I was speaking to my mother this past weekend after I helped repair a broken fence in the yard, and started to talk about this series I’d been writing about all the cars I’ve gone through. Now growing up, I was always told I took after my grandfather who was also named Samuel. When she told me that he used to buy a new car every 2 years, it started to make sense.
A few years back when I picked up that Golf R, I wasn’t exactly ready for it. I wasn’t mature enough for it. It was the first real toy I’d had, a daily driver that could absolutely rip when I pushed it. The possibility of overestimating my abilities, overestimating the cars capabilities was real, and it scared me. After a confluence of events convinced me to get something more reasonable, I did. I needed a break.
I was never going to be the guy who had just a truck. I can tell you that GMC I had, when driven properly, took corners well enough to scare the snot out of anyone trying to keep up… but it wasn’t sporty. It wasn’t fun in the same way my old GTI was. Getting that Civic Si was testing the waters. Was I ready for a fast car again? Would I respect its capabilities and my abilities? The Si was fun, but reasonable fun.
After a year and a half of driving it, I felt like being a little unreasonable. I felt I was ready to have a little fun. Heck, I’m a bachelor in midlife crisis territory, I was almost obligated to push my limits again. The funny thing here is, as I think I stated in an earlier post, when these 8th generation Civics came out I thought they were completely ridiculous.
As it turns out, I was 100% correct.
Initially I’d considered a Tesla Model 3… but after hearing the various complaints of my peers about their higher end models – I decided to play it safe and wait it out. I don’t doubt at some point in the future I will have an electric car in my driveway, but not yet. I will admit, the 3 is a very well reviewed car, and it seems to have avoided much of what has plagued its older siblings… but I wasn’t ready to be a beta tester.
The thing with the Type-R, it’s a popular car. It’s in demand. As a result, dealerships added markups to them. One dealer in Sussex, NJ had a $5k markup. Middletown Honda had a $1k markup on the car. In the end – both dealers removed the markup to try and get my business. As I didn’t really like the gray, I bet on black, and took a ride up to Middletown on a Tuesday after work.
The black definitely made the car look more subdued…. still ridiculous, but it wasn’t quite as gaudy as the other color options which made all the various details (vents, spoilers, ground effects, etc…) stand out. Looking at it doesn’t do it justice. The moment I sat in that car the dopamine and serotonin spiked in my brain. All my caution went out the window. I flat out wanted this car. I wasn’t hitting my head on the roof, and there were actual BUTTONS on the infotainment screen. I don’t know why but I was really excited by the buttons.
Walk away, Sam. Walk away!
I got a quick quote on my trade-in, then told the salesperson I’d have a decision for them by Friday… and I walked away. In the mean time, as I cooled back down, I made sure I could afford the car. I decided what I would accept for my trade in. I reached out to my insurer to see what it would do to my rates. I planned, I mulled it over, and by the next day I was 83% sure of my decision.
Did I call the dealer? No. Did I rush in the moment I decided? No. I said Friday, and I meant it. The only out at this point was whether they’d give me what I wanted for my trade-in. I did the research, in the condition and with the mileage my car had – the dealership offered me $2k less than what it was worth. So when I came in to buy it, I made it clear that if they gave me what I wanted on my trade, I’d buy the Type-R right there.
So far I’d made sure I could afford the car. I got my OTD quote where they removed the markup and would sell it to me for MSRP plus tax/tags/registration. When I got overly excited at the thought of having it, I walked away. I went in to the dealer knowing exactly what I wanted and settled for nothing less. I negotiated my trade-in and held my ground. I rejected all the add-ons (in this case I made it clear before hand I wasn’t interested) – the only thing they tried was the service contract. Lastly, I made sure to get the best rate possible for financing. I followed each and every one of my rules, and I got my car.
Now there are some caviats to buying a performance car in the winter, in this case it was that the car came with 20″ wheels and high performance summer tires. In warm weather, without copious potholes, I’m sure that combination would be fantastic. Still, I’ve got at least 3 more months of unpredictable winter weather. Winter tires on the 20’s were out of the question. $495 a tire. That tiny sidewall on my roads? Forget it.
Ok, so I decided to go down a size. The last time I did this was on my GTI. I went 2 sizes down with Bridgestone Blizzaks. The soft, squishy sidewalls greatly contributed to me wrecking the thing. I did the research and saw that other Type-R owners ran 18’s, some ran 19’s… I was more comfortable with going down to 19. Prices on the snow tires I liked – Pirelli’s – were decent, but I also have a truck that’s great in the snow.
In the end, I chose 19″ wheels and tires with Continental DWS all seasons. What I lost in grip was gained in lessening the likelihood of ruining the wheels on my car with a pothole… not to mention the new wheel and tire combo was 10lbs less than stock, a performance increase. Of course, the day after I installed them, I nailed a pothole on the way to work and bent one of my brand new wheels.
