Honda Civic FK8 vs FD2 Type R. Is newer always better?
Jason · Jul 12, 2020 10:00 AM
The Honda Type R brand is a firmly-entrenched name in the performance motoring world. Many carmakers would kill for the kind of heritage and following it commands. Sure, there has been the odd duffer here and there (yes, we’re looking at you, FN2 R), but for the most part, Honda’s Type R lineage has been one hit after another. After all, how many performance brands can say that a certain Ayrton Senna had a hand in developing its very first sports car?
Today, we look at the high-water mark of the Type R lineage, the Civic FD2 and the current, fastest Type R ever, the FK8.
Surprisingly, it’s the FD2 R that looks the more subtle of the 2 Type Rs. Save for the huge rear spoiler, the FD2 R looks rather nondescript, so much so you’d mistake it for a cooking Civic FD. In complete contrast, the FK8 R is a mishmash of angles, vents, and Gundam-esque styling. It’s so ostentatious, so in-your-face that people who are asleep will notice you driving by.
We start with the FD2 R, Honda's final naturally-aspirated Type R in the lineage. This car was as raw a driving experience as they come. The suspension was so stiff your skin will wrinkle after a 5-minute ride, and there was a dearth of torque below 5800 rpm. This is not a car you go for a cruise in, this is a car you drive like your hair’s on fire.
Wring its neck and suddenly, the FD2 R starts to make sense. The initially bumpy suspension starts to improve with speed, tyres biting harder and digging deeper for grip. At the i-VTEC activation point of 5800 rpm, the K20A engine comes alive, kicking, screaming, wailing. It feels energetic, it feels invigorating, unburstable even.
On the right stretch of road, the FD2 R is Honda’s purest distillation of the Type R philosophy, manic, naturally-aspirated powertrain combined with a brilliantly capable chassis. Up until the FK2 R, this was the quintessential VTEC experience, - frenzied, high-revving, on-your-tiptoes handling - that makes your senses tingle with delight. Of course, all good things must come to an end.
The death knell for the iconic K20A engine was a combination of ever-tightening emission regulations and also the fact that, there is only so much power you can squeeze out of a naturally aspirated engine, while your rivals are packing 300 – 400 PS on their turbocharged units of the same displacement and cylinder count.
Enter the K20C1 engine (310 PS, 400 Nm), which gives the latest Type R a completely different driving experience. In complete contrast to its flamboyant looks, the FK8 R has a soft edge to it when you’re not driving it like you stole it. It feels like a modern hot hatch, comfortable (more so than the VW Golf R even) when you’re cruising, and perfectly liveable day-to-day.
The K20C1 delivers its 400 Nm with a flexibility that the K20A can only dream of. This means you don’t have to always rev the knickers off the engine to make decent progress, which was necessary in the FD2 R. Leave the adaptive dampers in Comfort mode, you can happily schlep in this Type R all day.
Has the FK8 R lost a bit of the VTEC fire? Not quite, it just serves it up in a different manner. Turn the driving mode to Sport or +R, the Type R spirit of old descends on the FK8 R, only this time, the engine is more reminiscent of a large-capacity, naturally-aspirated engine rather than a massively boosted turbo engine, with a 7000 rpm redline that’s uncommon for turbo engines.
Put the FK8 R through its paces and you’ll discover that it handles every bit as well as the FD2 R, if not better. The Dual Axis Strut front suspension does magical things to put all 310 PS and 400 Nm onto the road effectively. Another element that remains untainted is the gearshift precision, which is a Type R hallmark.
You’ll be in no doubt that this is a Type R in every sense of the word. To add to that, the additional firepower also enabled it to lap the Nurburgring in record time for a front-wheel drive car (that was until the Renault Megane RS Trophy R dethroned it).
So, while there’s no doubt that the K20C1 engine has lost a bit of that raw edginess that defined the K20A, the Type R driving experience remains firmly intact. You just have to adjust your expectations of ‘VTEC just kicked in’ and you’ll find the FK8 R to be a ridiculously accomplished hot-hatch.
I will go as far to say that it is the most complete Type R in the lineage. Perhaps, on certain days, you’ll crave that raw, frenetic wail of the K20A in the FD2 R. For any other day, the FK8 R will thrill you just fine. Whether or not you can stomach its wild exterior, is up to you. Progress, it seems, has definitely made the Type R different, but no less exciting.
Jason's foremost passion is all things automotive, where he spent his formative working years as a Product Planner and Trainer. An Advanced Driving Instructor by training and an all-round enthusiast, Jason loves going into intricate details about driving dynamics. Will drive anything with 4 wheels and a steering.