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Driven: Honda Civic Type R Limited Edition. Image by Honda.

Driven: Honda Civic Type R Limited Edition
Feast your eyes on this and prepare to want one. And then hate us when we tell you that you canít have it.


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Honda Civic Type R Limited Edition

5 5 5 5 5

Good points: it's a Civic Type R that's slightly lighter, tuned to be even more phenomenal in the curves and is also a car utterly focused on the act of driving - there's no stereo, infotainment or aircon in here; imagine how brain-frazzlingly good it is

Not so good: all sold out

Key Facts

Model tested: Honda Civic Type R Limited Edition
Price: Civic five-door range from £21,730; Civic Type R GT from £34,415, Limited Edition £39,995* as tested
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder VTEC Turbo petrol
Transmission: six-speed manual, front-wheel drive with helical limited-slip differential
Body style: five-door hot hatch
CO2 emissions: c.191g/km (VED Band 191-225: £1,345 in year one, then £155 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: c.33.6mpg
Top speed: 169mph
0-62mph: 5.7 seconds
Power: 320hp at 6,500rpm
Torque: 400Nm at 2,500-4,500rpm
Boot space: 420-1,209 litres

* = All 20 UK examples of the CTR LE have already sold out, so this price is entirely academic.

Our view:

You're looking at a unicorn. Although, the last time we checked, we're pretty sure unicorns were some kind of horned horse that are usually seen in either pure white or delicate pastel shades with a sprinkling of pixie dust. And are not, in fact, a searing bright yellow brute like this Honda Civic Type R, complete with lurid wings and vents, and sharply contrasting black detailing. So perhaps we should explain ourselves further and offer some clarity after this rambling, nonsensical intro. Ahem.

What we mean to say is that we're reviewing a car here that you cannot buy. When Honda updated its phenomenal CTR for the 2020MY, it not only incrementally improved the GT model but it also spurred two new evolutions off the same platform. One was the Sport Line, a more sedate Type R with a lower wing, demure body colours, grey pinstriping, 19-inch alloys (instead of 20s), the deletion of all of the red on the cabin's bucket seats and extra sound-deadening around the passenger compartment. Very stealthy; we're hoping to drive that variant of the Civic soon.

The other new creation was this thing, the Limited Edition. If the Sport Line turns the Type R's volume down, the Limited Edition cranks the dial all the way up to ear-bleeding levels, rips off the knob (steady...) and then plugs the whole thing into one of Nigel Tufnel's famously numerically superior amps. It is a Civic Type R GT stripped of 47kg of weight for an overall measure of 1,358kg, this diet achieved through the removal of the infotainment system and any associated audio magubbins (including speakers), as well as the air-conditioning in the HVAC array (or just 'HV', in this car's case) and some more sound-suppressing materials that are crammed into various crevices (double steady...) of the Honda's shell. It also switches the GT's standard 20s for lighter, forged BBS items of the same diameter, all shod in grippier Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres. The price for all this, um, lessness was £39,995, keeping it just below that £40,000 threshold that results in five years of hugely inflated road tax after the first 12 months.

And we must use the past tense in that last sentence because the Civic Type R Limited Edition sold out almost immediately after going on sale. The reason for this? Honda decided to bring just 20 of them to the UK. Twenty. This Sunlight Yellow Civic, that paint being a Type R heritage colour hence its deployment here, is therefore going to be a rarer sight on these shores than almost any Ferrari, Lamborghini, McLaren or Rolls-Royce model made in the last 30 years. It's insane.

We're therefore extremely privileged to have been able to spend a week and 330 miles with what is UK car No.001. In truth, we had a quick go in this Honda at the launch event for the regular CTR GT in 2020, but that was only on a short, quite tight track (in which the Limited Edition couldn't really get out of second very much) in typically British summer conditions. Which is to say, a miserable, sodden, cold monsoon. And Cup 2s and standing water are what is known as a... volatile mix.

