First Look: 2017 Honda Civic Type R

As an automotive journalist, it is my duty to report on and review new cars with fairness and impartiality for the benefit and education of the average car buyer.

But as a fan of fast Japanese cars for a reasonable price, screw that. Honda's bringing the Civic Type R back to America, and I'm so excited, I just can't be bothered to hide it.

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The tenth-generation Civic is (finally) one of the best new cars you can buy again, and with an added hatchback option for the first time since the turn of the millennium, there are fewer and fewer reasons to consider shopping elsewhere. At just over $22,000, the Civic Hatchback Sport, with its turbocharged engine, slick 6-speed manual transmission, and racy good looks is a true enthusiast bargain, and a boat load of fun, to boot.

But Honda's gone and seemingly given the Civic Hatchback an injection of rabies, because man oh man does the production-ready Type R look angry.

Honda showed us a concept version of the Type R last year, and thankfully, the production model doesn't stray far, incorporating all of the crazy body cladding, massive, devil-horned wing, and triple exhaust pipes that the concept did, in addition to some racy red accents on the exterior trim and throughout the interior.

It looks ridiculous, yes, but in case you're unfamiliar with the Type R name, it's supposed to look ridiculous. In an era of automotive design that's becoming increasingly homogeneous by the year, it's refreshing to see something so brash in its design execution. And it's got red Honda badges! Who doesn't love that?

Of course, the Type R name also brings heavy performance expectations, and at least on paper, the new one promises to deliver. A new 2.0-liter direct-injected turbocharged four-cylinder - which will be built in the U.S. is the only powerplant option, and makes a whopping 306 horsepower and 295 lb.-ft. of torque, mated exclusively to a 6-speed manual with rev-matching throttle blip technology. If you want a Type R but don't know your way around three pedals and a shift pattern, you better learn up, son.

Interestingly, Honda has decided not to employ an all-wheel-drive system, routing all of that power through the front wheels, contrary to what other 300-or-more-horsepower hatchbacks like the Ford Focus RS and Volkswagen Golf R are doing. I'm inclined to trust Honda's engineers on this one, though, because if they don't absolutely nail the differential and suspension set up, well, you're bound to see a lot of Type R's that torque steered their way off the road.

Helping keep that power in check is a stiffened body and chassis setup with a 38-percent gain in torsional rigidity and 45-percent gain in bending rigidity, and suspension that features a new dual-axis front, adaptive dampers, and an electric power steering system with a helical limited-slip front differential. Brembo aluminum brakes at all four corners will bring the Type R to a stop, and Continental tires mounted to 20-inch wheels will (hopefully) help put all that angry, turbocharged power straight to the ground.

Of course, the Type R will have to be usable on a daily basis, too, so Honda's included an adjustable drive mode switch with Sport as the default setting, Comfort mode, and +R mode, which I assume turns everything up to 11, a la Spinal Tap. It will also feature a 7-inch touchscreen with standard navigation, smartphone projection technology like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a 12-speaker audio system, satellite radio, leather steering wheel and shift boot, and aluminum shift knob and pedals to go along with heavily-bolstered sport seats.

The Type R will be assembled in the United Kingdom, with its engine built at Honda's plant in Ohio, but will be subject to the proposed import tariffs that President Trump has suggested. If there was ever a reason to fight those tariffs, this Honda is it.

Pricing and more specs will be available closer to launch, though Honda says the Type R will start around $30,000, and it will make its official debut at the 2017 New York International Auto Show on April 12, with an on-sale date set for later this year.

Frankly, it can't come soon enough.

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