Newly sharpened for 2020, the Honda Civic Type R has proven to be one of the best hot hatches on sale today. It’s a fitting successor to the moniker started in the US by the Acura Integra Type R. However, today’s CTR approaches performance from a different perspective than the originals, eschewing high-revving naturally-aspirated engines for turbochargers. It may have the horsepower, but is it still as fun to drive? YouTube team ThrottleHouse set the 2020 Honda Civic Type R against a 2002 model to find out.
Honda Civic Type R: 2020 vs. 2002 specs
As with the GT-R and Lancer Evo, US enthusiasts never got to sample the first few Honda Civic Type R models. The 1st-gen EK9 came out in 1997, Top Gear reports, after the NSX and Integra Type R models debuted. The model Throttle House drove is the 2nd-gen EP3, which is based on the 7th-gen Civic. It was also the first CTR sold outside Japan, Evo reports.
The EP3 Type R received a similar treatment that the EK9 received, Car and Driver reports. The body and chassis were seam-welded to make them more rigid. The hatchbacks were lighter, with larger brakes, DriveTribe reports. The suspension was stiffer, as were the anti-roll bars, Roadshow reports. Japanese-market examples also got a limited-slip differential and red Recaro sport seats.
Then there was the engine. In JDM-spec, the EP3 Type R’s 2.0-liter four-cylinder made 212 hp and 149 lb-ft. With a closer-ratio 6-speed manual, the Japanese EP3 could go 0-60 in 6.2 seconds, GarageDreams reports. And it redlined at 8400 RPM.
The 2020 Honda CTR also has a 2.0-liter four-cylinder. However, it redlines at ‘only’ 7000 RPM, Car and Driver reports. But, it’s turbocharged, so it develops 306 hp and 295 lb-ft. That means 0-60 comes in about 5 seconds.
Honda tweaked the CTR’s brakes, suspension, and cooling systems for 2020, making it both sharper yet still all-day comfortable, Motor Trend reports. All markets get the 6-speed manual, LSD, and bolstered red sport seats. And, while the older model may rev higher, the new car has more creature comforts, like ADAS and navigation.
What are the two Type Rs like to drive?
Although the 2020 Honda Civic Type R’s changes are subtle, both Motor Trend and Car and Driver report they are noticeable. And Throttle House agrees. The hot hatch’s steering is even more accurate, and it simply refuses to roll in the corners. Plus, with Honda’s full safety suite as standard, the 2020 CTR is a car you can both drive on the track, then drive home in.
With almost 2 decades of technological difference, obviously the 2002 Type R falls behind in some areas. It’s less powerful, for a start. And surprisingly, its steering, despite being hydraulic, is actually worse than the 2020 model’s. It’s slower and less accurate. Plus, the old car torque-steers significantly more. Driving the EP3 definitely takes more work.
However, the EP3 has its positive points. With a 2600-lb curb weight, it’s about 500 pounds lighter than the 2020 model, thanks to less tech, safety features, and sound deadening. Behind the wheel, it feels more visceral; it’s raw and frantic. In addition, despite its odd shape, the EP3’s shifter is closer to the wheel, which speeds up your shifts. And of course, there’s the sound and push of VTEC kicking in.
Both Type R models have their strengths and weaknesses. The 2002 EP3 model is thrilling, if slightly too high-energy for every-day commuting. Though the smile you’ll have might make it worth it. But then, the 2020 model is fun even if you’re not on a racetrack. As a fun daily-driver, it’s the more complete package.
Getting one of your own
Unfortunately, if you want an EP3 Honda CTR, it’s still too new to import to the US. In 2022, the earliest EK9 models will be import-eligible, though. A few years ago, PistonHeads reports low-mileage, unmodified examples could sell for up to $10,000. However, as was the case when Skylines became US-legal, it’s possible prices may increase by 2022.
The 2020 CTR starts at $36,995. But, unless you’re planning to track it, the 2017-2019 models offer roughly the same driving experience at a slight discount. It’s possible to find models for around $27,000-$30,000 on Autotrader.
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