295 lb/ft of torque down low at 2500 rpm – made pulling away from corners a cinch. Doing something stupid, like dramatically stomping the pedal while the steering wheel is still unwinding, is rewarded with relentless pulling through the corner, rather than dramatic wheelspin thanks to the factory helical limited-slip differential. The steering is beautifully weighted, with the leather-wrapped tiller communicating exactly what the front wheels are saying.

I’d be tempted to source a new shift knob for the excellent six-speed manual – the matte-finished metal knob can get hot enough to scorch the loops and whorls from your digits.

Beyond the lack of a fifth seatbelt, this is just a Civic with more. It’s perfectly useable in daily driving. The ride is firm, but not punishing. The exhaust note isn’t overly loud. The tire noise isn’t too bad. This is a performance car that can handle track duty and commuter duty with equal aplomb.

I’ll date myself here a bit – when The Fast and the Furious film hit screens, I was enamored. I immediately subscribed to Sport Compact Car magazine and began clipping tech articles for later (when I had a car worthy of modifying in the style of the film). I kept shopping for an older Honda Civic, but even then, my choices for a clean car were getting slim. The phrase I kept seeing in advertisements was “Fully Built,” which in theory means the car was modified to the fullest extent – but in reality meant the seller wanted to turn a profit off of the parts bolted to a rusty shell of a car.

My most memorable “fully built” shopping experience led me to The Hilltop, a neighborhood that is currently in the very early stages of gentrification. A dozen years ago, however, the area was seriously rough. As was the car, a 1989 Civic Si with a coffee can for an exhaust tip and holes in the floorboard big enough for my size twelves. And yet I test drove the thing, briefly. Seems the seller had a side hustle in recreational agriculture, and the remnants permeated the entire car. I couldn’t get away fast enough, but I reflexively stopped for a Coke and a bag of Doritos shortly after leaving.

My point is that fast Civics have long been the domain of a younger generation – one that had more ambition than cash. Many of those young, cheap enthusiasts have grown up and earned to buy something new, clean, and warrantied. Had I managed to save some of my earnings over the past decade or so, this Honda Civic Type R would most certainly be on my list – because for once, this hotrod Civic is “fully built” from the factory.

[Images: © 2019 Chris Tonn/TTAC]

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2 of 57 comments
  • CecilSaxon CecilSaxon on Dec 25, 2019

    My 14 year old son loves the styling, but feels the wing is a bit on the small side.

  • Reedz55 Reedz55 on Jan 06, 2020

    I used to prefer the smooth interior cream and shiny black for cars until these aggressive designs came out. We installed the new brembo brake kit and wheels from 4WheelOnline on buddy's 2018 Civic and man I liked the outcome. Honda really did a great home on their newest models.

  • Aidian Holder I'm not interested in buying anything from a company that deliberately targets all their production in crappy union-busting states. Ford decided to build their EV manufaturing in Tennessee. The company built it there because of an anti-union legal environment. I won't buy another Ford because of that. I've owned four Fords to date -- three of them pickups. I'm shopping for a new one. It won't be a Ford Lightning. If you care about your fellow workers, you won't buy one either.
  • Denis Jeep have other cars?!?
  • Darren Mertz In 2000, after reading the glowing reviews from c/d in 1998, I decided that was the car for me (yep, it took me 2 years to make up my mind). I found a 1999 with 24k on the clock at a local Volvo dealership. I think the salesman was more impressed with it than I was. It was everything I had hoped for. Comfortable, stylish, roomy, refined, efficient, flexible, ... I can't think of more superlatives right now but there are likely more. I had that car until just last year at this time. A red light runner t-boned me and my partner who was in the passenger seat. The cops estimate the other driver hit us at about 50 mph - on a city street. My partner wasn't visibly injured (when the seat air bag went off it shoved him out of the way of the intruding car) but his hip was rather tweaked. My car, though, was gone. I cried like a baby when they towed it away. I ruminated for months trying to decide how to replace it. Luckily, we had my 1998 SAAB 9000 as a spare car to use. I decided early on that there would be no new car considered. I loathe touch screens. I'm also not a fan of climate control. Months went by. I decided to keep looking for another B5 Passat. As the author wrote, the B5.5 just looked 'over done'. October this past year I found my Cinderella slipper - an early 2001. Same silver color. Same black leather interior. Same 1.8T engine. Same 5 speed manual transmission. I was happier than a pig in sh!t. But a little sad also. I had replaced my baby. But life goes on. I drive it every day to work which takes me over some rather twisty freeway ramps. I love the light snarel as I charge up some steep hills on my way home. So, I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Passat guy.
  • Paul Mezhir As awful as the styling was on these cars, they were beautifully assembled and extremely well finished for the day. The doors closed solidly, the ride was extremely quiet and the absence of squeaks and rattles was commendable. As for styling? Everything's beautiful in it's own way.....except for the VI coupe....it's proportions were just odd: the passenger compartment and wheelbase seemed to be way too short, especially compared to the VI sedan. Even the short-lived Town Coupe had much better proportions. None of the fox-body Lincolns could compare to the beautiful proportions of the Mark V.....it was the epitome of long, low, sleek and elegant. The proportions were just about perfect from every angle.
  • ToolGuy Silhouetting yourself on a ridge like that is an excellent way to get yourself shot ( Skylining)."Don't you know there's a special military operation on?"