So we felt some time assessing this car on drier roads was necessary, just to make sure, y'know? And now we have made sure. And we're going to say without a hint of hyperbole that this is one of the greatest hot hatches of all time. Admittedly, with its largely blanked-off fascia and the reduction in sound-deadening materials, it's not the greatest daily in the now-extended Civic Type R family. Although you'd be surprised just how civil the LE is on long journeys. We drove it to Milton Keynes and back for a meeting with one of its key competitors, the new Cupra Leon 300 TSI, and although we had to do the 220-mile round trip listening mainly to the roar of its specialised Michelin tyres cavitating around in the back of the Honda's cabin, its adjustable dampers in Comfort mode still managed to smooth away the miles, making what could have been an arduous trek into a most pleasant journey instead. We even saw 39mpg on that jaunt, which is ridiculous for a 170mph with proper downforce-generating bodywork.

But that's not why you're here. And given we did another 110 miles in the CTR LE which eroded that near-40mpg figure earned from 66 per cent of its test with us to 33.4mpg overall, then you can kind of understand how the Honda was being driven when it wasn't on the major highways and byways of this island. Let us tell you now: all we really need to say is some of those remaining 110 miles conducted in the Civic in its focused Sport and +R modes will live with us for the rest of our born days. Few cars of any class have steering as sensational as this. Few can hope to match the Honda's bonkers traction and its preposterous ability to put the massive 320hp/400Nm outputs of that 2.0-litre VTEC Turbo engine to the tarmac in such a devastatingly effective fashion. Few performance machines can boast a rear axle that is as mobile and involving in the process of steering the Honda as this LE's set-up. None on sale today have a machined and thoroughly joyous manual shift action anything like it.

When you're in a Honda Civic Type R, with everything boiling away just so, there are very few fast road cars which are better than it, be they hot hatchbacks or otherwise. When you're in the Honda Civic Type R Limited Edition, it's all of that plus a little bit more besides. It's glorious. Sensational. An absolute legend. So we were indeed wrong in our intro. Because seeing a real, live unicorn wouldn't be anything like as exciting as spending eight fantastic hours at the wheel of this Japanese masterpiece. And as you're incredibly, incredibly unlikely to see one of these rare, wild animals ever again, we'd suggest you drink it all in now while you still can. Magnificent.


Audi S3 Sportback: at the upper end of the front-wheel-drive hot-hatch realm where the CTR LE operates, you start to encroach on the 4WD models, like this S3 Sportback. The Audi may be more urbane inside and out, but the Honda is way more fun to drive.

Toyota GR Yaris: the four-wheel-drive homologation oddball that upsets all the hot hatch rules and parameters. It's ostensibly a Yaris but we all know it's not, and with a Circuit Pack fitted for a grand total of around £34,000 it is every bit as marvellous to drive as the ultimate CTR.

Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport: Volkswagen has given the 'exciting dynamics' part of the hot-hatch formula a bloody good go this time around with the Clubsport evolution of the GTI. However, as superb as this Golf undoubtedly is, there's no manual option on 300hp model, the similar Cupra Leon is the better car and then the CTR is even better than both of them again.

Matt Robinson - 15 May 2021    - Honda road tests
- Honda news
- Civic images

2021 Honda Civic Type R Limited Edition UK test. Image by Honda.2021 Honda Civic Type R Limited Edition UK test. Image by Honda.2021 Honda Civic Type R Limited Edition UK test. Image by Honda.2021 Honda Civic Type R Limited Edition UK test. Image by Honda.2021 Honda Civic Type R Limited Edition UK test. Image by Honda.

2021 Honda Civic Type R Limited Edition UK test. Image by Honda.2021 Honda Civic Type R Limited Edition UK test. Image by Honda.2021 Honda Civic Type R Limited Edition UK test. Image by Honda.2021 Honda Civic Type R Limited Edition UK test. Image by Honda.2021 Honda Civic Type R Limited Edition UK test. Image by Honda.


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