In the early 90s, the Honda Civic, like most other Japanese car models were simply known for their steadfast reliability, value-for-money goodness, and all-round practicality.
But the Honda Civic, much like Toyota Corolla, and Nissan Sunny of its time, had little to offer in terms of soul-stirring performance, and sporty designs, and perhaps track-bred performance for the roads. Those type of cars mostly had a German, British, or Italian nameplates attached to them. But in keeping with its tradition of daring to be different, and using motorsports as a testbed to build better cars for the road, Honda thought a bit differently.
By the early 90s, Honda had already dabbled in multiple forms of 2- and 4-wheeled motorsports - from competing in the Isle of Man TT bike races in the 50s to the company’s stint in Formula 1 in the mid-60s and early 90s – it was safe to say they knew a thing a two about making a car go fast!
Hence, it made a lot of sense to simply try and cross-engineer its learnings from motorsports into their road-going machines. Which is exactly what they did, with considerable success with the Integra model. So why not the Civic? So, in addition to being economical and practical, in the early 90s, the Civic became known for something else, power and speed!
The fifth-generation Civic SI (EG3/6) – Genesis
In addition to economical 1.5-litre engines in other variants, the Japanese/European markets also got the SI and Si-R variants. These variants of the Civic were fitted with higher-revving twin-cam engines with a little known engine technology at the time, called VTEC. These new engines would come to be known as the B16A and B16A1 – which gave it a whole lot more power. The little B16A delivered 170 PS from its tiny 1.6-litre engine, crossing the magical 100bhp/litre milestone in 1994! However, the chassis received less work, acquiring disc-brakes at the rear, and better tyres. Additional equipment such as powered moonroof and side mirrors made it more upmarket. While the Civic SI wasn’t the most performance orientated model of its time, it was instrumental in spawning an entire generation of track-bred Civics after it… enter the Civic Type R.
The sixth-generation Civic Type R (EK9) – The original Civic Type R
The EK9 Civic was the first to dawn the Type R badge and thus became the legend known the world over today. Honda took its base model EK4 three-door Civic hatchback, strengthened its body and chassis, dropped its weight, and went to town on the drivetrain – adding a helical limited-slip differential (LSD), close ratio gearbox and threw the ‘hand-ported’ B16B engine at it. The B16B produced 185 PS and 160 Nm from just 1.6 litres of displacement, again crushing the 100bhp/litre milestone. The B16B was and still is one of the most powerful naturally-aspirated engines of all time! EK9 Civics are highly-desired by collectors, original examples can go for over RM100k today…. Cash, mind you! We believe there are a handful of original EK9 Type Rs in Malaysia, but a larger majority of them are EK4 bodies that are modified with EK9 parts. Over the years, the EK9s has gained a seemingly legendary status amongst enthusiasts and racing driver types, and continues to be used in grassroots motorsports to this day.
The seventh-generation Civic Type R (EP3) – The unicorn
The EP3 is a bit of a unicorn to our market, not too many were imported into the country, but they do exist. The EP3 was the first generation to be built outside of Japan. The bespoke built K20 engines were shipped to Honda’s Swindon plant where the final assembly would be completed, to cater for the European markets (where hot-hatches were popular), and some, more powerful ones, were shipped back to Japan. The EP3 was the first Type R Civic to adopt the newer, wilder K20 series engines, which had a larger displacement of 2.0-litres. In its most powerful form, the ‘K20A’ (JDM Type R), delivered a whopping 215 PS and over 200 Nm of torque giving it a much wider powerband, which stretched to an 8,000 rpm redline. Similar chassis treatments followed such as stiffening up the body, fitting a helical LSD, racing seats, and upgraded brakes. The JDM Type R also got Honda’s Championship White paint job, popularised by the EK9 Type R.
The eight-generation Civic Type R (FN2/FD2) – The wild child
The eight-generation Civic actually had two versions of the Type R which catered to different markets, mainly Europe and Asia. A three-door hatchback version, dubbed the FN2, was sold to the European market, while a hotter sedan version (which appealed to the Asian market), dubbed the FD2, was sold in Japan, and most notably, Malaysia. Both models were fitted with K20 engines, but the FD2R as it’s commonly known here, got the K20A engine, by now delivering a whopping 225 PS of naturally-aspirated power, and 215 Nm of torque. The FD2R was fitted with a close-ratio gearbox, helical LSD, Brembo four-pot brakes, sticky Bridgestone tyres, and most notably, received a far more modern independent rear suspension, versus the FN2’s torsion-beam rear suspension. The hottest version of the FD2R actually came from Honda’s in-house skunkworks tuner Mugen, which uprated the FD2R with even more lightweight and exotic materials to shave weight and bumped up power to a manic 240 PS. The FD2R is the last naturally-aspirated, high-revving Type R model making it highly-desirable, and in being so track orientated, one of the meanest four-door sedans to ever go on sale!
The ninth-generation Civic Type R (FK2) – The Black Swan
The ninth-generation FK2R is the black swan of the Type R family. Not so much because it was not devilishly potent, but because it was the first turbocharged Type R model to go on sale – which alienated some purists customers, and because it had a relatively short lifespan of just two years. With that said, the FK2, which was based on the ninth-generation Civic’s platform introduced a plethora of new technology to bring the Type R name truly into the 21st century. This was important because, the Type R was now competing against well-honed rivals such as the Volkswagen Golf R, Renault Megane RS, and Hyundai i30N. Turbocharging and direct-injection gave the latest version of the K20 – the K20C1 – 310PS and 400Nm. The FK2 also received comprehensive safety equipment and huge brakes. The FK2 was the third Type R model to be built in Swindon, and shipped to other markets, some units have made it to Malaysia.
The tenth-generation Civic Type R (FK8) – Grown up and fired up…
There’s little that needs to be said about the FK8 Type R that hasn’t already been said… in a word, it’s staggering! Though using the same K20C1 engine as the FK2R, the advancements in chassis technology and aerodynamics in the new (10th-gen Civic) platform, make it far more capable than its predecessor. Power is mostly unchanged at 310 PS and 400 Nm, but now the close-ratio six-speed gearbox came with a rev-match feature for even smoother downshifts, and top speed has gone up to supercar rivalling 272 km/h. The FK8R is only available as a five-door hatchback and comes with an ‘in-your-face’ but functional bodykit, upgraded brakes, which is matched by red bucket seats, and a Type R specific gearknob, steering wheel, meter display and trim accents. The FK8R can still be bought locally but on a special order basis. Yours truly took it for a spin and boy oh boy...