What is the FN2 Type R All About?
The Honda Civic FN2 Type R was one of those cars that deeply divided the motoring world. It was an iconic car but a polarising one which meant that it was one of those cars that you couldn’t always be sure about investing in it despite being attracted to it. All this gave the Honda Civic Type R FN2 a very unique character that was and is still missing from most cars in production today. I had always wanted to take this car for a spin and find out what makes it so different – both the good and the bad. Find out more below.
FN2 Type R Contents
How Did We Test The FN2 Type R?
The car definitely deserved a lot of seat time and so I took the FN2 Type R to Wales for two very important reasons. First, It has some of the most iconic “driver’s” roads with plenty of fast and flowing country roads where handing plays a bigger role than top speed. Second, I could spend some quality time with the car without any distractions so I could know it inside out and come up with a comprehensive opinion about it. At the very end of it, I was pleased with my decision. It helped me appreciate the fact that irrespective of all the hate this car has received, it deserves a spot on the list of the most iconic modern hot hatches. I will admit at the very outset that there were some frustrating moments towards the beginning but once I let the car speak for itself, I was left more than impressed by it.
What Did We Learn?
I will be the first to admit that this car has some flaws and driving it like any regular car will leave you unsatisfied and even irritable. However, if you drive the FN2 Type R the way it is meant to, you will end up being addicted to it. The reasoning behind this can be a bit difficult to put forward. Let us begin with the most obvious question that people have about the Honda Civic Type R FN2.
Max Power Outputs? Does It Really matter?
The Civic Type R FN2 produces 201 bhp of power which is a measly amount even by hot hatch standards from a decade ago. To find an engine producing just this much power in what is touted as a performance vehicle can come across as a bit ‘all bark and no bite’ but as has been proven many times it is not always the numbers that matter. This might be a difficult point to argue when you drive the Honda Civic Type R FN2 for the first time as it does feel quite underpowered.
Even I was on the verge of denouncing this car after my first couple of miles in it but then something inside me just forced me to keep going. The FN2 Type R is anything but a normal car and so if you treat it like one, the experience can be quite underwhelming. So, I decided to forego everything I knew about cars and decided to try out a few different driving styles with the Honda Civic Type R FN2 and through a bit of trial and error, I was able to glean that this car is a car that comes alive in the top end. The Honda Civic Type R FN2 is powered by a naturally aspirated engine which means that there are no turbochargers to provide that low-end grunt we all have gotten used to in modern cars.
There is no immediacy to the power delivery and instead of spluttering out all of its power during the lower end of the RPM band and slowly backing out as the RPM goes up, the engine in the Honda Civic Type R FN2 linearly builds-up to its grunt most of which is available towards the top-end and that is the fun aspect of this car. It s a screamer at 8000 rpm.
The power delivery and the power curve is very smooth. The best way to describe it is by comparing it to music. Modern cars are like metal music where you are immediately jolted but the Honda Civic Type R FN2 is like an orchestra that starts out gently and slowly builds up to a crescendo. Even though the engine in the Honda Civic Type R FN2 can only churn out a limited amount of power, it does so in a manner that while being a little difficult to get used to, is ultimately quite fun. Another reason to love this engine is that you can rev it to the red line and keep it there without the engine screaming for mercy like most cars do. The VTEC part of the engine kicks in around 6,000 rpm and it feels like a gentle nudge rather than a kick in the head. But this is where the power really starts to get going, you really need to get used to wringing the car’s neck.
After spending quite a bit of time with the FN2 Type R, I got to understand one thing. It is an exciting car, just that you have to work for it. It is not as effortless as every other car out there and therein lies its charm. Every time you manage to wring out every last drop of performance from this car, it will feel like an achievement rather than an obligation and while that might not be fun in the short term, it is awesome in the long term.
FN2 Type R – Brilliant Handling Dynamics
This is one aspect of the FN2 Civic Type R that even its most ardent haters will be impressed by. This is one of the sweetest handling cars out there that will surprise you with how sure-footed it can be. Starting with the suspension setup, it is quite stiff to be able to live up to its ‘performance’ moniker. That, of course, means that it can be quite uncomfortable depending on the road conditions.
