During our most recent trip to Japan we spent some time again in the mountains of Hakone which of course meant we ended up driving half of the fleet from Fun2Drive.
After some mixed feelings driving the FD RX-7 we took something a little more familiar for a drive. A Honda Civic Type R.
Having owned and driven various Honda’s in the past I thought this Civic would just be a case of déjà vu. While it had all the qualities I enjoyed of the DC2 Integra Type R, for some reason in the body of the EK Civic it felt very different. Halfway through my first corner I had very big smile on my face…
What’s not to love about a plucky little hatchback that red lines at 8,500rpm? All the roominess you would come to expect from a small economical car with an angry naturally aspirated engine that sounds like it is having the time of it’s life with each press of the accelerator!
Based on the run of the mill 6th generation Honda Civic, the Type R version known by it’s chassis code “EK9” has all the features of the standard Civic with a host of goodies you normally get in Honda’s hotted up road cars. Including the dohc VTEC motor, Recaro seats, Momo steering wheel, upgraded suspension, bigger brakes, reinforced & lightened body.
The engine is a 1.6l B16B engine, the EK9 is the only car to ever be graced with this particular motor. What’s interesting is that it’s actually a destroked 1.8l block of which you would normally find in the more common Integra Type R.
The engine is faultless aside from the low end torque issues from such small motor. The motor comes alive in the higher revs and makes it’s peak power at 8,200 rpm!! There’s nothing subtle about driving a performance Honda like this at full throttle, the noise the engine makes had dogs from the next prefecture barking!
After spending the whole morning darting around the mountains I switched from ‘boy racer’ to responsible adult and decided to do some sensible driving before stopping for a quick lunch break at the local konbini. In the warmth of the hot food section I looked back out at the tiny Civic and had to admire it for it’s balance of fun and practicality. At low speed it was quiet, comfortable with plenty of boot space. At high speed it was a completely different animal!
After lunch I took the Civic along the Hakone Skyline Toll road around Lake Ashi. With the colder weather it looked more like I’d driven to Silent Hill.
Here there was next to no traffic and the corners hard and fast with banking sections and tight hairpins. The Civic really came into it’s own here.
Driving fast you can’t help but feel the rush as you really have to work the lower gears to keep the revs high, engine braking also produces the most wonderful noises as you gear down for the next corner. It really is a rewarding experience.
The development in the chassis is really noticeable on tight twisting roads. Having driven a base model EK Civic over a few years the difference is night and day.
Not only has weight been taken out, the chassis has been strengthened to counteract the weakness from weight loss. Add in the quicker steering ratio and it really is an amazing car to drive.
Even on the damp roads I felt a tremendous amount of grip from the tyres and felt very confident in it’s ability.
After some more spirited driving it was time to make use of a dry break in the weather and take some photos. Looking at the car from various angles it’s certainly not the best looking hatch ever released. However I do think the years have been kind to the shape and it’s aged well.
The Type R additions really make a big difference over the standard car. Equipped with a new grill, lip kit and spoiler as well as deleted bumper moldings on all facelift models it scrubs up well.
So much so nearly all modified EK Civics have had the same parts fitted to spruce up the look without breaking the bank.
With countless ‘mock up’ Type R Civic’s getting around the easiest identifying feature on the real deal is actually the 5 stud wheel setup. All other EK Civic were released with a 4×100 bolt pattern.
The EK Civic is from a simpler time when the Type R badge was a big deal and engineers appeared to have much more freedom when taking production cars under the knife.
All in all it is an amazing little car to drive. If you’ve never driven a Type R Honda I would highly recommend getting behind the wheel of late 90’s variant as it is hands down some of the most fun I’ve had in a road car.
This is a car I could easily drive everyday, it’s not the softest ride but it is certainly more livable than any other fun cars I’ve driven.
If I had the chance to buy one of these I would snap it up, unfortunately having only a dozen or more imported to Australia over the years they don’t come up for sale often and when they do the price tag matches the rarity.
It was another sad moment handing the keys back, knowing what I would be driving next though the sadness quickly faded. More soon.
Thanks again to Yoshi and Chikara from Fun2Drive for their incredible service!
Thanks for reading,