Honda’s New Civic Type-R Faces a Crowded Landscape and New Challenges

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2016 Honda Civic Type R (2)

When Honda said that we, as Americans, would get the Civic Type-R the world rejoiced. Well, I rejoiced at least. I’ve always been a fan of small, fast Hondas, and even owned a Honda S2000 back in the day. The Civic we’d get here was good, but it was never Type-R good. It looks like that is about to change, but the change comes with challenges that didn’t exist back in the day.

The main challenges, of course, come from competition. While the Lancer Evolution and WRX STI were always out there, they’ve never been as good as they are now. Of course, we’re losing the Evo so that’s a moot point. But the WRX STI is a solid performer with loads of space and sublime driving characteristics.

Then there’s the Golf R. Before Volkswagen would drop an R32 on us once every few years to sell as a bit of a limited edition. With the new R, it seems they’re willing to sell as many as people are willing to buy. With nearly 300 horsepower and all-wheel drive, the R is definitely a contender in the hot hatch realm, though it might be a bit more civilized than the other offerings.

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The big challenge comes from Ford’s new Focus RS. Unlike the RS of the past — which also wasn’t available here — the new Focus RS has all-wheel drive. Unlike the all-wheel drive in the other cars, this is actually one of the most technologically-advanced units on the planet. It can mechanically send power to an individual wheel to help performance and cornering. That means there’s virtually no understeer, nor is there any torque steer. Finally, the RS has a drift mode for the hooligans amongst us.

The Civic is, and will be, an entirely different animal from the Focus. That’s to be certain. If you just look at the looks alone you can see which was is trying to be the most bold. But managing 300 horsepower through the front wheels is a daunting task for any manufacturer, including the experts at Honda. But perhaps that’ll add to the character of the car instead of detract from it?

Ultimately, the Civic Type-R is going to be a vehicle that many will look upon adoringly, and a few will be able to afford and purchase. It’ll provide a stark contrast to the other hot hatches on the market. Honda has to make this car right, they have to go back to their roots, they have to bring on a level of excitement that we really haven’t seen from their new cars in awhile.

I believe they can do it.. Just driving the normal new Civic gives me hope that Honda is on the right track with that car and with the eventual performance we’ll see. The fans will love it, but I hope that it has a mass-market — as mass market as you can get for a premium hot hatch — appeal and does well for the company.

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