That the Ferrari F40-beating 2021 limited-edition Honda Civic Type R sold out in minutes should be proof enough of the hot hatch’s credentials. But if you missed out, the 2020 Civic Type R is by no means a consolation prize. And it’s not a pretender to the Integra Type R’s name, nor is it hanging on Fast and Furious fame. The 2020 Honda Civic Type R is a truly special car.
The 2020 Honda Civic Type R handles better than it should
For 2020, the $36,995 Honda Civic Type R’s engine is unchanged. It’s a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, rated at 306 hp and 295 lb-ft, Car and Driver reports. That power goes to the front wheels via a 6-speed manual (the only transmission available) and a limited-slip differential.
But while the engine’s the same, the rest of the Civic Type R’s hardware has been subtly tweaked for 2020, Motor Trend reports. The adaptive dampers adjust to road conditions faster, and the suspension has stiffer bushings and lower-friction components. Even the front Brembo brake rotors are lighter, Automobile reports, with better cooling and a shorter-traveling pedal.
Normally, a FWD car with this much power experiences torque steer, with the wheel sawing back and forth under acceleration. Usually, cars with 20” wheels and thin-sidewall Continental performance tires ride harshly.
True, the 2020 Honda Civic Type R is still a bit stiff, even in Comfort Mode. But it’s worth it for how this hot hatch handles. When you put your foot down in a corner, the rear end tightens your line up, almost like a RWD car. There’s not a ton of road sensation through the steering wheel, but the steering itself is sharp, and in Sport Mode, perfectly weighted.
Add all this together, and you have one of the most agile FWD cars on sale today, Motor1 reports. Roadshow goes even further, saying “the Type R represents one of the most sublime performance-car experiences that can be had for under $50,000 — or, hell, $100,000.”
It has an incredible manual
I can’t verify how much the updated brake hardware changed the Type R’s braking performance. But I can tell you the brakes are very effective and easy-to-modulate. And I can tell you that working the 2020 Honda Civic Type R’s shifter is something every enthusiast should experience.
Honda’s engineers slightly changed the knob’s shape for 2020 and gave the shifter shorter throws and a counterweight. MT reports it feels basically the same as the previous version. This means that even without the revisions, the Civic Type R’s manual was a joy to shift. And to me in 2020, it feels like a revelation.
The knob’s design makes it fall easily to hand. It’s basically a factory short-throw shifter, and every shift feels so mechanically satisfying. It’s heavier than my Miata’s, but combined with the shorter throws, using it makes upshifts and downshifts feel heroic.
Some reviewers have criticized the automatic rev-matching—I’m not one of them. The Honda Civic Type R’s clutch has a well-defined bite point, which, combined with the rev-matching, makes shifting easier to perfect. And when your downshifts bring that smooth rush of speed, you really do feel like a Fast and Furious protagonist.
The Civic Type R is a practical commuter with sport seats
Admittedly, there are some drawbacks to the 2020 Honda Civic Type R’s focus on sporty handling. The front sport seats’ design can make entry and exit difficult for older individuals, as my parents discovered. There’s also no middle back seat—instead, there’s a storage pocket and 2 cupholders. And the rear wing does impact rear visibility.
And because it’s the range-topping model, the Civic Type R comes fully-loaded with features. It has Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, built-in navigation, performance apps, and Honda’s ADAS safety suite. For the Type R, that translates to lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, automatic emergency braking, and adaptive cruise control.
The lane-departure warning is well-calibrated: you have to actually cross the line before the alert flashes on the digital display. The lane-keeping assist is very effective, too. When it’s on, it makes it feel like the steering is set in stone—in a good way. But if you wander, you can feel the brakes working to keep you in a straight line.
Plus, in Comfort Mode, the Honda Civic Type R can work as a daily commuter. The exhaust noise synthesizer turns off, the dampers soften, and the throttle response mellows. Yes, the hot hatch is stiff, but the ride itself is well-dampened. Even over under-construction roads, as long as I avoided manhole covers, the only real discomfort was a bit more tire noise.
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