The Civic Type R has finally been released and it’s going to be a difficult one to get; Honda’s UK build team are being pushed to their limits at 75 cars per day just from the demand across the world. It doesn’t help that the Type R is going on sale at a starting price of $33,900 here in the US, which will only drive demand further considering we’ve never had a Civic Type R from Honda.
That price also seems like a performance bargain, but is it really?
Well, let’s look at what it’s competing against in the under $40,000 price and performance bracket it sits in. Price-wise, the Fiat 124 Spider Abarth, Focus RS, Golf R, and Subaru WRX STI are all within that range and in the sports car bracket. However, looking at that, the Type R is the only FWD. If we dig down deeper, we can find the Focus ST, the Abarth 500, Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ, Nissan 370Z base model, and the Civic Si, but they aren’t quite marketed the same. Those I just listed are second-tier performance cars, if you will – the performance cars you might end up buying if you can’t get your premium dream cars.
Power-wise, those cars really don’t compete with the Civic Type R making 306hp. That’s a big punch for a FWD and it makes more than the Golf R and STI, never mind those second-tier cars, save for the 370Z at 332hp for its base model. Only the Ford Focus RS beats it in the horsepower market in those premium-tiers. The Type R also beats all but the RS in torque too; that’s a rather amazing accomplishment from a car that costs under $40,000. Its closest competitor in price for that tier is the STI at $35,195.
It also brings up another point – you’re getting a car that drives only its front wheels. All the premium-tier cars are all-wheel drive. In 0-60mph, the Civic Type R is not the fastest at just under 6-seconds, but it does have the fastest top speed at 169mph. That’s 4mph faster than the much more powerful RS. However, the additional drivetrain comes at a weight penalty, with the Type R looking like the feather-weight at 3117lb versus the heavyweight of the RS at 3434lb, and both cars have a very similar weight balance of 60 front/40 rear. The Type R is just slightly nose heavier, with a 61.8/38.2 balance from front to rear. That might have to do with having a longer wheelbase, as it measures in at 106.3-inches over the 104.2-inches of the RS and the 104.3-inches of the STI.
Of course, there is a caveat to all this. While the Type R is advertised with a MSRP from Honda, the dealerships here in the US won’t sell it that low – you can bet that. Thanks to that demand from the public, there will be those who will price gouge the hell out of it, and you’ll more than likely end up paying over $40,000 for one, unless you’re a very good haggler. That’s one of the reasons so many hate the dealership model we have here in the US and really want it to be broken. Scion and Tesla have tried (Scion with it’s “No Haggle Pricing” and Tesla trying to sell direct), but neither have fully been successful, especially now that Scion is dead.
To that end, that’s what’s going to end up making it not the bargain that many will be hoping for – at least if they don’t put up a fight before signing the contract. It’s that reason that these buyers might reconsider going to one of the AWDs listed before over the Type R if they are simply shopping for a performance sedan under $40,000 and not looking to getting a legendary model.
Which then brings us to Honda’s other performance Civic, the Si. It’s not unknown that it has been built to shadow the Type R for US customers, and Honda expect to sell more with the Type R bringing hopefuls in but ending up walking out with the lesser model. That’s not to say that the Si is the pity car. On the contrary, it’s a great car out of the box just like the Type R with bits of that car in the Si’s suspension. It’s not as hardcore, it makes about 106hp less, and it doesn’t have the badge, but the Si is just as well balanced with the sedan model and comes in a coupe, too.
Let’s face it, it won’t be long before the Si can fight with the Type R thanks to the aftermarket. Someone, somewhere is going to do a Type R swap in the Si if not a traditional K-series swap because they want to run naturally aspirated. Then again, the aftermarket could do some interesting things to the Type R, too. Yes, the irony isn’t lost on me being the guy who questioned aftermarket tuning on new performance cars and I still think cars are getting better from the OEMs to where it’s only going to be the hardcore that are going to be willing to break their warranties before they lapse. It’s also a Honda, it’s only inevitable that someone is going to modify it.
So, which is going to end up being the performance bargain? The Si with the lack of dealer mark-up (it will be at least the lesser marked up of the two), or the Type R with its unavoidable dealer mark-ups that push it over $40,000?