Calm be the storm

The new CTR is calm. Too calm. It is so calm it feels like its its never in a rush to go anywhere. It is no longer the hyperactive hooligan we used to know but has evolved into a new generation of automotive hypebeast targeted at millennials. This angered the purists as the familiar iconic Type-R signature has been completely eradicated. The very essence of what made the Type-R a Type-R, that was encapsulated in the imperfect but ultra-sweet FD2R, the last of the pure NA Type-R which:

  • Was always in a rush to go somewhere. A touch of the throttle sends it barking and pouncing instantly.
  • Entertained us all with its orgasmic VTEC zone, a right foot initiated interactive feature that mechanically changes engine behaviour at a certain RPM onwards
  • Had like the shortest gear ratios in the world, needs to rev rev rev and shift shift shift to get some speed. Forget about driving on highways
  • Only came with 2 modes which can only be accessed by your right foot. Yes, you either drive super fast or cruise unbearably slow, as factors such as noise, dramatic ride and mostly fuel cost come into play
  • Featured floor mounted throttle pedal which was a bliss and most satisfying to use.

 

Yes, they are all gone. Every discerning Type-R enthusiast who were part of the NA era would surely miss the theatrics, the sounds of music, the Avex Trax Super Eurobeat soundtrack. But it is worth praising how Honda has evolved the Type-R product from its very basic origins into the grown up, formidable global competitor it is today. It is also comforting to know these red-engined, high-revving Championship White, circuit bred touring cars for the road are still being made today, unlike the now defunct Evo, or the barely exciting new WRX.

 

First Drive:

2018 HONDA CIVIC TYPE R (FK8R) SPECIFICATIONS

Engine: 2L Turbo 4 cylinder
Power: 310hp
Torque: 400nm
Zerotohundred: 5.7 seconds
Top Speed: 272km/h
Transmission: 6 speed manual
Weight: 1,380kg
Price: RMRM 301,928.00
WebsiteHonda Malaysia

 

A New Type of R

The new FK8 CTR feels more progressive. It has grown up, it is much more approachable, not necessarily accessible, definitely more liveable with, is incredibly practical and looks super savage which I personally like a lot. It is a new Type-R candidate that can finally hang out with top European hot hatches in terms of performance and social standing, which its JDM-bred NA older brother never could.

is so mature now, everything seems muted. There’s no noise, no drama, no personality and above all, no sound. All you hear are turbo whoosh and kapishes, which is kinda nice but that’s about it. What feels very different but strangely familiar is the new CTR’s long 7,000rpm rev range. Different because competing rivals don’t rev that far and familiar because it literally feels like a turbocharged K20A, but muffled.

The FK8 CTR is fast, it is very capable don’t get me wrong, just a little tight if you know what I mean, even dry at time. It’d somehow inherited the calmness of the FK8 regular Civic, probably from all the magic engineering that had gone into the new body, which sort of endowed it with a heavy duty platform, and inadvertently gave it a brilliant chassis, thus causing it to feel like it could do with more power, more sound or drama, anything.

It’s not heavy, in fact the new CTR feels quite light. The weight of its doors for instance felt light when in use, a clear indication of how efficiently built this car is. By efficient I mean using just enough material. There’s nothing premium about the CTR, it’s just another Civic with cool red bits. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I like the simplicity of it in general and how it is kind of toy-like.

 

Hill Drive:

 

 

The FK8R is no longer hardcore

Luxury is not part of the Type-R theme. But compared to Type-R cars of before, this new FK8 CTR is world’s apart in build quality and the difference is like a First Class cabin upgrade to the FD2R’s premium economy seat. Maybe not First Class but Premium Business Class because you need to shift gears by hand.

The CTR offers superb manual driving enjoyment. Shifts are short, has nice accurate throw, easy to use but is rather light, maybe a touch too light, juvenile to a certain extent. It wasn’t always like that. In previous CTR iterations, shifts used to be a touch heavier, tighter and has a magnetic click to it. This new one feels like a very good Logitech racing simulator shifter. Nothing wrong with it, just saying it’s not the same. Thankfully, I heard there are ways to improve the shifts via J’s Racing weighted Ti shift knob and shift collar so you can check Pentagon Racing out

Other than that, the cockpit look and feel quite alright, better than decent I’d say. Visible areas get noticeably better build quality while areas hidden from the eyes are either more plasticky or not covered. I’m not very fond of the rather cheap power window console but that’s about it.

This FK8 CTR has the best sport seats. They feel better than they look and are incredibly comfortable, yet snug. Side bolsters are especially high, gives it a bucket seat look and feel. The red accents, red sport seats, stitches, faux carbon & red anodized trims complete the CTR interior. Conservative people might find it tacky and that’s okay because it’s not made for everyone.

 

Auto Rev Match:

 

 

Suspension

In terms of multi terrain compliance, the electric adaptive damper suspension of this new FK8 CTR excel in ways no other hot hatch can match. Ride comfort wise, it is likely the plushest hot hatch out there, running on 20 inch wheels no less, yet posses handling capabilities that are commendably high in limits.

