Honda is set to unveil the production version of the Civic Type R, a 280 horsepower hatchback of the European Civic. Currently, it isn’t slated to come to the U.S., but many enthusiasts would love for Honda to bring the Civic Type R over. That’s unlikely to happen, but having another hot hatch available in the U.S. would definitely be a good thing. Even if Honda would consider producing a US-spec Civic Type R, I don’t think that would be the best idea. If Honda is going to introduce a hot hatch into the U.S. market, it should be a Honda Fit Type R.
I am aware that the idea of a Honda Fit Type R is a little bit crazy, but if you look at Ford and the success that it’s had with the Fiesta ST, it starts to look less crazy. The Focus ST is more powerful and definitely a lot of fun to drive, but a lot of people who drive the Fiesta ST end up finding that it’s actually the more fun car to drive.
Part of that has to do with the fact that even in its least powerful form, it’s already a hoot to drive. Seriously, if you haven’t given the Ford Fiesta 1.0 liter Ecoboost a test drive, do it. You can drive it flat out, have a blast, and still average over 30 miles per gallon. Adding more power and a sportier suspension to that just makes the ST that much better.
Similarly, the Honda Fit starts out incredibly fun to drive no matter how stripped out it is. It’s a practical little hatchback that’s much better than the penalty box economy cars of years past, and it can hold a surprising amount of cargo. Adding a performance version just makes sense. Sure, Honda could turbo the Fit’s 1.5 liter inline-four up to 200 horsepower, tune the suspension, and build a direct competitor to the Fiesta ST, but this is America, the land where more is better.
Why not build a 300 horsepower Honda Fit with SH-AWD and a manual transmission? You can already buy basically the same setup in the Acura TL. Just think of the Honda Fit Type R as a really tiny Acura TL with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine instead of a V6. It would be absolutely amazing.
Granted, if Honda really did produce a Fit Type R, it would sell in very low numbers and likely wouldn’t make Honda a lot of money, but even as popular as the Fiesta ST has been, it will probably never sell many more than 5,000 units a year. If the Honda Fit Type R sold 5,000 a year, that would put it well ahead of what the Honda CR-Z sold last year, but if it sold half that, it would still be a better for Honda than the CR-Z ever was. This is to say nothing of the improved image and on-tangible benefits to the company.
The CR-Z was heralded as a revival of Honda’s legendary CR-X and a renewed commitment to building fun-to-drive cars for the brand. Sadly, Honda under-delivered with the CR-Z and received quite a bit of negative press for the car. The amount of good press that a Honda Fit Type R would earn could only do good things for the regular Fit, and Honda’s reputation as a whole. After all, there really isn’t anything in Honda’s lineup right now that is bedroom wall poster-worthy. Surely Honda could benefit from a little excitement in its lineup.
It’s probably more likely that Honda would build a 200 horsepower Fit Si, but as low volume as the Fiesta ST has been, I can’t see a Honda Fit Si selling that much faster. If an automaker is going to build a low-volume performance model, it’s not trying to make money. It’s investing in the sales of its other models by building its brand image and getting more people into its showrooms. A Fit Si would probably compare favorably to the Fiesta ST and would probably sell a few more units than a Fit Type R, but for a company like Honda that sold more than 1.5 million cars in the U.S. last year, the difference in 2,500 units and 10,000 units is barely a blip on the radar.
Do I really think that a Honda Fit Type R is going to happen? Not really. Volkswagen managed to make a case for the previous generation R32 based on 5,000 projected sales, but the Germans and the Japanese make decisions very differently. If Honda had known that the CR-Z would average fewer than 6,000 sales per year over the last five years, I don’t think they would have brought it to production.
If Honda did decide to do something a little bit crazy like selling a Fit Type R in the U.S., it would mark a pretty serious shift in thinking at the company. Slow and steady doesn’t always win the race, and with much tougher competition from the Americans and South Koreans these days, taking a few more risks could be what Honda needs to get its edge back here in the U.S. Nissan is nipping at Honda’s heels, and both Hyundai and Kia have been making huge sales gains over the past couple years. Maybe adding a little spice to the lineup could be just what it needs to stay ahead of the competition.
.S. It might just be the coolest Honda ever.