Three years on, the Honda Civic Type R still tops my list

What were you doing in 1998? While the country was turning over a presidency from Ramos to Estrada, and the U.S. was busy with its Clinton scandal and the approval of Viagra – not necessarily in the same order – Honda Cars Philippines brought in a legendary Civic amid the agricultural dry spell, the Civic SiR.

I was merely a grade school student back then and frankly, I couldn’t care less about the technical specifics of car that I casually heard from my brothers. But I clearly remember the SiR’s clean looks, the rowdy VTEC mill, and all the attention it got whenever one cruised by. 

It was only when I reached puberty that I understood the greatness of the Civic SiR, especially with tuners, and I could say that I am one of those fanboys who have developed an affection for the Civic nameplate ever since. Class-leading horsepower rating, double-wishbone suspension, and manual gearbox right off the showroom – what’s not to love?

But then again, the subsequent versions of the Civic after the EK era weren’t really the outstanding, at least for me. My adoration for the nameplate waned over the years and my attainable dream car transitioned over to another Japanese rally racer with a star-spangled emblem. Sure, the Civic FD, with its 2.0-liter goodness and clean white pearl finish, was noteworthy, but it never did win my heart back into the cult of Civic.

Not until 2017. After almost 20 years, Honda did it again and launched another Civic to win the hearts of motoring enthusiasts and regular car shoppers alike, myself included. And it isn’t just a regular Civic – it’s the very first Honda Civic Type R in the Philippines. Finally, a legit and official red H badge; not just any knock-off from your suking auto parts store. 

Even better, I have the chance to take it out on a spin as part of my duties as a motoring journalist – and so I did. Several times. And boy, it didn’t disappoint.

As a matter of fact, it’s still in my garage right now as I write this story since it got stuck with me because of the enhanced community quarantine. Not that I’m complaining, really. It’s nice to have a really nice car for my supply runs, reaching the supermarket and back home as fast as I can.

With a 2.0L turbocharged engine under its hood, connected to a short-throw six-speed manual gearbox, the Civic Type R is a joy to drive. It’s a record-breaking vehicle, so you should expect nothing less from it in terms of performance.

But the Civic Type R isn’t without flaws. Its practicality is questionable, although I tend to consider it as a practical sports car – something the wife would approve of. It has four doors, can seat four legally, with ample trunk space since it’s a hatchback. Yet, it’s a bit cumbersome to drive daily. As expected, it has stiff steering and suspension setups, plus I often find myself buried onto the seat more often than not because of the surge of torque upon nearing the redline. The bolstered seats inhibit easy ingress, as well.

Another huge flaw I noticed inside the Civic Type R is the plethora of suede-like materials used. They look and feel quite good, but I believe they’re hard to maintain and can deteriorate faster than the usual leather or fabric upholstery. The media unit I have right now proves that.

Fuel consumption is a bit expected, I’ve managed to fill its tank once after my initial tests three weeks ago, averaging 7.5 km/L at an average speed of 37 km/h; but then again, mobility is limited due to the lockdown, so there’s that.

To tell you the truth, the Civic Type R has been on the top of my dream car list ever since its launch in the Philippines, and having this car for a month now (and counting) is the closest thing to owning one. I get to live with the car, and notice even the slightest nuances.

But three years on, and after several test drives, it still sits prettily on top – peculiarities and flaws included. If the Civic SiR was the breakthrough Honda when I was a kid, the Civic Type R is its modern counterpart in my book. And it’s a refreshing thought that I actually have the means to buy one in the near future.

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