New Honda Civic Type R FL5 2022 review

It comes at a high price, but the all-new FL5 Civic Type R proves to be one of the finest hot hatchbacks from the word go

Evo rating
Price
from £46,995
  • Much improved design, engaging powertrain, outstanding dynamic ability
  • Price, size

​​​​You've doubtless read the US reports and watched the segment on Top Gear. Now, after one of the most frustrating and painfully protracted multi-stage embargoes in recent memory, we can finally tell you what evo thinks of the new 'FL5' Honda Civic Type R.

There's little point beating about the bush. The Civic Type R is terrific. In fact, we'd go so far as to say that right now it's the best driver's hot hatch money can buy. To find out just how good it is (and just how much it is) read on…

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Let's start with the looks. It's clearly a much more grown-up design, which might be disappointing if you liked the overt aesthetic of the previous-gen car, but is great news for the rest of us. There are some neat details, too, such as all the functional aerodynamic parts being painted black.

The interior is unmistakably Type R. Vivid red seats are the dominant feature, but tactility, comfort and great driver ergonomics are the standout qualities. The driving position is magic, with brilliant support from the seats and perfectly placed pedals, while everything you touch has a real quality feel.  

The handsome new bodyshell is stiffer by 15 percent thanks to extensive use of adhesives in its construction, and both wheelbase and track widths have grown. A lesser company would have dropped all the previous-generation hardware into the new body, tweaked the motor ever so slightly to find a pinch more power and torque and left the rest alone. Not Honda. The basic nuts and bolts might be almost entirely carry-over, but the CTR development team threw themselves into fastidiously, meticulously and relentlessly exploring ways of making everything just that little bit better.

The engine is more impressive than ever. Yes, there are useful bumps in both power and torque with peaks of 324bhp and 310lb ft (up 8bhp and 15lb ft respectively over the FK8), but it's the way in which the motor responds that makes the most significant and tangible difference. The turbocharger's internals have been redesigned to that it spools up faster. This emphasises the lack of inertia that has always been so typical of Honda's high-performance VTEC motors. Where pretty much every turbocharged four-cylinder hot hatch feels like it's powered by an unexceptional engine that does the numbers thanks to forced induction, the Civic's engine feels like sharply tuned naturally aspirated motor that's been further boosted by a turbocharger. It's a small but crucial distinction.

Mated to the snappy, beautifully precise and - yes - painstakingly honed six-speed manual transmission it's a powertrain to bring a smile to your face. There's a throttle-blip function, which can be adjusted via the dynamic options and makes for perfect rev-matched downshifts. It's clever enough to allow you to do your own without having to disable the system, but you can switch it off if you dig deep enough into the menus.

Our first taste of the new CTR involved track and road driving. Unfortunately for the most part the weather was miserable. Still it speaks well of the Type R that its character and capabilities shone through the gloom. From the moment you get behind the wheel you feel completely connected to the car. The steering wheel and gearknob are wonderfully tactile, yielding suede and cold metal feeling great in your hands. There's a freeness and energy about the CTR that's immediately inspiring, and consistent across all the major controls. Clutch and brake pedals are firm and silky, the steering perfectly weighted, laser accurate and so nicely judged in terms of response that you nail your first apex without having to think about it.

The drivetrain has an expensive feel, at once sharp and smooth. There's plenty of low-down response, which builds quickly but progressively so that even in slippery conditions you can play the throttle to j-u-s-t have the front wheels breaking traction but not running away with wheelspin.

On the track there's plenty of opportunity to feel for and ultimately breach the limits of grip, revealing a progressive stability and consistency that gives lots of confidence. It'll slide its tail beautifully, too, if you give it the right nudge of lock and lift off as you turn in. The brakes have great feel, strong stopping power and rarely if ever fall into ABS, which is very impressive given the wet conditions at Estoril.

There's less scope for such extremes on the road, but the CTR remains playful at less than lunatic speeds. That measured steering response is welcome, as is the progressive throttle response. It's also great to have such adjustability for the car's dynamics, the new Individual mode allowing you to mix and match all the chassis and powertrain settings. 

Perhaps most important of all is that Honda's mission for the Type R to be the fastest front-wheel-drive car around the Nürburgring Nordschleife hasn't resulted in a car that's riven with compromises in order to deliver a lap time. On the contrary, it feels like a car you could quite happily drive every day.

Like all first drives held beyond UK shores we reserve ultimate judgement until driving the new CTR on our favourite and most testing A and B roads. Still, there's every indication the new car is genuinely supple at low speeds while possessing the pace, feel and livewire handling to be inspirational at speed. 

Criticisms? Well, it's a large car by hatchback standards. That extra track width and wheelbase might improve road-holding and straight-line stability, but it also means the CTR is a family-sized five-door. It doesn't feel cumbersome (quite the opposite, in fact), but on tight and twisty roads you notice there's less room to play with. There is also the UK pricing to discuss…

Price and rivals

At £46,995 Honda's pricing is punchy, but with hot hatch sales falling the chunky price tag reflects the fact cars such as the CTR are bought by true enthusiasts; people who understand specialised hot hatches of this calibre are a rare treat built to serve a niche, not a sector with meaningful volumes. It's a lot of money, but if you're serious about driving and appreciate the notion of a car that's effectively been blueprinted from nose to tail by Honda's most pernickety engineers, you'll fall for the Type R in a big way. 

What's more, although it's almost 100bhp down on top-tier machines such as AMG's A45 S or Audi's RS3 (both significantly more expensive), the CTR's brilliantly honed dynamics mean you would seriously think twice about what you're getting from the premium superhatches beyond brand image and on-paper bragging rights. We need to drive it in the UK, but something tells us that when it comes to on-road ability and behind-the-wheel enjoyment the new Type R will be very hard to beat.

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