Having been daily driving a 2010 Vauxhall Astra VXR with 300bhp and some subtle suspension modifications, I was really looking forward to trying out Honda’s flagship civic, the Type R, codenamed FK8. After all, back in 2008, the Astra VXR held the fastest FWD production car record on the infamous Nurburgring with a time of 8mins 38secs. The Honda FK8 Type R posted a time of 7mins 43.8secs in 2017, setting a record for the fastest FWD production car around the Nurburgring. An incredible feat, showing just how advanced modern FWD performance cars have evolved into over the years.
There is no denying that the FK8 Type R looks very aggressive and purposeful. The sharp lines, the extended side skirts, the front splitter, the wide arches, the massive rear diffuser incorporating the 3 exhausts, the vortex generators above the rear windscreen and the massive red callipers hiding behind the wheels. Despite being the sportline version without the shouty rear wing, it still doesn’t make it look any less intimidating. The more time you spend studying the exterior, the more you realise the sheer amount of engineering that has gone into designing the aerodynamics of the car, in order to help snatch the FWD production car record at the Nurburgring. This doesn’t stop there. Climb into the interior, and you are met with body hugging lovely Recaro front seats, a nicely laid out dashboard, and a metallic gear knob that sits at the perfect height to ensure perfect shifts every time.
Press the engine Start/Stop button and the Type R bursts into life. You are greeted with a nice opening ceremony on the dash as well as on the monitor in the centre console. The Type R has three driving modes (Comfort, Sport and +R – but more on these modes later on), and on every start up, it defaults to the Sport mode. The cabin is quite insulated from the sound of the exhaust, even on a cold start.
Going back to the driving modes mentioned earlier, Comfort mode is the softest of the three driving modes, as the name suggests. Once the engine has fired up into life, flick the toggle switch in the centre console just once, downwards, and notice the dash colour turns to white. In Comfort mode, the suspension becomes supple and compliant, gliding over bumps with less cabin intrusion. The steering becomes very light and the throttle response is less aggressive. The fake sound pumped into the cabin as you climb higher up the rev range is also dialled back. This makes it the perfect setting for town driving or cruising on the motorway.
Flick the drive mode toggle switch up to move into Sport mode. Sport mode is meant to be the best of both worlds; having a bit of comfort but also with a good response to still have some fun on a B-road. The colour on the dash now incorporates some red accents, to help alert the driver of which mode they are currently in. This helps in distinguishing between the driving modes. In Sports mode, the steering response firms up a bit and throttle response is made sharper. The fake sound pumped into the cabin is increased. Bumps are a lot more noticeable in this setting as the suspension is firmed up a little bit, but compliant enough to deal with some spirited driving on bumpy UK roads.
Finally, the most aggressive of all the modes is the +R mode. This just turns everything up to the best it can be; steering feel is tightened, suspension is stiffened, throttle response is sharpened and the fake noise pumped into the cabin is made louder. Another way to ensure you are not mistaken at the selected mode is the deep red accents on the dash glowing at the driver. All 316BHP is unleashed, with the engine singing all the way to its 7000rpm redline. In this mode, every little imperfection on the road surface is communicated through to the cabin. Unfortunately, there are no individual customisations for the other areas of the car (i.e. steering, suspension, engine), therefore this mode is extremely compromised on a typical UK road but can still be tolerated. This mode is best reserved and highly utilised on a race track.
Nevertheless, running in the +R side highlights the true capabilities of the FK8 over its competitors. The chassis balance is unmatched in its class and the car stays completely neutral through the bends, with barely any hint of understeer or torque steer. One would almost mistaken it for an AWD car. Body roll is almost non-existent. This sort of composure is to be expected from a car that once held the fastest FWD record around the Nurburgring, a track famed for its undulations, high kerbs and the infamous Carousel. To be fast round a track like that requires the car to not be unsettled over high speed bumps, to ride the kerbs nicely and be easy to rotate around the bends. The FK8 does all of these things with ease, taking it in its stride. Braking is another strong point of the Type R. The massive 4-pot Brembo calipers, coupled with the 13.8inch discs means the car is able to shave off speed incredibly well, making sure you are never miss an apex by running wide carrying too much speed into the corner.
Another way the FK8 is able to hit every apex on a corner and carry outstanding levels of speed through the corners is with the help of the factory installed mechanical limited-slip differential (LSD) This ensures that both front wheels never turn independently of each other. The effect of the LSD is further amplified by the Michelin PS4S types ensuring maximum grip at all times, regardless of weather conditions. This contributes to the increased traction levels for a powerful FWD car such as the FK8 Type R, and sending great feedback to the driver through the steering wheel.
In summary, the FK8 Type R is a great all-rounder. A car that can eat up motorway miles in relative comfort, and still carve up a race track on a weekend without breaking sweat. The adaptive cruise control coupled with the lane-assist means the boring bit of any long motorway journey is taken care of, with barely any input from the driver. The FK8 will happily return 34mpg on a combined cycle, therefore can be classed as fairly economical for the given performance. There is ample legroom and headroom for taller passengers in the back too, with the only criticism being the lack of a rear armrest. The front bucket seats are comfortable for daily trips, and they hug you in during spirited or track driving. The FK8 Type R set the bar back in 2017 for what a FWD car could do with clever engineering, and that bar keeps getting higher even in 2022, with all the other competitors still playing catchup. The addition of the Sportline model without the shouty rear wing means the FK8 is now subtle enough to appeal to a wider mature audience, without sacrificing any of the best traits that made it such a great FWD car. Prices start at £35,400 and I believe this is the best car for the money, as well as in its class.