A funny thing happened while waiting for Honda to bring out the Civic Type R. When I got to the garage, instead of a low-slung hatchback, I saw a large upright SUV: it was the CR-V they scheduled first. But instead of getting disappointed, I got even more excited.
Call it paternal instinct, or some weird midlife proclivity—it’s difficult for an older guy to not get excited about the CR-V.
Looking purely at the practical side, there was a 99 percent chance that I would buy the CR-V over the Type R. And truth be told, I wouldn’t feel that bad about it.
The new CR-V looks attractive, almost stylish from the front. Gone is the gawkiness that plagued the last two generations.
The headlights are slim, angular units with multiple LEDs. The grille splits between a chromed wing upper section and a black honeycomb lower part.
The side profile and rear section do a good job of disguising the CR-V’s bulky tail. It decidedly does not look like a minivan this time around.
Chrome underscore on the doors, snazzy wheels, tapering rear window—the message is: Honda cares about how the CR-V looks.
You realize how big the CR-V is when you open the door and slide into the driver’s chair. The passenger door looks some distance away, and is well out of reach.
This reminded us of the expansive interior of the Pilot. Ditto the seats, which have a similar comfortable, supportive shape.
The second row is ridiculously generous for two, and still roomy for three, thanks to that long wheelbase and nearly flat floor. For the first time, there’s a real rear seat in the CR-V, a legitimate third row with seatbelts and proper headrests.
It’s a tight third row that no adult would be able to stand for long, but it’s good to have, in case your nephew or kids’ friends unexpectedly show up.
In trademark Honda style, the third row split-folds away using just one hand, leaving a cavernous luggage space (472 liters, expandable to 967 liters if you fold the second row).
Driving the CR-V requires only a slight adjustment to the usual habits, thanks to a newfangled gearshift that uses only buttons in the familiar PRND pattern. Oddly, it occupies the same dashboard real estate that a gearshift would, except without a lever sticking out.
The diesel engine fires up with almost no noise and hardly any vibration. It gets audible when you accelerate, but stays smooth and composed.
The nine-speed (!) automatic is well-matched to the engine, with closely-spaced gears making the most of the engine’s 120 ps.
The torque is excellent, rated at 300 Nm at just 2000 rpm. Mileage was commendable; we recorded 12 km/liter including stints crawling in traffic.
True to form, the CR-V defines civility. The ride is well controlled, while still giving the driver some latitude if he wants to corner a little faster.
Turning radius is tight—this is one SUV that you can slot into that tight parking space in one go, on the first attempt.
Unless you need a roomy third row, the CR-V ticks all the boxes of a family car. It’s comfortable, fuel-efficient and easy to drive.
But Honda had something up its sleeve—the Civic Type R. Before the new CR-V came along, Honda showed off its new styling cues with the Civic.
Already singularly swoopy among a crowd of melted soap bars, the Type R is Civic with styling dialed to—no, past 11: huge bumper inserts, chin spoiler, flared fenders.
There are two huge rear wings, numerous winglets on the roof, and a triple-barrel rear exhaust.
We think it looks best in white, allowing for maximum contrast with the black and red accents.
Purists may find faux grilles and aero vents off-putting, but there’s no denying the car looks the part of a racing sedan.
Be prepared to get stares when driving around. With only 200 units sold so far in the country (both batches reportedly sold out within 24 hours of the opening for reservations), it remains a rare sight on the streets.
It’s mainly car guys who do the double-take. A Subaru WRX sedan matched pace to get a closer look, while a Toyota 86 caught up just to give us a thumbs-up.
That’s another thing with the Civic Type R. When driving a sports car, we usually get challenged for a street race, or deliberate disrespect from some cars.
Maybe the assumption is, if you’re driving an exotic sports car, you’re some kind of …. The Civic Type R got smiles and respect—it’s like the local boy done good.
Driving the Civic Type R always feels like a special occasion. After giving a wide grin, thanks to that exterior, the bright red interior—sport seats, steering wheel and dashboard trim, instrumentation—makes us feel even more pumped.
Push the throbbing red start button and you’re rewarded with the short bark of the 2.0-liter turbo engine.
The clutch pedal is firm but not stiff, and didn’t cause any leg numbness even in multi-hour traffic.
Feather the controls and the Type R feels almost like a regular Civic.
There’s no mistaking the firm ride of the condom-thin 30-series tires, but aside from that, it throws no tantrums.
Humps can be taken normally; only the front spoiler needs a gentle approach on steep ramps.
When the road clears, we floor the throttle and let loose its 310 (metric) horses. Then we’re grateful for those deep bucket seats, as the torque gives us a firm push.
We instantly understand why there isn’t—shouldn’t be—an automatic Type R. The shifting is an intrinsic pleasure when driving this machine. That titanium shift knob slots oh so sweetly into gear. The engine rev-matching system gives a little blip a split second before a downshift.
Cornering response is instantaneous, with a surprisingly talkative electric power steering system.
The widened track and well-sorted suspension delivers loads of grip, while remaining playful at low to moderate speeds. It’s decidedly more mature than what we’re used to from previous sporty Civics, and even sporty Japanese cars like the Subaru WRX STi and Toyota 86.
The Type R feels refined and highly polished, mature, but with as much feistiness as you’re comfortable with.
It’s not surprising that the Type R holds the Nurburgring lap record for front-wheel drive production cars. It’s simply a blast to drive.
The Civic Type R costs P3-million, and you can see and feel where the money went: Brembo four-piston brakes, 20-inch wheels with performance tires, adaptive dampers, limited slip differential.
No expense was spared to give the driver maximum driving bliss from the Civic platform.
Which brings us back to family matters. The CR-V may be the logical choice, but there’s a case to be made for the Type R as a family car.
A friend called me insane when he saw me install a child seat in the back, but it’s all within the Type R’s purview—it is a Civic, after all.
You get four doors, four seats, and a big trunk. (There’s actually room for five, but no center seatbelt in the rear.)
It gets nearly as much mileage (10 km/liter city, when driving conservatively), but there’s one thing the CR-V just can’t deliver: thrills by the mile.
Honda Civic Type R – P2.98 million
Honda CR-V SX Diesel AWD – P2.125 million
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