Aaron A. Bullock
6 Months and 12k Miles Later... - My Type R Review
On October 28th, 2019, I made the decision to potentially ruin my chances of buying a home in the next few years and treated myself to what I justified as a “well-deserved birthday present”: I purchased a brand new 2019 Honda Civic Type R, my attainable dream car (because a Ferrari 488 was just a tad outside of my price range).
I had been wanting one ever since Honda announced that it was bringing the Type R name to America starting at the 2017 model year. Prior to the announcement though, I really didn’t know much about the Type R name and the heritage that badge carries in the Honda world. I was still driving my 2013 Civic Si which I thought was the cool Civic to have because it was “sport injected.” When Honda revealed pictures of what they were bringing to America with the FK8 design, that’s when I knew what car I wanted next.
At the time though $40k for a race car Civic wasn’t a plausible purchase. Plus my Si was still serving me well and I had no pressing desire to trade it in for anything else. I figured I’d give the Type R some time to gather reviews and perhaps for used ones to start showing up on the market for much less than $40k. Little did I know that the latter wouldn’t matter anyway.
I vaguely remember it being sometime around the end of summer last year when the idea of upgrading to the Type R became a whim of a possibility. It started as joking with my friends that I was going to keep an eye on used listings and just see what pops up. The joking escalated to once or twice a week talks about it which eventually led to doing some math and sorting my finances. I had never made a spreadsheet for my finances before until the thought of buying a Type R started looking more and more like a possibility. After some number crunching and continuous conversations with a few very helpful people about how I could make this happen, I realized I might have something to get myself for Christmas.
Christmas. Not my birthday in October, but Christmas. And even Christmas was hopeful thinking because my “realistic” outlook was sometime in the beginning of 2020 (ha, that would have been funny). When I reached the tipping point of the decision to eventually buy one, the target was a used one for around $30-33k and it had to be Rallye Red or Polished Metal (the same grey color as my Si) as a second color choice. However, between the Type R being a somewhat limited production car and most people actually keeping and using theirs, there weren’t many used ones popping up on the market. The ones that were were holding their value quite well at the $35-38k range. I mean I had some pretty specific win conditions with making a purchase, or so I thought…
Then one day in October, a new one in Rallye Red was listed for sale locally in Chandler. It was the only red one available at the time in Arizona. I initially resisted the consideration because it was new, but after my friends and I talked about it (read *they nagged me and wouldn’t stop) I figured there was at least no harm in going to check it out in person. I submitted an inquiry, received a phone call minutes later and scheduled an appointment that evening to visit the dealer.
I’ll spare the details for the sake of getting to reviewing the car I now own, but long story short after some typical back and forth with the dealer alongside some slightly uncomfortable but doable adjustments to my aforementioned win conditions, I said a heartfelt goodbye to my 6 years of Civic Si ownership and drove off the lot in a brand new 2019 Honda Civic Type R. In the few months that the purchase was being considered to the time it actually happened was a bit of an emotional roller coaster (as is I guess most other car purchases). Yet now here I am 6 months and 12,000 miles later enjoying the car as best I can.
So, how is it? Let’s start with what I don’t love first, because that’s an easier list to go through than what I do love. And really, the biggest thing I don’t love about it is purely the bad luck I’ve had with it so far. None of it has to do with the car itself but rather that shit happens sometimes.
In the 6 years I owned the Si, the following has happened:
I swapped a tiny bit of paint with another car after misjudging my turn radius in a parking garage. That resulted in a pencil-sized scratch on the front bumper that I never touched-up because it didn’t bother me much.
I had only ever had one tire puncture to deal with, and at the time that it happened I was due for another set of tires anyways.
Maybe 2-3 noticeable rock chips on the windshield? Never spread, never filled in.
In the 6 months I’ve owned the Type R, the following has happened:
Replaced the windshield already due to a crack, then after getting the new windshield I had to have 3 new chips filled in (thankfully all covered by insurance)
A screw punctured my tire (thank you, Discount Tire, for your amazing free repair services)
Highway debris and shitty reaction time took a tiny chunk out of my front left bumper that, at the time of writing this article, is still there. Maybe I’ll get it fixed someday, but it’s not enough of a noticeable crack to keep me up at night (it did for the first couple of days).
Bad things happen in threes, right? At least that’s how I’m trying to justify no more “shit happens” moments with this car. Thankfully the car is a purchase and not a lease so there’s no pressing anxiety of keeping it mint condition for the next guy. It’s mine, folks, until it falls apart or I can no longer afford it.
And that brings me to what I love about this car. Before I start though, these are my personal opinions on the Type R so far which means, as a not-so-expert car reviewer, that my take on Type R ownership should carry far less weight than that of somebody who knows what they’re talking about. I get paid to take pictures of cars, not to give you buyer’s advice on them. :) Anyways, where do I start?
How about the fact that it’s a daily-able race car? For a car that crushed the FWD record at the ‘Ring, it’s easily a car that I can use to commute to work and go get my haircut (which, at the time of writing this, is something I dearly wish I could do #COVID-19). It’s comfortable, has plenty of space for things and humans (and probably pets), gets decent gas mileage, and so far nothing has broken internally nor do I hope nothing will since there’s a Honda badge on it. Most of the 12k miles I’ve put on it have been driving on the highway to work and back, which is 60 miles round trip per day, 5 days a week minimum. I’ve also taken it on a roughly 1000 total mile road trip to Albuquerque for a friend’s baby shower and twice up north to Flagstaff as part of driving days with my buddies. Aside from a few bumps that can occasionally be a bit stiff on the stock 245/30 tires on 20-inch wheels, even in the Comfort setting (softer suspension and lighter steering as opposed to the default Sport mode), the car handles everyday drives and long road trips without a hitch.
