Civic Type R Honors the Old-School Hot Hatch

Civic Type R Honors the Old-School Hot Hatch

Honda has brought the performance hatchback up to date. Take your time to enjoy it; electrification will dominate this niche soon

After several teasers revealed over months, the 11th generation Civic Type R is finally here (source: Honda)
After several teasers revealed over months, the 11th generation Civic Type R is finally here (source: Honda)

Sportiness is the most coveted quality in the car world. The biggest reason for that is being emotional. We relate sports cars to racing, superlative tech specs, driving fast… All that brings excitement and fascination, which is surely desirable for companies. Then again, how often do you see Ferrari, Lamborghini or Porsche cars on the streets? More importantly, how often do you get to experience such sportiness in any way?

The sad truth is that typical sports cars are unattainable to most of us for several reasons. Fortunately, the industry has come up with ways to circumvent all that. One of the best appeared for the first time in 1976 thanks to the Volkswagen Golf: the hot hatch. That market niche grew over the years and its cars became better in every possible way. The all-new Civic Type R that Honda has just shown is its newest member.

The 1976 Volkswagen Golf GTI is the very first performance hatchback
The 1976 Volkswagen Golf GTI is the very first performance hatchback (source: WheelsAge)

What is a hot hatch?

In short, the high-performance version of a hatchback car. We can say that these cars became popular for their effort to join the best of two worlds. They offer strong powertrain and agile dynamics while keeping the compact size and moderate costs of a regular hatchback. While hot hatches perform quite well at the track, their goal is to give everyday driving a fun twist. That is how they differ from traditional sports cars.

The Peugeot 205 Turbo 16 is a legend among performance hatchbacks
The Peugeot 205 Turbo 16 is a legend among performance hatchbacks (source: WheelsAge)

Over time, they became flagship cars in a way. Makers would use them to showcase new engines and transmissions, create exclusive items for their visual customization… Some even chose hot hatches to race, which has given us gorgeous examples of homologation specials. The thing is, while such evolution is beautiful to see, it is not necessarily the best way to go.

The core trait of those cars is being easy to own. The ideal hot hatch is not much more expensive than its regular version to buy or keep. Besides, it is fun to drive at a twisty road without losing its manners in the urban environment. And it does not demand special care such as a climate-conditioned garage. In other words, these cars do not require too many concessions from their owners. Again, the best of two worlds.

The latest Type R brings noticeable, yet more elegant changes than its predecessor
The latest Type R brings noticeable, yet more elegant changes than its predecessor (source: Honda)

Why is the Civic Type R great?

The external design says it all. You can easily notice several differences, such as the black wheels and that big rear wing. However, the car is still a Civic. It still brings Honda’s latest design identity, with horizontal shapes, delicate accents and a more mature look than before. And, which is also important, it still brings Honda’s reputation for efficiency and reliability. The Type R is a Honda Civic, only better. Much better.

Red accents and upgraded infotainment are part of the Type R upgrades
Red accents and upgraded infotainment are part of the Type R upgrades (source: Honda)

As Road & Track and other outlets have reported, it is much better in many ways. The updated platform provides light weight and sharp handling. The engine is going to surpass the predecessor’s 306 hp and 295 lb-ft. The cabin uses high-end materials, clean design, and more supportive seats. Tires and rear axle became wider and the rims smaller to aid stability. And there is a hood scoop to cool the engine.

Honda went further and carefully designed its market position so as to give it good sales potential. Rather than trying to be perfect, the Civic Type R focuses on its niche. If you want something family-oriented, you can take the regular Civic, which is also a sedan, or the all-new HR-V. In case you prefer more refined cars, there is an option too. The Acura brand has brought back the Integra with a quite interesting package.

The 2021 Cupra Born is a good take on the performance hatchback of the future
The 2021 Cupra Born is a good take on the performance hatchback of the future (source: CUPRA)

Hot hatches vs electrification

The tech specs show that Honda did not move a finger to electrify the Type R. Automakers in general are currently at a turning point in that regard. While they are eager to make the move, they are aware of how risky that is. They want to make as much profit as possible from combustion cars to make that transition a little smoother. We can say that the performance hatchbacks have been released with a hint of nostalgia.

The upcoming Renault 5 will be electric and will have a hot hatch version
The upcoming Renault 5 will be electric and will have a hot hatch version (source: WheelsAge)

Fortunately, the future seems bright for those cars. After all, automakers are devising ways to make even traditional sports cars feasible in this new age. When it comes to hot hatches, modular projects are going to help them a lot. Their development will remain affordable and they will benefit from many powertrain options available. Those are key steps to preserve the easy-to-own nature we have already mentioned.

From the buyer’s point of view, all we should do is enjoy each moment. Toyota has shown the GR Corolla not long ago, so we can expect a beautiful competition. In the future, once all the existing models receive electrified replacements, they will give this history a whole new chapter. Are you excited for the upcoming performance hatchbacks? Or would you rather stay with traditional ones such as the latest Civic Type R?