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The Motorists Guide

Updated 2020 Honda Civic Type R gets two new variants

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Honda Civic Type R Sport Line 2020 official press photos - front Limited Edition spec gets weight reduction and track-focused setup, while new Sport Line spec brings subtler look and more refinement

Honda has used the mid-life update of its Civic Type R hot hatchback to introduce two new variants: a low-volume, lighter track special, and a more subtle version of the existing car. 

Available to order in the summer alongside the standard 2020 Type R, the new Sport Line variant is designed to offer “more discreet styling and a more refined ride” for those who found the existing model too lairy. The most significant external alteration is the removal of the big rear wing in favour of a lower, more subtle item, but there’s also an exclusive design of 19-inch alloys wrapped in softer sidewall Michelin Pilot Sports 4S tyres.

The interior also dials down the visual drama courtesy of black seat upholstery with red stitching. It’s not all aesthetic changes, however - along with the new tyres, additional soundproofing has been added in the boot and tailgate to reduce noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels.


At the other end of the range is the new Limited Edition Civic Type R. As the name suggests, Europe will receive just 100 examples, with a UK allocation of 20. Honda claims it’s been “designed and engineered to be the most dynamic front-wheel drive hatchback available”, and is the most extreme Civic Type R yet. 

Key to the Limited Edition’s appeal is a weight saving regime, with Honda stripping out the air conditioning, the touchscreen and some of the sound deadening to save 47kg. Unlike the Renault Megane RS Trophy R it does retain its rear seats, however.

Further additions include lightweight, forged BBS 20in alloys shod in sticky Michelin Cup 2 tyres. Honda claims it has modified the dampers and recalibrated the steering to suit the new wheel and tyre combo as well as boost feedback levels. Exclusive Sunlight Yellow paint with a contrasting gloss black roof, door mirrors and intake vent aim to increase the Limited Edition’s visual clout, while each model gets a build plaque on the dash. 


The two range additions complement the updated Type R, which was first revealed in January. Visual changes are minor and include reprofiled bumpers and lights, but again the focus is on engineering improvements - for example, a larger air intake opening combines with a new radiator core to decrease coolant temperature by up to 10 degrees in high demand situations, Honda claims.

Similar thermal improvements have been achieved with a new braking system, bringing two-piece floating front discs that reduce unsprung weight by 2.5kg. Their increased thermal efficiency reduces brake fade, while there’s also 15mm less pedal travel. Uprated suspension bushings and ball joints are also claimed to sharpen the handling further, while the parameters of the adaptive dampers have been widened. 

Interior additions, alongside a revised infotainment system with physical shortcut buttons, include an Alcantara wheel and a new tear drop shape gearknob. The knob itself includes a 90g counterweight said to improve shift accuracy. 

Further new tech includes an Active Sound Control system, using the car’s speakers to enhance engine sound in Sport and R+ modes and mask it in Comfort model. Also introduced is a new performance datalogger, dubbed LogR, which allows the driver to see real-time component temperatures and pressures, and uses GPS and G meters to help drivers achieve the best possible lap time. 


Q&A with Hideki Kakinuma, Civic Type R project leader

Q. What were your priorities when updating the Civic Type R? 

A. Usually at minor model change time the updates are just cosmetics. But once I was involved in Civic Type R development I wanted to have a step forward in improving performance. If you stop developing and improving, the sports car will die. Also, since the Type R is a global model we had to improve variation - some like it more extreme, some like it more understated. We want a maximum range of customers to enjoy the performance. 

Q. Is the Sport Line model’s handling affected by the smaller wing? 

A. We are not talking about real racing cars where you have tonnes of downforce and drag - if you compare the top speed of both cars (standard and Sport Line) they are more or less on the same level. The rear wing is not really that big of an influence - the Type R’s high-speed stability comes from the base platform layout and suspension specification.  The functionality has been maintained for both wing designs. 

Q. Will you take the Limited Edition back to the Nürburgring to see how much faster it is?

A. The Nurburging lap time is one of our development criteria to be able to verify the actual result as an overall vehicle performance.  This is something we are going to perform, regardless of whether it’s a record or not - it’s not our motivation. 


Q. Could we see the Civic Type R go hybrid, and does the Type R brand have a place in electric cars? 

A. There is no restrictions in the technology to apply for Type R - if it can provide the excitement and the dynamic performance and all the core fundamentals worth calling it a Type R. If that can be realised either an electric motor or hybrid, that’s fine. But we may also not forget the initial idea and the fundamental concept of the Type R which is a sports car with extremely high performance and an affordable price. There is not restrictions if that can be realised. 

Q. Have you reached the limit of what you can achieve with front-wheel drive? 

A. We do not believe we have reached the limit. I believe there is still performance to achieve with front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is not really matching to Honda’s development principle: “Man maximum, machine minimum”. We do not want to increase the engine power, the weight of the car by applying all-wheel drive to make it more heavy. Our idea is always to maximise the freedom of the driver. 

Q. Is the Type R badge specific to Civic now, or will you use it in other models? 

A. It can still be applied to other models as well. It doesn’t have to be limited to Civic. 


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