The FK8 is among the best hot hatches ever made. Here's how to buy a good one…
By Tony Middlehurst / Sunday, September 19, 2021 / Loading comments
- Available for £26,000
- 2.0-litre inline turbo, front-wheel drive
- Terrific combination of speed, handling and reliability
- Practical too
- Looks aren’t for everybody
- But who cares about that
Search for a used Honda Civic Type R here
We haven’t done any sort of research on this to confirm or deny it, but we’re going to make the claim here and now that the FK8 Civic Type R is one of the most talked-about non-exotic cars ever.
Note the present tense. ‘Is’ one of the most talked about, not ‘was’. That’s because the FK8 has been consistently shocking the establishment for the last five years, starting well before it went on sale and still doing it now that it is effectively – if not officially – no longer on sale in the UK.
The FK8’s history has been punctuated by a series of collective gasps, first at its unveiling at the September 2016 Paris show, again in March 2017 at the Geneva show, again at the Nürburgring a month later when it set a new front-wheel drive lap record of 7m 43.8sec (albeit on non-standard Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres rather than the standard Continentals), and yet again in August 2017 when demonstrators hit UK roads a month ahead of the on-sale date and magazine testers were able to confirm the new CTR’s brilliance.
With the bodywork in place there was no comparison between the FK8 and the preceding FK2. Indeed, a disinterested observer might well have wondered if the two cars came from the same manufacturer. If you removed the bodywork from both cars, however, the similarities were easier to spot. Both had the same K20C1 2.0 turbo four engine. Both had a 6-speed manual gearbox.
Power was up in the European FK8s by just 10hp to 316hp, but the torque figures were identical at 295lb ft from 2,500 to 4,500rpm. The weight difference between old and new was just a couple of kg, so unsurprisingly the performance differences between the old and new Type Rs were similarly minimal, with identical 5.7sec 0-62mph times and only a notional 1mph top speed gain for the 169mph FK8. In reality of course Honda’s lower, stiffer and wider rear-tracked Global Compact platform was completely new. There was new suspension and steering tech, a revised transmission and of course completely different bodywork.
At launch in late 2017, the UK price of the base FK8 was £30,995, while the better equipped GT model was £32,995. At the end of 2020, a refresh hoisted the base car’s price to £32,820 and the GT to £34,820. This ‘Minor Model Change’ covered quite a few worthwhile (ie more than just cosmetic) improvements which we’ll describe in the appropriate sections. Also joining the range at this time and at the same price as the GT was a new and less aggressive Sport Line model with smaller 19in wheels, more soundproofing and cabin equipment, a smaller boot spoiler in place of the massive rear wing, an Alcantara-trimmed steering wheel and less vociferous visuals. For some Type R fans with a family, the Sport Line’s more grown-up looks facilitated the purchasing decision.
Four years on, the CTR is still grabbing headlines for its stellar performance. The styling shock has been partially eroded by time (though it’s still quite a sight on the road), but now there’s a new FK8 CTR fascination factor in play: reversing depreciation. Why? Because of a series of events that began in 2019 when it was announced that Honda’s Swindon plant was going to be closed. The effect of that was compounded at the end of 2020 by an interruption to CTR assembly caused by Covid- and Brexit-related parts stockpiling by suppliers.
The closure of Swindon in July this year moved the assembly of all Swindon cars – including the CTR – to Japan, China and the US. With a new-gen Civic around the corner, the supply of FK8 Type Rs to UK Honda dealers was effectively brought to a premature stop. In early August 2021 four Type R variants were still being listed on Honda UK’s website. Prices started at £34,415 for the base model, £35,400 for the Sport Line, £36,415 for the GT, and £40,090 for the Limited Edition. By mid-September however all trace of new UK CTRs had vanished from the Honda UK site. Elsewhere, Honda Germany is still advertising CTRs at prices starting from €38,550 (£32,800 at current exchange rates), while Honda US will sell you one for as little as $38,000 – just £27,500 in British.
When the number of people trying to buy a sought-after new car exceeds the amount of new stock available, Economics 101 tells you that prices of both new and used examples are going to go up, and that’s precisely what has happened with FK8s in the UK. It’s become open season for sellers. Delivery-mileage cars are being considerably marked up by as much as £10,000 for a GT.
