Review: 2024 Honda Civic Type R (FL5) - Bonafide everyday superstar, but why do we miss the FK8?
Arvind · Feb 10, 2024 10:00 AM
They say, sometimes you should never meet your heroes – the 2024 Honda Civic Type R (FL5) is every bit a hero, not because it’s a turbocharged hatchback with four doors and a boot; there are quite a few of those. It’s the fact that one of the most traditional aspects of driving is preserved with that metallic 6-speed shifter in the centre console.
It stubbornly holds on to a bygone era of technology in the interest of excitement and the spirit of driving and proves the method by still being as fast as its more modern peers. However, as a clause, perhaps you must never meet its predecessor – the raucous, in-your-face Civic Type R (FK8).
In truth, the 2024 FL5 is brutally quick and objectively better in every metric than the FK8. It’s handsome, more tenacious and yet better composed – to the point you wonder if it has gotten a bit too refined. Has it lost some of that organic exhilaration all its forebears delivered in spades? One way to find out, let’s push down on that clutch, slip into gear… and drive.
Following its global debut in July 2022, the FL5 Type R was launched here in September 2023. With just 19 units for sale (in 2023) at a tinge under RM 400k, the internet was buzzing with comments about its price tag – at circa RM 80k more than the FK8, ‘it was just too much money for a Honda’.
If that were true, Honda would not have racked up approximately 200 bookings and have to use a ballot system to decide who gets to buy their car. In Japan alone, there’s now a 2-year waiting period for the Civic Type R, so Malaysia’s lucky to even have 19 cars, because Honda’s Yorii plant can’t make them fast enough for a global fanbase.
Under the hood lies an updated version of Honda's longstanding (K20C) 2.0-litre VTEC turbocharged four-cylinder engine that develops 319 PS and 420 Nm, up 9 PS and 20 Nm from before.
The upgrade in power comes courtesy of a redesigned turbocharger, upgraded engine internals, better cooling, a 10 percent increase in intake air flow rate and a revamped exhaust system which flows gases 13 percent better than before.
As before power is sent to the front wheels through a quick-shifting 6-speed manual transmission paired with a helical-type limited-slip differential (LSD) and automatic rev-matching system. The 2024 FL5 features a lighter flywheel and a revised rev-match system over the FK8 which is claimed to offer smoother and quicker rev-matched downshifts this time around.
Augmenting the car's character are four drive modes, one more than before - namely Comfort, Sport, +R, and a new Individual mode which allows the driver to customize engine response, steering assist, suspension damping, engine sound, rev-match speed, and the design of the gauge cluster.
As for suspension, the FL5 features the same as before featuring a dual-axis strut front suspension setup and multi-link rear end with adaptive dampers, though the setup has been comprehensively retuned for sharper handling.
It is perhaps one of the most distinguishing factors of the 2024 FL5. Driving the FK8 – with its crazy wing, 20-inch wheels and extroverted styling – one was always getting unwanted attention from boy racers and the like, either they were pulling up close to gawk at the car or tailgate closely to race you. This becomes very tiring after a while, for me at least.
This made me love the 2024 FL5 even more, though it's aggressive looking – and you will get out of its way – on the roads, it blends into traffic seamlessly, looking not much different from most other Honda Civics.
The differences are subtle yet powerful – the sleek air scoop on the bonnet, the flared front arches that blend into the functional air duct, plus the widened rear arches that extend from the rear door. And of course, the snazzy but functional rear wing finished in black, which with the matte black 19-inch wheels, provides a nice contrast to the Championship White body colour.
In many ways, the 2024 FL5 channels that subtle aggression that its forebears - models such as the EK9 and FD2 Type Rs as well as Integra DC2 - delivered beautifully. Essentially simple design tweaks (to regular models) that gave them oodles of sporting presence.
Where the FK8 looked like a tuner car on steroids, the 2024 FL5 looks like a purpose-built touring car built for speed, and that for me, is simply superb.
Interior – Practical, comfortable and yet special
Stepping inside, the 2024 FL5 still offers a practical and cossetting cabin. Well, given it pretty much shares the same architecture as any Civic, and offers ample legroom at the back, you’d be surprised how well it handles the daily grind.
Even when I had the whole family in it, running errands, there were no complaints. The seats are comfortable, the air-conditioning is excellent, and it's quiet and refined when it needs to be.
The trademark bright red seats are bar none, the best seats ever in a Honda. Both supportive and supple, it’s on par with some of the best bucket seats I have sat in, in particular the AMG seats in the Mercedes-AMG A45 and the Volkswagen Golf R.
What you won’t find in other Civic variants though is the Type R displays, which allow customisability of the car in Individual mode, as well as specific displays about pretty much everything the car is doing.
There is even a Data Logger function which uses an algorithm to generate a score for smooth driving based on your acceleration, braking and steering. Elsewhere there is the ‘+R’ instrument cluster which centralises the rev meter to deliver sharp and precise information when blasting around.
The only drawback for me is the 2024 FL5 doesn’t get the Bose premium audio system that the Civic e:HEV RS gets. The audio system isn’t bad, but I would expect a better one in an RM 400k car. With that said, the 2024 FL5’s cabin is still a special place to be in.
Driving Experience – Can you fault it for being too good?
