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Honda Civic Type R

The radical Civic Type R is a polarizing hi-po hatch back. Haters think it’s too hideous to own, and backers believe it’s too fantastic to miss. We know it’s the latter, seeing as we named it a 10 Best Cars winner along with the impressive Civic Sport and Civic Si. To all who disagree, we say don’t knock it till you try it. Honda has seemingly perfected front-drive performance on the Type R by all but eliminating unpleasant torque steer and prioritizing balance through celestial chassis tuning. The sole powertrain is a sweet six-speed manual gearbox paired with a 306-hp inline-four; unlike hot Civics of the past, this engine is turbocharged. Its in-your-face styling may be too much to stomach, but its funky looks are forgotten after your belly fills with butterflies from its bonkers engine and gigantic grip. While words can’t fully describe what the Type R is like to drive, we strongly suggest you don’t judge this crazy by its cover.

What’s New for 2018?

After its successful return to the United States, Honda’s polarizing top-spec Civic is unchanged. However, that doesn’t mean the competition has rested on its laurels. The Ford Focus RS is available only as a limited-edition model since production is ending, but for the final year, features that were previously optional are standard. Likewise, Volkswagen has increased the Golf R’s warranty and gave its dual-clutch automatic transmission a seventh gear. While we’ve yet to test that setup, our most recent test of the manual Golf Rrevealed significantly quicker acceleration times than before.

What Was New for 2017?

It took Honda 20 years to bring the legendary Civic Type R to the United States for 2017. Previous models had been sold in Europe and Asia, but the introduction of a global platform for the 10th-gen Civic lineup—introduced in 2016—was the catalyst for its long-awaited arrival on these shores. Assembled in England, the Type R is available only as a four-door hatchback and manifests power from an exclusive turbo 2.0-liter inline-four built in Ohio. While that engine wears the fabled i-VTEC insignia, it behaves very differently from the high-revving naturally aspirated four-bangers of past Type Rs. In addition to its special engine, the Type R added wild-looking track-oriented aerodynamics, special chassis tuning, and liberal use of red accents.

Trims and Options We’d Choose

The Type R’s starting price has climbed by $215 to $34,990 for 2018, but otherwise it’s the exact same super performer as before. That means buyers who can live with its outrageous styling will be rewarded with a phenomenal driver’s car. The Honda is more refined than rivals such as the hard-edged, limited-edition Ford Focus RS (starting at $41,995) and the Subaru WRX STI ($36,995). While the Volkswagen Golf R is also easy to drive daily and is much better to look at, it’s not as ethereal on the track and has a base price above $40,000. Speccing the Type R is simple, since desirable features are standard, including:

• Navigation, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto
• Passive entry and push-button start
• Adaptive dampers
• Front sport seats

Apart from a handful of optional accessories, the only buying decision is to pick a paint color that calls the most—or least—attention to this rolling caricature. Hint: Rallye Red is eyebrow-raising and outrageous. Bewinged wickedness aside, the Type R is an incredible machine that’s supernatural on the track and legitimately livable in daily driving.