The Honda Civic Type R, the long-awaited capper to the automaker’s ever-popular compact model range, has finally made its debut at the 2017 Geneva Motor Show.
Honda has been rolling out a procession of new Civic variants over the last two years, the hatchback version making its first appearance in Geneva a year ago. But no model has generated more of a buzz than the Type R, which will finally make it to the U.S. market come late spring 2017.
The five-door model, equipped with a 306-hp turbocharged four, will become the fastest version of the Honda Civic ever to reach U.S. shores, and Honda hopes it will help it challenge such serious competitors as the Ford Focus ST and Volkswagen Golf R.
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The new Civic Type R features some extreme aerodynamic enhancements. Honda claims they put the emphasis on form over function. That’s good news to those who criticized the previous model’s design as more show than go.
There’s a big wing to enhance downforce, for one thing, and an assortment of wind-cheating strakes and vortex generators. The engine gets extra air through a functional hood scoop. And exhaust gas flows out of three center-mounted tailpipes. A nearly flat underbody completes the aero enhancements.
Power for the new Honda Civic Type R comes from an “optimized and refined” version of the maker’s 2.0-liter VTEC engine. The turbo four makes 316 horsepower in European configuration, 306 in the soon-to-come American package, and about 295 pound-feet of torque.
It won’t be the hottest car on the compact rocket block – the Ford Focus RS pumping out 345 hp – but it should leave a nice patch of rubber and wake the neighbors with its blaring exhaust note. The engine is paired with a quick-shift six-speed manual transmission.
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As we now expect from any performance model, you’ll be able to choose from three “enhanced driving modes,” including Comfort Sport and the requisite “+R” track mode that will largely disable all those nanny features like Traction Control.
Honda claims it has also stiffened up the suspension, tightened steering and turned the competent but mainstream Civic into a serious performance machine – but one that it also promises will be safe, thanks to an assortment of new digital control features.
The new Civic Type R is going to be aimed at those hip, young buyers who once made Honda’s compact model the car to own. They’ve drifted away from the brand in recent years, as other makers have upped the performance ante.
The challenge is that passenger cars continue losing momentum in a ute-crazy U.S. market. That’s especially true in the small car segment, though the latest Civic has done a reasonable job in hanging on. Boosting the performance quotient could be just what Honda needs to bring back the little car’s glory days.
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