The best Honda Civic Type Rs ranked

28th May 2024
Russell Campbell

Before the EP3 Honda Civic Type R went on sale with the iconic tagline 'Bye bye, GTI' enthusiasts in the UK had yet to experience the rush of VTEC motor stepping on cam as it hurtled towards a plus-8,000rpm redline, but now we're well versed in wonders of VTEC.

In truth, the Civic Type R's depth of engineering goes beyond VTEC; they've developed a reputation for un-burst ability and precision handling comparable to titans like the Porsche 911 GT3. But which Type R is best? That's a question we'll attempt to answer here.  


7. FN2 Honda Civic Type R

The FN2 Honda Civic Type R's aggressive body kit set the tone for the car as we know it today, complete with a love-it-or-loathe-it image. In many ways, it was the opposite of the EP3 that preceded it, with shouty styling that hid relatively basic underpinnings, swapping the older car's independent rear suspension for a beam axle that was cheaper and better for load space. Worse still, the FN2 weighed 120kg more than the EP3 and had almost the same power (201PS/148kW). 

Contemporary reviews were not complimentary for the reasons above, but nowadays, the FN2 is a more attractive proposition. Styling that once looked out there nowadays appears contemporary, and the Honda's high-revving VTEC engine is a welcome relief from the turbocharged motors in today's hot hatches – the FN2 was your last opportunity to buy a naturally aspirated Type R in the UK. It might be our lowest-ranked Type R, but with prices starting from £3,000, the FN2 is still very tempting. 


6. FK2 Honda Civic Type R

The FK2 sent shockwaves through the TR community because – and are you sitting down? – this was a Type R that got its power from a turbocharger, not VTEC, which leads us to ask: "Where's the purity?" Somewhat perversely, Honda still fitted VTEC for fuel economy reasons rather than power. 

Honda spawned FK2 just as the Nürburgring craze was slotting into high gear, which explains its weak point in the series. It's exceptionally hard riding and surprisingly noisy; it's not a car you'll ever want to do a long drive. Performance? Yes, it has plenty of that. The Turbo extracted a meaty 310PS (228kW) from the Civic's 2.0-litre engine for 0-62mph in 5.8 seconds and 168mph flat. Meanwhile, the bone-shattering suspension and mechanical limited-slip differential ensured a 7-minute 50.63-second Nürburgring lap time – a front-wheel-drive record. However, somehow, the FK2 lacked the character that makes the best cars compelling. 


5. EP3 Honda Civic Type R

The EP3 Honda Civic Type R was the first to land in the UK and was a far less focussed proposition than the EK9 the Japanese enjoyed a generation before, but, it still was an unassuming hatchback with a 2.0-liter engine that revved to more than 8,000rpm back when rivals struggled to break 6,000rpm.

The EP3 is unique in that it was a modestly styled Type R. Is it too modest? Potentially. Reviews compared the EP3 to a small MPV, and its 17-inch wheels, subtly body kit, and 'Type R' stickers weren't enough to disguise the car's upright-bread van shape. Honda preferred to invest in the internals, giving the Civic independent rear suspension that should have made it hold the road like a starved limpet.

A theory the company's heritage press car – which swaps ends quicker than a Tory MP – somewhat blows out of the water. Still, with 200PS (147kW), 0-60mph in 6.2 seconds and a 146mph top speed, the Type R had the measure of rivals like the Mk4 Golf GTI, Peugeot 306 GTI-6, and Fiat Bravo HGT. But it languishes towards the bottom of this list because it doesn't have the depth of engineering enjoyed by other Type Rs. 


4. FD2 Honda Civic Mugen Type RR

While the FN2 hatchback was plying its trade in the UK, back in Japan, the job fell to the FD2 saloon, the very best of which came in the form of the Mugen RR. Mugen, Honda's motorsport wing, threw everything at the RR, giving it carbon fibre front and rear bumpers, an aluminium bonnet, carbon fibre-backed seats, larger Brembo brakes, and lightweight seven-spoke alloy wheels. 

Mugen saved the most important work for the engine, extracting 243PS (179kW) from the K20 motor courtesy of upgraded camshafts, a new ECU, and a new exhaust that produced a hard-edged bark that you'll not find anywhere else. It was enough for 0-62mph in less than 6 seconds and plus-150 mph to speed. Sadly, with just 300 models made, the RR costs much more than a ratty FN2, with good examples selling for more than £70,000. Nevertheless, it sits near the top of our list because it shows us what's possible from a true VTEC Type R when money's no object. 


3. FK8 Honda Civic Type R

The FK8 Honda Civic was a high point in Type Rs, but not for the reasons you would usually expect. Faster than the FK2, what made the FK8 stand out was its livability. It was quiet, comfortable, and huge inside by hot hatch standards.

But it was also explosively quick. With the adaptive dampers ramped up and the drive modes in one of its more aggressive settings, the Civic Type R could demolish A and B roads with a frightening tenacity, disguising enormous speeds so well often you didn't know you were blasting into triple-digit speed until you looked down at the speedo and gulped. It had a top speed of 169mph and got from 0-62mph in 5.7 seconds. The precision of the FK8's steering, flawless body control, and near-endless grip gave it the feel of the Porsche GT3 of the hot hatch world. The only problem? Boy-racer looks made the car a problematic buy, even for people besotted by the drive.


Honda Civic Type R: FL5 vs FK8

13th January 2023


2. EK9 Honda Civic Type R

The JDM EK9 Honda Civic was the first to wear the Type R badge, and was different enough to warrant having its own model designation despite it looking, to the untrained eye, almost identical to the UK's EK4 Civic. While the basic shape was the same, Japan's EK9 looked like it had escaped from a touring car grid, complete with a ground-hugging front bumper, side skirts, and roof spoiler.

Under its race-ready skin lurked a 1.6-litre VTEC engine that, in time-honoured tradition, did very little below 5,000rpm and morphed into a rev-reeling banshee above it. Honda didn't mess about with the EK9, giving it a seam-welded chassis, extra bracing, uprated shocks and springs, thicker anti-roll bars, bigger brakes, and a limited-slip differential. Even the windscreen wasn't safe from the relentless pursuit of performance; the standard screen binned in favour of a lightweight, crystal-thin version. The interior, meanwhile, was treated to red sports seats and a titanium shift knob, both of which remain Type R trademarks to this day.


1. FL5 Honda Civic Type R

The FL5 Type R's toned-down styling solved the only real problem with its predecessor. You still get a sporty body kit and a big rear wing, but Honda replaced the FK8's fussy details with simple lines that were much easier on the eye. 

It says as much as you need to know about the FK8 that Honda carried over most of its fundamentals to the FL5; rather than rewriting the rulebook, Honda spent its time fine-tuning what was already there. So, while it's slightly faster than the old car – 0-62mph in 5.4 seconds, 171mph flat out – the devil's in the detail the Honda delivers through its wheel and pedals. The steering is among the best you'll find, giving you even more confidence in the Honda's unshakable front end. Meanwhile, the brakes resist fading better than ever and deliver the textured detail you'd expect of a far more exotic machine. The FL5's ability to mix the tactility of an early Type R with the devastating performance of the turbocharged era wins it its top slot on this list. Annoyingly, it's probably worth the £50,000 Honda will charge you for one.

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