Double Apex was given an exclusive privilege to drive the all-new FL5 Honda Civic Type R in Cape Town. This thrilling hot hatch takes the Type R moniker to an even higher level thanks to an assortment of genius mechanical marvels.

The new generation of the Honda Civic Type R made its debut last year but thankfully over in South Africa, we didn’t have to wait too long as a small selection of units has already reached dealership floors. This is the fourth time that Honda’s performance variant of its trusty hatchback is being offered to our market and like the two generations that came before it, the local allocation is being kept relatively small with a starting figure of 60 units of which 25 are already accounted for at the time of writing this piece.

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Turning up the intensity

Although the Honda Civic Type R is still powered by the same K20C1 turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, it benefits from an increased power output of 235 kW and 420 N.m of torque. This is slightly detuned from the European specification model due to South Africa’s poorer fuel quality which was the same case with the previous-generation FK8 model. Power is sent to the front wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox exclusively to keep the purists satisfied.

Beneath all of this, Honda fine-tuned all aspects of the Civic’s chassis ranging from the multi-link suspension, steering system, brakes, and wheels which now bear a set of grippy Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres.

Tasteful lines

The FL5 goes back to the days of the FN2’s design by adopting a somewhat more reserved design in comparison to the last two Type R generations but at a glance, you can still tell that this Civic has been designed to command some attention and optimise its aerodynamic abilities. This is the biggest Civic Type R to be released, but that didn’t keep the engineers at Honda from maintaining a lightweight figure. 19-inch matte black alloy wheels, a hatch-mounted wing, and a cheeky triple-exhaust tailpipe accentuate somewhat of a bullish boy racer aesthetic. The Type R can only be had in five colours but thankfully each option is distinctive.

Focused cockpit layout

The FL5 can be used as a daily driver, but some elements may seem impractical to those looking for a full-on family car. The front row is kitted out with a pair of red bucket seats that may be a bit tight for wider drivers, but sufficient headroom is afforded to those who stand 180 cm tall. At the rear, only two seats are afforded as the bench is divided by a pair of cup holders. Due to the front bucket seats, legroom is a bit compromised. The boot area is generous enough for a run to the grocery store but you may struggle to cram some suitcases in for a weekend away.

As soon as you climb into the driver’s seat, it is made clear that the Type R’s cabin has been designed for the focused and enthusiastic driver. Both the steering wheel and aluminium six-speed short-throw gear shifter are within close reach for quick action, but the setting doesn’t feel too tight. With the absence of a manual handbrake, there are also fewer obstacles along the centre console that may interfere with your gear shifting. The aforementioned bucket seats are welcome when you start exploring the grip limits as they don’t slack when it comes to keeping you in place.

The infotainment system may feel a bit fussy to those who are used to the simpler operating systems provided by the Europeans, but it is comprehensive and throws in a Type R-specific telemetry system for track enthusiasts.

It’s all about the drive

The FL5-generation Honda Civic Type R may be the most exhilarating front-wheel drive hot hatch experience you can get to enjoy in this era of cars as it lets the driver explore new limits when it comes to cornering speeds. The aforementioned structural revisions mean that Honda is able to increase power outputs while maintaining impressive handling characteristics that will not intimidate amateur drivers. The electronic steering system has been fine-tuned to be light to the touch but sharp and direct. With this, turning into the apex can be done with confidence without diluting the exhilarating feeling of speed.

Click here to see the video of the Type R setting a new Nurburgring record. 

The engine maintains similar characteristics to the previous K20C1 as it provides power to the front wheels without much turbo lag. Thanks to the Torsen mechanical front differential, traditional front-wheel drive characteristics such as wheel spin and axle tramping are almost non-existent. A stark contrast from the previous model is the elongated gear ratios, particularly after third gear. With this, gear changes are less frequent as you almost never get close to fifth gear when navigating a tight set of corners.

On a twisty mountain pass, it’s highly probable that you’ll keep it in third gear. The long ratios are great for cruising and maintaining preferable fuel consumption figures, but this is an element that detracts from the typical Type R experience as you don’t get to enjoy the mechanical short-throw shifter as much as you’d like to unless you’re happy with short shifting the engine. At cruising speeds, the Type R is enjoyable as it can offer a supple ride and quiet powertrain via the customisable drive modes that include control of the active damping suspension and electronic steering system.

Value for the enthusiast

The Honda Civic Type R is being sold in South Africa for R979 000 which is an eye-watering price to consider at face value, but the standard offering is impressively comprehensive as it includes Honda Sensing which includes adaptive cruise control and an array of safety features. You also get the digital instrument cluster, 10,2-inch infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connected to a 12-speaker Bose audio system, wireless smartphone charging, dual-zone climate control, front and rear park distance control with a rear-facing camera, and more. This pricing is in line with what competing manufacturers are asking for their hot hatches, some of which are not specified as generously as the Type R.


The FL5 Civic Type R is Honda’s pinnacle hot hatch experience as it culminates a catalogue of development that dates back to its first EK9 Civic Type R sold in select markets from 1997. Although it’s not as mechanical and pure as the free-breathing and lightweight creations of the past, it maintains its stature as a thrill-seeking boy racer while accommodating those who appreciate improved comfort and safety. Currently, there aren’t many cars like the new Honda Civic Type R that can make a grown man smile like a child from ear to ear. We should also savour this generation of the Type R as from here on out, electrification is almost certain to make an appearance.

Model: Honda Civic Type R

Price: R979 000

Engine: 2,0-litre inline four, turbocharged

Transmission: six-speed manual, front-wheel drive

Max power: 235 kW

Max torque: 420 N.m

0-100 km/h: 5.5

Top speed: 272 km/h

Fuel Consumption: 8.4 L/100 km