The best part, and it truly is the best part, is when you do go on those road trips and find yourself on those beloved twist-and-turn canyon/mountain stretches; the Type R has the ability to turn into a corner-eater at the flip of a switch. The car’s race setting, +R mode, tightens the suspension and steering. Suddenly my daily grocery getter makes me feel like The Stig behind the wheel. I’m by no means an expert race car driver and I’ve yet to actually take the car to the track (forgive me for I have sinned), but for somebody who’s been playing video games for as long as I can remember, I will confidently say that the Type R is a car spawned straight out of a video game.
The first time I experienced this was during my first trip up north where my buddies and I drove through a curvy mountain road. I pushed the car to a limit I felt comfortable with and it handled itself incredibly well. That was my first glimpse of what it was capable of, not to mention the first performance benchmark I could establish in comparison to the Si. Recently I got to drive that same mountain road again, and this time I pushed it harder.
Fewer things in recent memory have put a bigger smile on my face than feeling that car perform like it should. It was after that short period of twists and turns that I realized just how amazing the Type R actually is. It went where I pointed the wheel without hesitation. It kept to corners like it didn’t know how to color outside the lines. There was virtually no fear of the car getting away from me especially when one wrong move could have sent me into a guard rail or even off the cliff. The grip is insane, and I imagine that’s thanks to the perfect combination of super sticky Continental tires, the wild-looking but very functional aerodynamics, and a rock-solid racing suspension, not to mention the classic Civic FWD traction.
Now when it comes to straight line speed, I’m hardly the first person you should consult. I will say though that for a stock Civic, it’s fast. This is the first turbocharged car I’ve owned, so after years of driving a naturally aspirated 201hp 4-cylinder Si, going to a 306hp turbocharged 4-cylinder Type R is a hell of an upgrade. What simultaneously amazes and frightens me about it is that it’s easy to go fast without realizing it. I’ve gotten used to it now but the times I’ve opened it up to triple digit speeds (sorry mom and dad), I would look down at the speedometer and think, “there’s no way I’m going that fast.” It just feels incredibly smooth at high speeds, probably thanks to the aerodynamics encompassing nearly every square inch of the body.
That’s another thing I love about it. Sure it looks like you gave a 12-year-old a pen and sketchpad with the instructions of drawing a cool-looking Hot Wheels, but Honda designed it. That means that all of those crazy lines and that big wing are serving a functional purpose to the car’s performance. I’m not an aerodynamics expert, but I can somewhat explain to you how air passes through and over the car’s seemingly over-the-top aesthetics in order to keep the car planted when you’re burning rubber at the race track. After all it is a race car, so impressing your girlfriend with a sexy Honda comes second to tackling corners and setting lap times. In my opinion, the Type R is an exemplary unison of function and form.
To wrap things up, let’s go over the mods that have been added thus far. My number one modification that I believe makes any car 10x better to drive is the sound it makes. Now I’m not going to lie; during my research of all the different aftermarket exhausts currently out for the Type R, I wasn’t liking my choices. I like cars that have a deep, refined note in the low RPMs that carries through to the screaming high end which is where most Honda engines shine. No offense to my fellow Type R owners, but a lot of the ones I came across on YouTube sounded like rogue vacuum cleaners. I mean I get that 4-cylinder engines sort of have that reputation, but even my Si’s Skunk2 catback sounded better than most of the options I was running into. It wasn’t until I ran into a Vegas owner’s setup (shout out to K20Elite) that I felt I found the perfect setup: RV6 3” midpipe with the J’s Racing 70RUS semi-titanium exhaust. It cost a very pretty penny, but the sound it makes is worth it.
Being a turbocharged engine, it’s not quite as loud as my Si was but it’s still the right amount of throaty. And then of course the next thing was to make that turbo’s presence heard, so I added a K&N cold-air intake, which was a bitch to install because of how tightly fit K&N designed it to sit in the engine bay (thanks for the help, dad). But now I do small pulls every chance I get just to hear that blow-off, otherwise known as “whooshy noises” termed by yours truly. Finally, to add a bit of aesthetic I impulse bought some Rally Armor mud flaps for the wheel arches which did add a subtle bit of pseudo wide-body and lowering to the car’s overall appearance.
Down the line the only other things I’d really like to add are the OEM window visors and perhaps a new set of shoes. I really like the OEM wheels, but being that this car is primarily my daily commuter, those 245/30 tires aren’t going to last very long. Like many owners who are daily driving theirs, I’ll likely downsize to 19-inch rims and fit longer lasting tires for the sake of not spending $1000 every year just for new rubber, especially seeing that I’m currently on track for 20k miles in the first year.
The only major thing left to do now is actually take it to a track, which I’m hoping to do soon. My friends and I initially planned to do an autocross day recently, but you know… #COVID-19. However, as an everyday car the Type R does the job very well. I might recommend though that if you want a more practical Civic that’s still fun to drive, get the Si for far less than the $40k price tag of the Type R. A lot of thinking went into my own decision to buy this car, but the ultimate factor, as cheesy as this is going to sound, was the idea of life being short. This is my realistic dream car. I am grateful that I found myself in a position to comfortably afford paying for one, and it’s been worth every penny so far. If you’re seriously considering purchasing one, I highly recommend it. Many fellow owners and car experts have given the Type R a lot of praise. It initially received criticism for being priced so high for a Civic, but it’s becoming commonly accepted that it’s well worth it. It’s practical, reliable, and a shit ton of fun.
Get one, and most importantly, drive it like you own it dammit.