Things aren’t much better for used buyers. Finding one in the UK at what you might consider to be sensible money will be a rude awakening for anyone who’s not aware of what’s been going on. Even at the more oxygenated end of the market, 2017MY GTs with around 40,000 miles on the clock are going for up to 90 percent of their new prices, while low-milers from the same year are actually the same price now as they were new.
It gets worse at the rarefied end of the market, or better if you’re an owner. Take the Limited Edition cars in Sunlight Yellow that were released alongside the Sport Line at the end of 2020. Described as a track-ready tribute to Honda heritage, the LE was 47kg lighter than the standard GT thanks to the removal of sound deadening, the fitment of a 10kg lighter set of forged BBS wheels, and the deletion of items like infotainment, audio and aircon. Of the 1,020 LEs built, six hundred were destined for the US market, one hundred were for Europe, and just twenty were earmarked for the UK at an on-the-road price of £39,995.
Here’s number nine of those 20. It has 1,000 miles on the clock and carries a £57,995 price tag. If you think that’s bonkers, here’s a Hong Kong based LE for £88,000. https://www.pistonheads.com/buy/listing/12046492 Great car, mind. It recaptured the Ring front-drive record from the Renault Megane RS Trophy-R with a time of under 7m 39sec, the first CTR having worthily held the record for over two years.
Today, you’ll be doing very well indeed to find an FK8s for less than £26,000 and prices are potentially going the wrong way (if you’re a buyer). So, is now the time to be jumping in with both feet before it’s too late? Let’s have a look at that.
SPECIFICATION | HONDA CIVIC TYPE R (2017-on)
Engine: 1,996cc inline four turbocharged
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Power (hp): [email protected],500rpm
Torque (lb ft): [email protected],500-4,500rpm
0-62mph (secs): 5.7
Top speed (mph): 169
Weight (kg): 1,380
MPG (official combined): 36.7
CO2 (g/km): 176
Wheels (in): 20in (19in on Sport Line)
On sale: 2017 – on
Price new: £31,000
Price now: from £26,000
Note for reference: car weight and power data is hard to pin down with absolute certainty. For consistency, we use the same source for all our guides. We hope the data we use is right more often than it’s wrong. Our advice is to treat it as relative rather than definitive.
ENGINE & GEARBOX
Honda has always tried to build forced-aspiration engines that are not only just as effective as its legendary normally-aspirated VTEC units but also just as much fun. The FK8 engine – the second turbocharged motor to feature under a Type R bonnet – didn’t disappoint.
The three-pipe exhaust wasn’t just a distinctive styling feature, it was instrumental in allowing the turbo to boost the motor by 10hp over the FK2. There was an ‘air rush’ effect from around 5,000rpm which, although not the same as the classic VTEC-yo bark, was addictive in its own unique way. You couldn’t build more than 3,500rpm for a launch, but once you were rolling tyre chirp was on tap in the bottom three gears. Almost more impressive in a less showy way was the lazy-driver torque that would twang you through commonly-used motorway speed bands in the twinkling of an eye.
For the 2020 facelift the questionable Active Sound Control noise augmentation system was added across the range. The absence of a customisable ‘individual’ type driving mode on the FK8 was a pity in that connection as you couldn’t select an aggressive driving mode like +R without triggering the augmented racket, which was definitely not to everyone’s taste. Changing the intake would add some authentic counteraction though.
Want more power? A remap to getting on for 400hp will cost you around £600. For half that money you can pick up a Bluespark petrol tuning module that will take power up to 356hp and torque to 336lb ft and give you a choice of five power curves. Miltek will do you a carbon-tipped exhaust system for around £1,500.
The CTR’s transmission has been described on more than one occasion as the best six-speed manual ever. In FK8 form it had a seven percent shorter top cog than the FK2, a shorter-throw shifter and a new single-mass flywheel to cut clutch drag by a quarter. The 2020 facelift included a new counterweighted gearknob that seemed to achieve the impossible by improving the shift action.