There are no adaptive suspension settings that will allow you to make the suspension softer which is another point that causes a lot of debate. I was aware of this while testing the FN2 and one thing I was able to understand was that while the suspension is hard, it is nowhere close to being unbearable. The roads in Wales were a treat but even on a rough road, the suspension won’t break your back, it will just make you more aware of all the imperfections of the road. The upside to all this is that you will always be connected to the road in a way that is alien to most modern cars. This allows you to really push the car in corners which is where most of the driving pleasure lies .
Speaking about cornering, another aspect of theFN2 Type R that really helps on this front is the incredible amount of mechanical grip that is always available. This high level of grip can be attributed to two components. Firstly, the Bridgestone Potenza S001 tyres. It just is quite sticky without sacrificing durability. Then there is the limited-slip differential when putting the power down. It is truly a work of art and always offers plenty of traction. This is where the lack of punch in the low-end comes in handy. There are no ugly wheelspins in the lower gears and you can be a bit harsh with the accelerator pedal without causing any harsh lurches.
I will have to admit that the lack of torque at lower revs does make its presence felt. If you are used to a turbocharged car then you will often find yourself coasting around corners knowing you have instant torque available when you want to use it. In the Civic you really have to push the engine to its limit to get the desired amount of grunt. I found myself cornering and maintaining over 6,000rpm just to keep the car in the powerband. It feels very unnatural at first but gives you the instant power you need to make the most out of the car.
Good Feedback and Feel From The FN2 Type R
That brings me to the biggest reason that makes the Honda Civic FN2 Type R a great car – the awesome feedback that it provides. I had alluded to this earlier and it is something that racecar drivers often describe their cars as after a perfect race. Watch any post-race interview where the winner has dominated the opposition and invariably you will come across a version of the statement that their car felt like an extension of their body. All they had to do was let their senses work and the car reacted automatically. That is the sensation you will get with the FN2 Type R. Go through a road with changes in elevation and you will be able to feel the traction increasing and decreasing. Go around a turn and you will know exactly how much more grip is available for you to exploit and how far the limit is.
Unpredictability is often mistakenly used as a synonym for exciting but in this case, it is the predictability that ensures you have loads of fun without ever having to put yourself, your co-passengers or those around in any kind of danger. That means that every corner you go around, you will instinctively know how fast you can go or how late you can brake and the sharpness in how this car reacts and responds to your inputs allows you to be sure of every split-second decision that you are forced to take. This car won’t provide any cheap thrills like sudden acceleration or a slide-happy tail section but it will provide you with the rewards from being able to carry speed in the corners and provides lots of confidence to the driver. In fact, the FN2 Type R allows you to really push the car and at the very worst, it will understeer a bit which is more than manageable.
So, it is not a car for cheap thrills but more for the connoisseurs of driving who want their drive to be more about what they and their car can achieve together instead of ending up as a vague bystander to a car that does all the heavy lifting.
FN2 Type R – Reliability
We have all come across the advice that prohibits us from pushing the car to the red-line and keeping it there for any significant amount of time. While this advice is applicable for most cars as you could end up with an overheating engine that can lead to temporary or permanent damage, the Honda Civic Type R FN2 thankfully is a happy exception to this.
The engine while underpowered on paper is a durable and sprightly engine that can be kept on the red-line the entire day and at no point will it behave like it is being tortured. It actually comes alive nearer to the red line and anyone who complains that this car isn’t exciting enough hasn’t pushed it far enough.
This is another very important quality that often gets overlooked on the Civic FN2 Type R. You could buy the most expensive supercar out there but you will face two big issues. You will rarely be able to get it anywhere close to its limit and even if you get close, you will run into issues like an overheating engine, overheating brakes, shredded tyres, speeding fines and so on. The Honda Civic Type R FN2 can be pushed hard all day and then be used without any maintenance the very next day to drive to work. Big numbers can look great on paper but unless you are Lewis Hamilton at Silverstone, you will be seriously underutilizing the vast amount of power and torque at your disposal. With the Honda Civic Type R FN2, you can sleep easy knowing that you can push the car to its limits whenever you want without having to live at a racetrack.
