The history of the Honda Civic Type R

the-history-of-the-honda-civic-type-r

Justin Narayan

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The Honda Civic Type R is 25 years old and feeling better than ever.

Morphing from a high-revving and naturally-aspirated cult hero to a modern-day power-per-litre turbocharged monster is no mean feat, and something similar to what the Porsche 911 went through to ultimately become successful.

Underpinned by Honda’s fantastic engineering prowess, the Civic Type R has undergone evolution and survived ever-tighter emissions laws. It’s also done so while maintaining the driver-focused and razor-sharp ethos it was originally created with.



Let’s take a look at the first five generations of Honda Civic Type R.

1997 Honda Civic Type R (EK9) – First generation

The first Honda Civic Type R was a Japanese exclusive product that arrived in 1997.

It took the familiar pieces from the performance-orientated Honda Civic we saw in Australia as the ‘EK4’ VTi-R – including its potent 1.6-litre B16 VTEC engine – and dialled everything up to 11.



Honda changed so much that the new motor earned its own title, ‘B16B’. Revisions included different cylinder head filled with dual-layer valve springs to enjoy high RPMs, revised camshaft profiles, higher-compression pistons, stronger connecting rods and more balanced crankshaft, as just some.

It produced 136kW at 8200rpm and 160Nm at 7500rpm, revealing its high-revving nature. The engine was bolted to Honda’s secret sauce combination of a short-ratio transmission and Torsen limited-slip differential, then fitted to a lightened Honda Civic chassis fitted with high-performance suspension.

The Type R treatment sprinkled on top made the first-generation car a hit globally, fast on the track, and a modern classic since.



2001 Honda Civic Type R (EP3) – Second generation

For the second generation, Honda sought to produce its new ‘EP3’ Civic Type R in the motherland of the hot hatch – the United Kingdom.

It also became worldly, being built in both right- and left-hand drive for the first time, and built outside Japan too, for the first time.

The car got bigger and taller, but the driveline underwent significant change. The second-generation Honda Civic Type R welcomed the fantastic K20A powertrain and lifted figures to where it ought to be – 2.0-litres, 158kW at 8000rpm and 195nm at 7000rpm.



The vehicle was built in Honda’s Swindon production plant in the south-west of England. Naively, the brand initially offered a watered-down version to the UK market without LSD transmission and other fruit, built alongside yet-another full-fat exclusive version – just for Japan.

While the UK-market cars had their K20A powertrains built on-site in England, Honda was mad enough to build its-own Japanese-exclusive K20A powertrains in Japan, ship them to the UK for fitment, only then for the cars to return back to Japan to be sold there.

Like the first-generation car, the second-generation Honda Civic Type R was known for its agile handling and rev-happy powertrain.



2007 Honda Civic Type R (FN2/FD2) – Third generation

Here’s where things get even more funny.

If shipping engines around the world to build cars for your native market isn’t enough, for the third generation, Honda literally made two cars for two markets.

Japan received the potent, full-fat and superior 2007 Honda Civic ‘FD2’ Type R sedan, and the rest of the world – including Australia – received the funky 2007 Honda Civic ‘FN2’ hatch.

On top of export cars being oh-so-basic with torsion-beam rear suspension for the first time; they once again did not feature a limited-slip differential like their Japanese counterparts.

It wasn’t until four-years later in 2011 that the Civic Type R was updated for Australia and fitted with a limited-slip differential, and also honoured with Championship White paint.

The familiar 2.0-litre K20A engine continued in both models and made 165kW at 8400rpm and 215Nm at 6100rpm in its most potent form.



If you’re interested in the Japanese-market ‘FD2’ generation Honda Civic Type R, click here to read a review on it.

2015 Honda Civic Type R (FK2) – Fourth generation

The fourth-generation 2015 Honda Civic Type R was the first turbocharged model in its history.

Launched at the 2014 Geneva motor show alongside the all-new second generation Honda NSX, it also introduced the latest version of the brand’s famed K-series engines.

Producing 228kW at 6500rpm and a hefty 400Nm between 2500-4500rpm, the fourth-generation car also introduced new levels of performance.

As some more trivia, take a guess where the engine comes from this time? It’s not the United Kingdom nor Japan; rather America, with the FK2 Civic Type R’s turbocharged engine and gearbox assembled in Honda’s engine plant in Ohio, before being sent to the UK for fitment.

One thing Honda got right this time was the installation of a limited-slip differential as standard – regardless of the vehicle’s final destination.



Australia never received the fourth-generation Honda Civic Type R, but a reader of Drive owns the first one ever imported into Australia under recent changes to vehicle import laws.

Wallace Chan – owner of Brakefast media – said his FK2 generation is brilliant to drive. We feel a modern classic coming on…

2017 Honda Civic Type R (FK8) – Fifth generation

The best way to discover what the outgoing 2022 Honda Civic Type R is like is to read our review.

Managing editor Trent Nikolic summed it up nicely, in how the last Civic Type R provided “a sharply angled reminder of everything we have always loved about the way Honda’s engineering department goes about executing a fast car”.



Over the same loan, I pinched the very blue series two Civic Type R, and compared it to another very blue Civic Type R, this time a 2006 ‘FD2’ Honda Civic Type R.

You know, the forbidden fruit model that only Japan got, much like the original 1997 Honda Civic Type R. You can read that comparison here.

Justin Narayan

After more than a decade working in the product planning and marketing departments of brands like Kia, Subaru and Peugeot, Justin Narayan returned to being a motoring writer – the very first job he held in the industry.

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