Notieceable graunching between first and second has been reported by FK8 owners (FK2 owners might be nodding now) and there are videos online to confirm that. Honda seems to have largely deflected these complaints, but new clutch master cylnders were fitted and some gearboxes were replaced. It shows you that even Hondas aren’t always mechanically perfect, but so far at least the indications are that the FK8 is otherwise as near to perfection as you could reasonably ask.
For its front suspension the FK8 had the new Civic’s dual-axis MacPherson struts with its own specific aluminium lower arms and knuckles. More significantly the old torsion beam was replaced by a multilink arrangement, again fabricated from lighter metals for the R, with adaptive dampers at both ends and of course a tightly-set mechanical limited-slip differential.
This new chassis gave the FK8 amazing agility and ‘jinkability’ on the right roads, although some of the pickier magazine testers felt that it missed the mark slightly on bumpier B-roads. Overall though the thinking was that while recognised masterpieces like the Megane 275 Cup beat the FK2 in a couple of chassis aspects (steering feel, principally), the FK8 topped even the Renault in this key area. As usual with these things it was all relative. Most drivers would be ecstatic in either car.
For the 2020 facelift the R received uprated (and more quickly sampling) dampers, stiffer rear subframe bushes and modified front end geometry. There was some dispute in the real world as to whether the new setup felt harder, softer or pretty much the same. In that kind of scenario the natural conclusion would be that it’s probably about right. All you needed to know was that the new package produced a superb blend of compliance and grip in Comfort mode and that Sport or even the track-focused +R mode weren’t punishingly hard.
The facelift also brought a new type of two-piece brake disc which, along with new spec pads, was intended to reduce pedal travel and fade on trackdays or other similarly hard usage. Always check the discs on any FK8 you’re thinking of buying. Squeal from the Brembo brakes was not unusual but if you see short squiggly cracks emanating from any of the drill holes the disc has been knackered by enthusiastic use and needs replacing. Careful shopping should uncover two-piece replacements on the aftermarket for under £300, but then again Honda’s own price for the facelift two-piece disc upgrade was only £282 a pair. If you’re planning on doing a fair bit of trackdaying with a pre-facelift or non-upgraded R you could also look at alternative pads like Pagid RSL29s.
20in wheels were standard on all FK8s until the Sport Line came out with its 19in wheels. More than one specialist reckons that both 20s and 19s are too big for the car and that the best-driving FK8s are the ones running around on good 18in aftermarket wheels from firms like Rays. However, one PHer who had tried both 20s and 18s on his car said that it lost some turn-in magic on the switch to 18s. Tech experts agreeing with the ‘stick to the factory 20s’ theory have said that the change in scrub radius on 18s increases steering effort and torque steer. Drivers who spent no time on the track have said they found little or no difference between the two extremes on the road but felt happier about the lower chance of kerbing 18s, and about the lower tyre prices. You pays your money etc.
The initial FK8 shock may have hung on the kind of styling that (in a kind way) would have guaranteed it exposure in Max Power not so very long ago, but when someone drove it, the FK8 shocked us all over again by displaying a staggering dynamic ability that fully justified its mad look.
It was only available as a five-door and was 15cm longer than the FK2 so, even though the FK8 was sold as a four-seater, or five at a push if you didn’t mind breaking the law (there were only two seatbelts in the back, which must have restricted its UK market), all your passengers were better off for legroom in the newer car. The boot was a really good size too. So was that rear spoiler, which could end up being damaged if the boot was carelessly opened in a low-roofed multistorey car park. LED headlights were range-standard from day one, as was a very weedy horn. More urgent aftermarket items were reasonably easy to DIY-fit.
A new Boost Blue paint finish was brought in with the 2020 facelift along with a redesign of the fog lamp housings and a bigger grille to improve cooling. This mod was claimed to lower the coolant temp by as much as 10 degrees in track use, but Honda noticed that it had a slightly negative effect on the car’s handling balance so in typically thorough fashion they rejigged the front air dam accordingly. Some FK2s had roof corrosion issues but we’ve seen no reports of similar problems on the differently-sealed FX8 roof.