FN2 Type R Has Lots of Enjoyable Characteristics
Even if we do not want to admit it, most of us who buy or want to buy performance cars is because we want to enjoy driving. One thing the Honda Civic Type R FN2 will provide without fail is shameless enjoyment throughout its lifetime. A big part of this can be attributed to the level of refinement on this car. The steering wheel is perfectly weighted which allows you to do quick movements or hard cornering with equal ease. Despite the suspension being quite stiff, the noise and vibration levels are surprisingly low. In fact, on a smooth road, you will feel super comfortable even when the engine is revving close to 8,000 RPM. The VTEC boost is impressive too as it gives that gentle nudge needed to keep the FN2 Type R going and provide enough of a power boost to keep everything exciting as opposed to what the figures would suggest.
Ergonomic On The FN2 Type R
One area where Honda’s have been traditionally good is with the ergonomics and the Honda Civic Type R FN2 is no different. The driving position is excellent and the placement of the steering wheel, pedals and gear knob are just perfect. The seats are really good too and offer enough support while also being one of the main sources of feedback.
The aesthetics of the interiors is a bit on the eyesore side of things.
It looks a bit plasticky but you have to keep two things in mind. This is a 9-year old car and despite what the looks suggest, everything feels sturdy and is of decent quality and as this is something that doesn’t really affect the driving experience, it is something that you can live with.
The FN2 Type R Has All The Speed You Need For The Road
This is a momentum car. If you have ever watched a Moto3 race, you will know exactly what I am talking about. These races are incredibly close and part of the reason behind that is that the riders have to be really close to the limit all the time. If they enter one corner without enough momentum, they can go from leading the race to outside the top 10 in a matter of seconds. That is how this car is. You have to trust the car and push it really hard to be able to enjoy it.
Think of the 200 bhp that need some effort to be coaxed into life but once you manage to do that, you will have plenty of fun. There are plenty of options out there that will out-perform the Honda Civic Type R FN2 on paper. While most cars will require you to go beyond the limit of the tyres and the other components of the car to get close to utilising all the performance, the FN2 Type R allows you to do so in a safe and controlled manner with oodles of extra fun. It is the difference between a regular watch and a diver’s chronograph. You can use the former to its full potential in your everyday life while the latter will just be something you can brag about but rarely be able to use to its full potential unless you suddenly decide to take up deep-sea diving. To put it simply, you can stay in your comfort zone and still be able to enjoy the FN2 Type R while other cars might force you to go to extreme lengths to do the same in the real world.
Where Does It Miss Out?
The Honda Civic Type R FN2 is not perfect by any means. If anything this car has plenty of flaws. It could have done with 20 or 30 extra horses. The looks aren’t exactly great. The interior is quite drab and have aged quite poorly. These are all things you could live with but the biggest failing of the Honda Civic Type R FN2 is that it can be very exciting but you have to work hard to get there. You have to forget everything you know about cars to be able to enjoy this car. It is like learning a new language. It can be incredibly frustrating and maddening but that is also what makes the Honda Civic Type R FN2 so special. If you are willing to put in that time and effort, it will lead to a very rewarding experience. The limit of this car is much beyond where you would expect it to be and getting there is the whole point of owning a FN2 CTR.
True Honda DNA
Honda has a storied reputation of making some of the most fulfilling cars and the Honda Civic Type R FN2 is no different. This car especially is very unique and special. Drive it like any other car and you will feel like asking repeatedly what the fuss is all about but drive it like it is meant to be driven and you will know exactly why those who love this car defend it so vehemently.
The VTEC boost while not being as exciting as it sounds is more useful than most similar technologies. There is an abundance of real mechanical grip. It is fun and it is affordable. It is all of these that made Honda so popular and the Honda Civic Type R FN2 stays true to that ethos. The Honda Civic Type R FN2 can be best summarised as a car that is excellent not despite its flaws but because of them.
Can You Even Compare It To The FK8?
Invariably, the Honda Civic Type R FN2 will draw comparisons to the present day CTR FK8 and the two are more similar than you would expect. The steering characteristics and the way the gear shifts are handled is pretty similar. It is the power delivery that has seen the biggest change. The presence of turbos means that there is plenty of grunt low down in the rev range and the performance is a bit more accessible.
However, it should not be forgotten that the two are separated by almost a decade and just like the FK8 the Civic Type R FN2 managed to stay at the sharp end of the competition while managing to carve its own special niche thanks to its exciting and fun-filled but sure-footed handling characteristics, attributes that the FK8 has inherited from its older sibling. The Honda Civic Type R FN2 is the Lamborghini Countach of affordable performance cars. Not at all perfect but somehow but desirable at the same time.