It starts up with a sharp growl, which settles into a distinct hum, though Honda claims the larger central exhaust emits a characteristic note, the overall noise is quite subdued and only marginally louder at idle and low speeds than a regular Civic 1.5L VTEC Turbo.
Though this is great if you want to cruise down to the shops, I still wish it offered more aural drama given its sporting chops.
That said, there’s no denying the potential under the hood once you start moving. The clutch is tall, such that you only need to depress the pedal about an inch or so to slide the shift knob into gear. Every cog slots in with near-perfect precision, though I miss the meatier shift knob of the FK8R, which offered a better throw due to its weight.
Slide off the clutch and the car gets going with minimal effort. There’s an immediate sense of how much grunt is on offer, the first gear blips up to 3,000 rpm very quickly, before you slide it into second and so on. The 2024 FL5 is beautifully calm cruising around 70 - 80 km/h, you can grab 6th gear around 60 km/h and given its torque, there’s little need to move down a gear to overtake or climb hills.
Given the clutch is light, and the brake pedal is strong and superbly modulated, driving the 2024 FL5 in traffic doesn’t become too tiresome even over longer periods. Add to that the Hill Hold Assist function (there’s also Brake Hold if you need it) that keeps the brakes on for a few seconds after releasing the clutch on a hill. Thus, Honda has essentially taken away the more physical aspects of manual driving, so you can concentrate on just enjoying the driving experience.
However, it’s a bit of a double-edged sword if you ask me. Especially if you’re an enthusiast driver who enjoys gymkhana. Having no handbrake puts the 2024 FL5 at a disadvantage against the GR Yaris and GR Corolla, both of which can dance around a gymkhana cones thanks to their lithe handling and excellent handbrakes.
This presumes of course that the 2024 FL5 is focussed on street and track driving. And golly-gosh, it doesn't disappoint
Push the go-pedal down hard, and the engine almost immediately rises in tempo, at about 2,300 rpm, a salvo of torque shoves your back into the seat and the revs climb vigorously. Once at 4,500 rpm, the full dollop of power is released giving you even more manic acceleration.
The rev counter shift lights will start to blink blue, signalling your next shift – at around 6,500 rpm – is the sweet spot. Grab your next gear and repeat as necessary. Setting up for a corner, there’s no need to heel-and-toe (though you can if you want) as the rev match almost instantly blips the engine to meet the lower gear.
The transition is flawlessly smooth and almost second nature after a while - making you feel like a driving God. The brakes are monstrous too, allowing you to scrape speed off unnervingly near a corner if you’ve got the guts… and talent.
The 3rd and 4th gears are the most amazing in the 2024 FL5, blasting you right from circa 80 km/h right past 150 km/h in just a few short seconds, and given that secondary boost at 4,500 rpm, the FL5R seems to deliver this old-school VTEC feel which is accompanied by a burst of speed.
Make no mistake, just like the FK8 before it, the 2024 FL5 is a proper weapon on pretty much any given road. Though you always get a sense that there just isn’t enough road to fully extract all of its potential, well not on public roads anyway.
The suspension is stellar delivering bountiful grip in every corner, though most of the team agreed that 2024 FL5 overall suspension setup is more rigid (even in Comfort mode) than the FK8R, it still tracks with poise on bumpy roads and rarely gets unsettled by bumps and ruts in the road.
This allows you to pick a line and carve your fastest route, leaning on the available grip, managing the car's balance and feeling the surface through the steering wheel.
Whilst it is immensely sharp and quick, the 2024 FL5’s steering feels a tad bit more muffled than the FK8’s which offers raw, unapologetic feedback from the road. That said, it does a better job than the Golf R and matches that of the Toyota GR Corolla.
Comparing it dynamically to its peers, which all offer AWD traction – crucially the Toyota GR Corolla, VW Golf R, and BMW M135i – the 2024 FL5 will excel where it can use its weight and grip advantage in corners, and its excellent gearing on the straights.
There is a reason it is the fastest FWD machine on the hallowed Nürburgring, its overall balance, stability, power delivery and slick-shifting manual make it a beast in the hands of a capable driver. Yet it is composed and engaging enough on the daily grind.
But in there lies the paradox of the 2024 FL5; for two reasons.
One, despite, substantial gains in terms of capability, there’s still a thirst for the rawness of the FK8 - it was somewhat flawed but endearing, unrefined but exciting. Some in the team disagree, saying that at its limit, the FL5 is sharper, and more edgy than the FK8 - but for lack of a better expression, perhaps the 2024 FL5 has gotten so good, that it's both.
However, does it matter in any case? Those lucky enough to own the 2024 FL5, will understand that regardless of flaws or otherwise, it represents more than just a fast car.
It’s perhaps the end of a legacy, a lineage of speed demons that became giant slayers, and a greatest hits album of what driving stands for - freedom and excitement - that may be reason enough to buy one.
Arvind can't remember a time when he didn't wheel around a HotWheels car. This love evolved into an interest in Tamiya and RC cars and finally the real deal 1:1 scale stuff. Passion finally lead to formal training in Mechanical Engineering. Instead of the bigger picture, he obsesses with the final drive ratio and spring rates of cars and spends the weekends wondering why a Perodua Myvi is so fast.