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Honda Civic Type R (FL5): R-traction

WHENEVER I think about the Civic Type R, I still recall the incredible enthusiasm that welcomed it to the country in 2017. That’s when Honda Cars Philippines, Inc. (HCPI) formally introduced the FK8 (its codename), based on the 10th generation of the Civic. The initial 100 units allocated to our market were snapped up within 48 hours of the announcement of availability.

Just wrap that thought around your head.

What this tells me, Honda’s considerable fandom aside, is that the pure love for driving and for owning a vehicle that is distinctly tuned to enjoy the road (and track) is still shared by so many of us. The allure of the red-badged, high-performing Honda — which first appeared in 1997 — endures and continues to win new fans over.

The FK8 has been expectedly replaced with a Type R that’s based on the current, 11th-generation Civic. Codenamed FL5, the all-new Type R bears all the goodness of its Civic underpinnings, but get some steroids and a host of R touches to bulk it up into the performance machine we expect it to be.

We start with some noteworthy factoids: The pre-production version of the FL5 set the mark for front-wheel-driven cars at the Suzuka Circuit in March of last year, followed up with a production-model achievement — setting the bar for front-wheel-driven vehicles at the iconic Nürburgring, which it lapped with a time of 7:44.881.

Of course, that only adds to the legend and psychic reward when you make that “informed decision” to get the Type R because, well, you owe it to yourself and that pocket-rocket-loving kid inside you.

For starters, like the 10th-generation Civic, the 11th generation’s looks initially polarized the public. I say initially because its slightly funky appearance has a way of growing on you. That protruding “brow” on its front fascia can be a little disconcerting, or it just might look a little new so you don’t quite know what to make of it. I used to scratch my head as well, until the look, yes, grew on me.

Besides, nerds will delight in the fact that the 6th-gen Type R is “more aerodynamically efficient, therefore, generating, significantly more downforce which improves high-speed stability,” reports HCPI. The Civic hatch-based Type R gets a new bumper and functional front fender air outlets — in addition to a side sill garnish.

If you ask me, I like how less complicated the FL5 looks compared to the FK8. Sure, there is nothing wrong in the older Type R’s more aggressive gait and jet-fighter demeanor, but it can be a little over the top. And hardly anyone will argue against a more non-descript, low-key vehicle, which the FL5 is.

While we’re comparing, the all-new Type R is longer, wider, and lower than the FK8. Honda says the A-pillars have been moved rearward by almost two inches in aid of visibility. That also makes the hood longer.

Up front, the FL5 gets a delicious honeycomb grille upon which the equally yummy Type R badge and red Honda logo are affixed. The car gets LEDs all around — from the headlamps to the redesigned taillamps. Nestled in the black rear diffuser (which also increases downforce while reducing drag) are the updated signature three tailpipes. Honda simplifies matters by ditching the winglets of old, and again employs a large spoiler supported by aluminum stanchions. I hasten to add that this huge appendage will not obscure your rearward view.

As for shoes, the FL5 gets matte-black 19-inch alloys fitted with in 265/30 high-performance Michelins. Our test unit was in Championship White hue, and you can choose another color, the Racing Blue Pearl, if you wish.

All of these exterior appointments make the car a great-looking sports car — and a lot of heads indeed turned our way while we zipped along merrily aboard the FL5 — but the proof is in the pudding.

Step on the clutch and press the start/stop to rouse the turbocharged 2.0-liter, 16-valve DOHC VTEC inline four from slumber. This mill, compared to the FK8’s, ups the output by 10ps (to 320ps) and 20Nm (to 420Nm). Drivers can access the performance promises through a sweet, short-throw six-speed manual with an improved Rev Match Control System. I was surprised that over the course a multi-day lendout, without even half trying (I succumbed to being heavy on the pedal lots of times when situations permitted), the car registered double-digit fuel economy.

Despite it being a manual, the all-new Civic Type R does offer four driving modes — Comfort, Sport, +R, and Individual — to calibrate the willingness of the engine to rev up and deliver performance. The cabin is swathed in healthy doses of red, which is pretty much the royal color for the R — from the Type R bucket seats with Alcantara leather to the carpeting and accents. Neat freaks should be extra careful when boarding the car; check if your soles are clean. And I wouldn’t eat something while in the cabin, as that could potentially stain the seats or the carpet.

That out of the way, the FL5 has everything you love in the “garden variety” Civic and more — justifying the P3.88-million price of admission.

The aforementioned honeycomb grille is mirrored in the trim that runs almost from door to door in front. On the dashboard is a Type R plate with the number of the unit that you have.

The aluminum shift knob can get pretty hot if you leave the unit under the sun, so I suggest to cover it up with something (better if you get a sunshade).

The Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel is absolutely luscious and lends a feeling of premium sportiness, along with the bright-red Honda logo in the center. You know you’re piloting something very special. The company dispenses with analog instrumentation altogether, but the rendering and execution in the 10.2-inch digital cluster are neither cheesy nor gimmicky.

Meanwhile, a nine-inch touchscreen rises from the center of the dash. This supports multimedia functions like Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and gives expression to your music through 12 Bose speakers. Automatic air-conditioning allows for brisk cooling, and other touches within make the Type R more attractive even to those who are unfamiliar with what the vehicle stands for.

For instance, a new center console is bestowed large cupholders — perfect even for moderately sized drink bottles. The back row is meant to seat two in comfort; a third is definitely not recommended as there are big cupholders ensconced in the middle of the bench. Plus, there are only two seatbelts back there — in eye-catching Type R red, of course.

While we’re on the topic of space, can the Type R be an everyday car that can do errands and the occasional grocery run? Of course! The cargo capacity with the seatbacks up is a decent 404 liters. This grows to 898 liters with a 60:40 fold.

And though the FL5’s shocks are tuned for sportier inclinations, they are not jarring by any stretch. What they do is bestow you with supreme confidence to safely take twists and turns at speed.

And because this is a performance vehicle that is perfectly suited for the track, wouldn’t it be great to have a way to measure its abilities or, more correctly, your ability to extract the goodness? Say no more. The enhanced version of the Honda LogR Performance Datalogger “combines (the vehicle’s) onboard computer and sensors with a new built-in vehicle app that help drivers monitor and record a variety of performance parameters in real time when driving on the road, on track and other closed courses, helping to improve driving skills.” Aside from providing information such as oil temperature, and pressure and coolant temperature, drivers can check out their lap time and “heat map” along with data like real-time G-force readings.

Perhaps most importantly, the FL5 is imbued with the latest version of Honda Sensing, the brand’s suite of driver assist and safety tech. It employs a camera behind the windshield, and processors and sonar sensors to allow the vehicle to “see” a longer way down the road. Honda says “its camera detects feature points of a target and recognizes attributes of objects such as a vehicle or pedestrian, while the sonar sensor system, on the other hand, detects objects, including other vehicles, located near the front. The fast processor, meanwhile, allows the system to measure distance and the lateral position of objects based on the change in the size of the target object, how long it takes for the change to occur, and the speed of the vehicle. This enables the camera to recognize white lines, road boundaries such as curbs, other vehicles, pedestrians, bicyclists, and road signs.”

The system allows the FL5 to offer features such as Collision Mitigation Braking System, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Keeping Assist, Road Departure Mitigation, Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Warning, and Auto-High Beam. These offerings join standard safety complements to make the latest iteration of this vehicle not just an athletic one but safer than ever.

And tons of fun, I hasten to add.

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