The tire held pressure, there was no noticable impact on road feel or performance, so I didn’t actually see the bend until I took the car to the car wash. Once the weather warms up enough, and the potholes have been patched, I’ll reinstall my 20’s and get the 19″ wheel repaired. So, what about the car???
The owners manual recommended a 600 mile brake in period, no full throttle acceleration, no heavy braking. No problem. Where with the Golf R, I started having fun early, and even with the Si… I knew to respect the 306 HP here. I fully intend to keep this car for the long haul. I haven’t researched it, but it almost feels like this car was limited up until I hit 600 miles. I mean it was quick, but after the break in period? Ridiculous!
Handling is exquisite. I don’t know what the skid-pad numbers are, but I’m fairly certain this could literally run circles around the Golf R. Very sharp and firm handling, minimal body roll. The suspension firmness, throttle response, and steering / road feel is all adjustable by a switch near the gear shift. To be perfectly honest? Comfort mode is my favorite. How messed up is that?
In comfort mode, throttle response is reduced, suspension is softer, and steering is easy with a more subtle road feel. For general driving around, in comfort mode, this thing is as docile as your plain old ordinary Civic hatchback. By default, it’s in Sport mode which is the happy medium between Comfort and R mode. If I want the firmest suspension, the sharpest steering, and the quickest throttle response, one more flip of that magical switch to R mode, and this docile hatchback turns into an unrepentant beast of a car.
Now one of my favorite websites, Jalopnik.com, had an editor named Doug Demuro. He’s a car guy, does tons of reviews on Youtube. He’s a fairly quirky bloke whom after I viewed his scathing review of the Type-R, I refer to as the “Great Value Jay Leno.” His biggest complaints? The spoiler wobbled when the trunk is closed, and the exhaust had 3 tips. It went downhill from there, even his complements came off as back-handed. This was before I even pondered the idea of getting one of these.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of Jay Leno, I just throw on the Great Value title because IMHO, Demuro in this video comes off as the Walmart store brand of an actual car review. I get it, the design isn’t for everyone – heck, it wasn’t even for me when they first came out, but as much as I hated on it – this was just… Show us where the bad car touched you, Doug!
Back to the car. It is perfectly balanced. Any curve I throw this car into, it hunkers down and pulls me through it. If I need a little more kick, that accelerator is at the ready and the turbocharged 2.0l engine is dumping out peak torque between 2500 and 4500rpm, plant my foot and it will happily launch forward. The acceleration is taking some getting used to. I know how much gas I had to give in my Si to get onto the highway for instance. Same amount of gas in this car, and I’m in “car is going to the impound lot” territory. Respect the accelerator!
Without the moon roof, there’s plenty of headroom up front. No more smacking my head over small bumps. With the front seat set for my well-fed 6’1″ tall frame, I can easily sit in the back seat and have plenty of room. The trunk is massive, and the seats folding down only add to the cavernous amount of space. The seats themselves have more bolstering than the Si, and really hug me every time I get in.
Surfaces are plastic, carbon fiber (can’t tell if its real or plastic), alcantara (think synthetic suede that’s easy to clean), and cloth. Everything is very well put together, and the infotainment is leaps and bounds better than what was offered in 2018. Previously there was no volume knob. Simple climate control options required pressing a button to go to a custom menu. The interface was laggy. All of that has been corrected.
The lighting is fantastic, front and rear LED’s, including the fogs. In my Si, the halogens were simply inadequate for night driving even if the weather was perfectly clear. The LED’s used in this car apparently still get poor reviews from the IIHS, but IMHO – they’re more than adequate. I do miss the way the lamps turned with the steering in my Golf R, but that’s a nice to have more than a necessity.
What else… ah yes, no heated seats. This is the first car I’ve had since my GTI that has not had heated seats. Again – a nice to have, not a necessity. Also gone is the passenger side camera that would activate during right turns – I didn’t really depend on that to begin with. Overall though – this is the best Honda Civic that a driver can get. Docile in Comfort mode, rip snorting front wheel drive demon in R mode. Gas mileage has been between 27 and 29mpg so far which isn’t bad at all.
Every time I look at it, I smile. Even despite the scratches and swirls that I hope to resolve with a detail ones spring arrives. It’s fun to drive, whether I’m commuting, going to the supermarket, or paying my respects to the great driving roads in this area I’m blessed to live in. I’ve said it before – that I hope this will be the car I finally hold on to, and it checks off enough boxes that it just may be.
…and if it’s not, I can always blame my genetic predisposition to loving new cars. 🙂