By the time the third generation Honda Civic Type R arrived in the UK in 2006, the Type R variants had been around for nine years. It had earned a well-deserved reputation as top level performance hot hatch. This new FN2 model was not initially met with the same type of enthusiasm. Power was up by just 1bhp, the independent rear suspension has been ditched and an increase in overall weight did not bode well.
But thanks to shorter gearing and a more progressive power delivery, it was just as quick and was also better to drive overall – appealing to even more people thanks to its cool futuristic styling.
Naturally aspirated performance hatchbacks are rare things nowadays and the high revving FN2 Civic Type R is taut and responsive, with that addictive VTEC punch at the top end. It’s a great second hand buy, still providing an engaging drive in a package that has aged very well.
Which one to buy?
The Type R was only available as a three-door hatch in the UK, and sadly the impressive 222bhp FD2 saloon versions were only sold on the Japanese market. Nevertheless the 198bhp UK cars are great to drive, and provide a very different experience to the torquier but arguably less engaging modern turbocharged hot hatches. Revs need to be kept above the 5500rpm mark to engage the aggressive VTEC cam profile, and this all adds to the engaging driving experience.
Alcantara sports seats, rear wing and 18-inch alloys came standard, with ride jarring 19-inchers an option. The sole gearbox option was a sweet shifting six-speed manual. The top line GT spec consisted of a whole host of additional equipment most notably cruise control, front fog-lights and rear curtain airbags.
2009 saw the introduction of a mild facelift and the Championship White Edition, finished predictably in white with GT trim. It made no more power, but featured a limited slip differential, which was a welcome addition. Two Mugen versions were made available, the Mugen 200 – which replaced the Championship White Edition in 2010 – and the much more pricey and rarer road going Civic Type R Mugen R. This 237bhp version, of which only 20 were built, came at a price nearly double that of the standard car. Numerous changes to the engine and chassis made it a true track racer and Mugen even offered an uprated 2.2-litre 260bhp engine on the last four cars.
The majority of Type Rs were GT spec, and the LSD became standard from cars built from 2010. Production ended in 2011 as new emissions legislations spelled the end for the high-revving VTEC power unit. With the latest Type R and its rivals all having moved to forced induction, cars like the FN2 Type R are becoming rarer by the day.
Performance and specs
Engine 1998cc, 16 valve DOHC I4
Power 198bhp @ 7800rpm
Torque 142lb ft @ 5600rpm
Top speed 146mph
0-62mph 6.6 seconds
Fuel consumption 31mpg
Gearbox six-speed manual
Dimensions and weight
Kerb weight 1301kg
Honda’s VTEC engines have developed a reputation for longevity and the one in the FN2 is no exception. Regular servicing is a must and oil consumption can be heavy on some cars, so it is essential to check it regularly to avoid any issues. Valves can get noisy so have them checked every second service.
The gearbox is slick shifting however the synchros on third gear have been known to cause issues, so checking how it engages and whether a repair has been done (under warranty in some cases) in the past is advisable.
A whine from the clutch when cold is normal and should go away after a few minutes. Squeaky operation of the pedal may just be the pedal box requiring a bit of WD40 but a failing master cylinder may also be the culprit if the noise remains.
A thriving tuning community means that many Type Rs have been modified, free flowing exhausts, upgraded brakes, remapping and cold air intakes are common and should not detrimentally affect the engines reliability. Make sure that a reputable company has carried out the upgrades though.
Rear suspension can be squeaky but unless the noise is very persistent it is normal.
Rust should not be an issue on the fully galvanised body shell, although check under door rubbers near the B-pillars especially on pre-2009 cars as some have rusted in this area. Any evidence of bubbling under the paintwork may indicate a bad repair job.
Three recalls were carried out, one was for the fuse box on 2008 models as an issue would drain the battery when left standing for a long time. The second was for a wiring loom issue affecting all model years while the final one was for a handbrake issue that affected some early cars.
2006: Honda Civic Type R FN2 introduced. Available solely in three-door hatchback body style with 198bhp VTEC engine. GT Trim adds interior conveniences such as auto-dim headlights, electric folding mirrors, and dual zone climate control. Majority of UK cars ordered in this trim. LSD, Sat-Nav and Bluetooth all optional extras
2009: Minor facelift introduced (can be identified by headlight washers). Non GT spec cars discontinued. Championship White Edition introduced. Paintwork and alloys finished in white paint, all models sold with top GT trim and LSD as standard. 600 units built.
2010: Limited Slip Differential becomes standard on all Type Rs. Mugen 200 replaces Championship White Edition. 200 units built 20 units of the Road Racer Mugen Type R with 237bhp are built.
2011: Final FN2 Civic Type R rolls off the production line making way for new forced induction replacement released in 2015. A total of 11615 FN2 models were produced
Owners clubs, forums and websites
• www.type-r-owners.co.uk – Enthusiast site
• www.toda-racing.co.jp – Tuner specialising in Honda engine components
• www.civictype-r.co.uk – Civic Type R owners club
Summary and prices
2007 model year cars start at around £4500, while a low mileage late 2011 car can command as much as £13,000. Championship White editions are rare, as are the Mugen 200s. Other than the visually appealing paintwork, these offer no extra benefits over a GT trim car, except for the LSD. As this became standard on all versions from 2009, think twice before paying the premium.
Race spec Mugen Type Rs are near impossible to find, so if you crave exclusivity imported Japanese spec 222bhp FD2 saloons tend to pop up from time to time, prices hover around £14,000. For our money, a face lifted 2009 model found at around £7000 is arguably the pick of the bunch.
A great daily driver that doubles as a true enthusiast car when you really wring it out, the Civic Type R is a great buy. Solid underpinnings and good reliability round off an accomplished package. Simply buy and enjoy.
Words: John Tallodi