Yesterday I criticized Honda for blending in with its Korean competitors who at the moment are building more interesting cars. Lets be honest here, the last few years haven’t been great for the Japanese manufacturer. The CR-Z has mainly been a dud, the Civic was taken back to the drawing board after just one model year and their lineup looks as if the words “speed” or “performance” aren’t allowed to be mentioned in the design department. However that was then and this is now, Honda is looking to make a comeback (sort of).
The brand’s new partnership with McLaren could be their biggest news of the last decade. The late 80’s in Formula 1 were dominated by McLaren-Honda, one of the most successful partnerships in all of professional motor sports. The team hopes to recapture some of that success with the new turbocharged MP4-30 and possibly the most exciting driver pairing in the sport, Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso. With all the attention Honda are getting from Formula 1, a new performance road car is precisely what the brand needs.
Enter the all new Civic Type R.
It’s a striking thing to say the least. Based on the European hatchback version of the Civic, the Type R hopes to inject some fun back into the brand. The car has been in development for quite some time – the original concept was revealed at the Geneva Motor Show last year.
What makes this car so different? You’re looking at the first ever turbocharged Civic. The 2L 4-cylinder VTEC engine is expected to produce something in the range of 300 HP which will make the Type R Honda’s most powerful Civic ever.
Combine that power plant with those extreme looks and you’ve got something pretty special.
With the Mitsubishi Evo on its way out and the Subaru WRX dominating that portion of the market, the Civic Type R will hopefully be a new option for those growing tired of the same old thing.
The good news is that this year’s Geneva Motor Show will unveil the production model for the first time. The bad news is that it won’t be coming to the US.
By now we’ve all gotten used to this sort of thing. Manufacturers teasing American enthusiasts only to reserve their most exciting creations for the European and Japanese markets. It was this type of thinking that kept us from getting the Subaru WRX STI until 2004 and never the other countless models of Japanese and European performance cars kept out of our reach. Emissions and crash safety are a large part of the reason why the United States has been missing out. We have possibly the strictest crash safety regulations in the world and one of the strictest emissions policies. When a manufacturer looks to sell a model in the US, they must be willing to invest millions of extra dollars into R&D just to meet our strict regulations. For flagship models like the BMW 3-Series, the investment is warranted, however performance models produced in smaller quantities at a greater expense are the casualties. Unfortunately what we get instead is usually something in between the high end performance model and the more sensible commuter.
The Civic Type R is indeed coming to America, likely not in these clothes however. Hot hatches are all the rage in international markets but Americans and their big lumbering SUVs never really bought them. Size matters here and it’s why compact cars have never gotten a strong foothold in the market. Our Civic Type R will likely be an iteration of the coupe or sedan but Honda says the power plant will be the same one everyone else is getting. So maybe there’s hope yet?
With the new NSX and Formula 1 season looming, it’s about time Honda retraced some if it’s performance roots.
Photos courtesy of Honda.