The Honda Civic Type R is a Japanese icon with a deep history that goes back over 20 years. Its introduction in 1997 with Honda's EK9 marked Japan's entry into the hot-hatch segment, which was historically dominated by its European rivals such as the Volkswagen Golf GTI, Renault Clio and Peugeot 205 GTI.
In 2001, Honda introduced the second-generation Civic Type R (EP3), which would ingrain itself into our understanding of what a hot hatch ought to be. Honda drew upon the same formula as its predecessor, which consisted of a well-balanced chassis and a high-revving, naturally aspirated engine that resulted in a responsive and raw driving experience its European counterparts could not match.
The purchase of my EP3R, like many young enthusiasts, was an easily justified decision that satisfied all of my needs: an affordable, engaging and (surprisingly) practical hatchback that never fails to put a smile on my face with its addictive 8400rpm redline.
I purchased the car in March 2017 having moved on from a 2001 Audi A3 1.8T, as I wanted something more engaging and inspiring to drive, without compromising comfort and practicality. After driving a friend's EP3R, I was immediately hooked and surprised – I had found a car that ticked all of the boxes for my daily needs as a university student.
Despite its understated body design, the car's charm comes from Honda's legendary 2.0-litre naturally aspirated K20A engine producing 158kW and 202Nm and revs out to 8400rpm. While its torque figures may seem poor in today's world of turbocharged engines, this is counteracted by a close-ratio six-speed manual gearbox that keeps the engine in a usable powerband. Fuel economy is also another surprise, as I average about 9L/100km or about 400–450km from a 50L tank in city driving.
The car has superb front-end grip with its front engine, front-wheel-drive layout and is agile through the bends. The rear of the car, however, does not share the same stability through high-speed corners, which sometimes causes uncertainty mid-corner.
Interior and technology-wise, the cabin is quite bare and driver focused, featuring Recaro semi-bucket seats and an oddly placed gear shifter situated on the centre console that makes rev-matching all the more rewarding and engaging. Also included are the basic creature comforts you would expect from an early 2000s car such as air-conditioning and an aftermarket stereo system with AUX connectivity.
The car has yet to let me down even after 15,000km of spirited driving over the course of this year. It has been extremely reliable with regular service intervals occurring every 5000km with the appropriate fluids and parts.
The Civic Type R has proven itself to be the people's champion – an affordable car for young enthusiasts that punches well above its weight. If you're looking for a practical and affordable hatchback that packs a punch, then there's no looking past a Honda Civic Type R (EP3).