Whether it’s a Type R, an S2000 or a gen-one Insight, there’s something about the interior of a niche-market Honda that stands it apart from the common herd. A good chunk of that is down to the choice of materials which you probably wouldn’t call luxurious in comparison to cars like the Golf GTI (especially the plastics) but which nonetheless manage to create a cool, taut ambience of exoticism and robustness.
As per the CTR playbook, the FK8’s seats (the lightest ever in a Type R) were clothed in red Alcantara. The repositioning of the FK8’s fuel tank to a more conventional location allowed the seats to be mounted lower than the FK2’s, putting the driver in a pretty much ideal position vis a vis the major controls. For those worried about bolster wear, tailored covers were available.
The 7in touchscreen infotainment system offered a good suite of functions with Apple and Android connectivity and digital radio but it wasn’t massively intuitive to use or quick to respond. A reversing camera was standard on all versions with parking sensors included in the GT spec, which also had blindspot monitoring (BLIS), lane-keep assist, dual-zone climate control, wireless phone charging, powered door mirrors, a fair 542watt/11-speaker audio setup and a not hugely impressive Garmin satnav.
The autumn 2020 facelift standardised driver assistance tech across the Type R range, including BLIS, rear cross-traffic alert, forward collision warning, active safety braking and adaptive cruise control. It also put Alcantara on the steering wheel, the new counterweighted teardrop gearknob that we mentioned earlier, and perhaps most usefully of all a volume knob on the infotainment screen. Some owners have reported a vibration from the dash at 4,500rpm that has eluded all attempts to trace it.
For years now there’s been a rolling argument about whether certain BMWs with ‘M’ badges are ‘real M cars’. That’s not an argument you hear much about Honda ‘R’ cars, all of which have faithfully delivered on the Type R mission statement of committed performance allied to rewarding handling. If you were really looking for some gratuitous argy-bargy you could quibble about how much each successive new model bearing the red badge advanced that core philosophy, but even that would be a fairly short discussion. Even when turbocharging came in on the FK2 to threaten the richly deserved reputation of normally-aspirated Rs, Honda managed to keep the faith.
The FK8 picked up that turbo ball and ran with it. The upshot of Honda’s typically careful development efforts was a fabulously accomplished machine held back only by a slightly disappointing infotainment system and styling that, for some, was just too extreme. Both those issues were addressed in the 2020-on Sport Line, a great choice for those who loved the Type R idea but who weren’t so enamoured by the full-noise visuals. The Sport Line’s lower rear spoiler and de-shoutifying elements didn’t affect the purity of the drive and with Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S tyres as standard it demonstrated beyond all doubt that you didn’t need 20in wheels to have fun.
On that fun point, it’s interesting to look at some of the other cars FK8 buyers checked out before buying the Honda. The GR Yaris comes up regularly in those conversations. The Toyota was usually dismissed by taller types on grounds of physical fit, but also because the Honda beat the GR as an all-round package.
We jumped the gun a bit on the value topic by talking about it in the Overview section. That’s because it’s become such a key element in the CTR deal. Looking at it in more detail now, it’s sobering to realise that when FK8s were new you could get one on a PCP for eight grand down and three hundred quid a month over three years, and as recently as a year ago you could pick up a used one for just £23k.
Times have changed. Today, the car whose career was cut short in the UK is now commanding price premiums in a market fuelled by unsatisfied demand. If the next (2022-23) Civic Type R turns out to be more quietly styled, which it might well do, don’t expect FK8 values to drop much if at all because the visually raucous FK8 will then stand a very good chance of becoming an icon. At that point you’ll have no bother finding folk who will consider a £50,000 used FK8 to be excellent value. Delivery mileage 2021 cars are already near that mark.
If you already own an FK8, well done, you will be a happy person on many levels. If you don’t own one but would like to, the most affordable FK8 on PH Classifieds at the time of writing was this 44,000-mile 2017 car in Sonic Grey at £26,940. Just under £30k will get you into a sub-10,000 miler like this GT in black, but it’s still a 2017 car. A low-mile 2020 facelift GT like this one in Rallye Red will be closer to £40k.
There were no Sport Line cars on PH Classifieds at the time of writing. In fact we could only find one SL for sale anywhere in the UK, a 90-mile 2021 car at £40,000 on the nose.
Search for a used Honda Civic Type R here
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