But because its suspension is biased towards comfort, it is no longer as hardcore as before. Even in + R mode, ride remains pliant and bearable. This is very unlike even the most luxurious of hot hatches, for example the AMG 45 army, which by default can even intimidate prepared individuals. The new CTR has lost this particular unyielding character. Nevertheless, it is good news for new adopters yearning for driving practicality, which will make up most of the FK8 CTR clientele anyway, judging from the price as well.

Handling 

On the road, it’s not much different in calmness when compared to a regular Civic 1.5 Turbo except for the noticeable firmness, perceptible wideness and heavier steering, probably due to the wider track all round and massive 20″ wheel and tyre combo. In fact the larger wheel option heightens its sense of maturity and enables the CTR to roll over road imperfections much more effortlessly.

Like its previous, Euro oriented FK2 Type R sibling, the new CTR has adopted the use of electronic damping on all four corners, giving it multiple driving modes to suit most needs. There’s really no other reason for ditching the Type-R’s full mechanical shock and springs tradition for adaptive suspension other than for comfort. This e-route allows much more pliancy in managing the urban terrain as well as undulating b-roads, while being able to stiffen up in an instant to tackle the twisty hill corners or high speed circuit corners all in one package.

With its new electronic damping path, the CTR is very much geared towards comfort. At its firmest +R Mode setting, things do get pretty hard especially through the hills of Genting as it ever so gently hop at the limit when conquering even the gentlest bumps and dips. However, upon clocking more KMs, it becomes clear that the new CTR is more inclined to succumb to comfort and not lap times. Which is a huge revelation considering the Type-R heritage and how the recent hot hatches have favoured performance over plushness. For example, even the AMG GLA 45, a jacked up, hot hatch crossover can get unbearably dramatic, even harsh in its suspension department despite being a luxury product.

Despite all of that, the new CTR is competitive, still carve curves like a champ and remains flat through the bends, all while retaining a calm demeanour. What’s missing is the hard-as-nails, all-out, hardcore attitude which the Fd2R had plenty of.  Specifically that battle-mode tactility which other, more serious European candidates now provide. On the flip side, this new CTR can now cater to a larger spectrum of drivers who prioritize daily needs over all-out touring car duties. In this regard, the new CTR excels where no other hot hatch can match.

Engine

The new FK8 CTR makes even more power now, totalling 310ps from the 2L 4 Cylinder K20C1 VTEC Turbo lump. If you didn’t know, every new CTR imported officially by Honda Malaysia has been adapted to Malaysian fuel quality, and can go as low as RON91. This is why the CTRs here make 310ps versus 320ps in other markets.

While engine response is superb and very NA-like, power however lies way up high the rev range, requiring one to really wring it to build good pace. This approach is quite the opposite of how today’s European hot hatches behave, which usually dishes out as much power as it could, as early as possible.

This is where I think the CTR’s power delivery strategy loses out to most, if not all similar classed hot hatches. At best, it feels like a boosted K20A from the last of the NA Type-R that revs high and is paired with a fat mid-range torque. At worst, it passes off as a really powerful regular Civic. Reality is, there’s very little engine character to be savoured in the new turbocharged CTR. If anything, it reminds me of what the Evo 7,8,9 felt like. Even the MK3 Megane RS 250, despite being more mundane in music, has more attitude and makes better sound.

Well it still is to me a high revving engine and being a turbo, makes it even more enticing. Although this K20C doesn’t talk much, it does like to rev so if you’re the progressive sort then the new turbo CTR is for you. It is the most linear among all hot hatches out there.

Verdict

All in all the new CTR is the fastest CTR Honda has ever made and by quite a margin. The 300 plus hp engine makes sure of this and new chassis delivers it effortlessly. I am certain the new CTR is right up there with the best of the best whilst doing it in extreme comfort. It’s hard to believe but the new CTR is by far the easiest, most submissive Type-R to live with.

It seems the Europeans have a tendency to soften every Type-R that go through their hands. This is ever since the triangle-everything FN2, then the FK2 and now the FK8. If only the original Japanese Type-R team were responsible for the entire thing, such as currently lead by Hideki Kakinuma, I bet the FK8 CTR would have been a blockbuster, like how they did with the FD2R.

As a FF 2L Turbo contender, the FK8 CTR will never match touge kings such as the Megane RS in outright talent, even with more power. It just isn’t as hardcore or as thoroughbred by nature. RenaultSport nailed it with the brilliant chassis even if it meant running on rock hard suspension. Drivers are expected to adapt to the “Cup Chassis” and the inconveniences that came with it.

It is obvious they wanted to make the new CTR more mature, more premium, more able to drive at speed on the Autobahn and so on. Which explains the massive wheels, adaptive suspension, aerodynamics and even sound damping tri-piped exhaust. It all works, a bit too well perhaps. They’ve ground off the sharp edges and sterilised the new CTR. Now, it will suit just about anyone who can operate a stick, even if barely so.