Honda Civic releases 11th generation, but this is only the sixth generation of the Type-R model. One of them is the powerful EK9 Civic Type-R the most iconic JDM cars ever produced in the 1990s. Although the Civic Type-R started the tradition of Honda hot hatches powered by psychotic inline-four engines, the current generations are a far cry from the once-simple and lightweight Civic Type-R. That being said, the second-generation Civic Type-R is billed as the definitive generation of the Japanese hot hatch, and there are some strong arguments for it.
Essentially an evolution of the EK9
side view Honda Civic Type-R 2002 – 2004
It all started with the 1997 EK9 Civic Type-R. With its 1.6-liter naturally aspirated B16B four, it boasted the highest specific power output of any naturally aspirated engine at 182 horsepower (136 kilowatts) at 8,200 rpm and 118 lb-ft (160 Nm) at 7,500 rpm. With a curb weight of just 2,315 pounds (1,050 kg), the 0-60 mph (97 km/h) sprint took 6.7 seconds. The 2001 EP3 largely developed the EK9 formula further as it introduced a more powerful engine and more advanced suspension without adding much weight or complexity to the car. At 2,614 pounds (1,190 kg), the EP3 Type-R weighed 309 pounds (140 kg) more than the EK9.
The first Civic Type-R with the K20 engine and independent suspension
front 3/4 shot of a blue 2002 Honda Civic Type-R EP3
In the world of tuners, the Honda K20 engine needs no introduction. The 2.0-liter naturally aspirated inline-four engine is one of the most affordable ways to get a lot of power at the moment. It’s so good you can even find a tight 1000hp, zero-fuck, Japanese four-way machine. Assembly Ferrari 308 time attack. Not all versions of the iconic engines are created equal, but the EP3 Type-R features the K20A2. That translates to 197 horsepower (147 kilowatts) at 7,400 rpm and 145 lb-ft (196 Nm) at 5,900 rpm. The transmission was now a six-speed manual as opposed to the five-speed in the EK9.
According to Honda, this was good enough for 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 6.5 seconds, although lower figures were quoted. The Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) versions of the car were known to be the best. They came with the more powerful K20A engine, which produced 212 horsepower (158 kilowatts) and was equipped with a limited-slip screw differential. If you think Europe has been deprived of a better version, The US didn’t get the Civic Type-R until 2007. In the “land of the free”, the most powerful EP3 you could get was the 160bhp Si, which had a smaller version of the K20 engine.
There was nothing special about the next model
front studio shot of 2010 Honda Civic Type R FN2 3/4
The FN2 Civic, which was introduced in 2007, introduced a futuristic, if slightly quirky, design language. This non-European FD2 model was slightly more toned down. Although the FN2 looked like it came from the future, it was actually more archaic than the outgoing EP3 in terms of hardware. The K20Z4 engine in the FN2 was tuned for lower torque, but it ended up only making 1 horsepower over the EP3 Civic Type-R.
The FN2 gained slightly more weight at 2,784 lb (1,263 kg) versus the EP3’s 2,614 lb (1,190 kg) and ditched the independent rear axle suspension for cost and packaging reasons. As a result, it would seem that the current FN2 Type-R was slower, didn’t handle as well and had a harsher ride quality than the EP3 Type-R. Also, there’s the seat, which reclines properly in the EP3 JEmm explained very clearly what the FN2 Type-R looks like as a more compact MPV/minivan.
A streamlined, driver-focused interior
A shot of the Honda Civic Type R EP3 dashboard
Honda Type-R models are all about driver involvement, and this is evident in the EP3 Civic Type-R. The practical interior impresses not with luxury features or lots of soft-touch materials, but with an ideal seating position, Alcantara seats that hold you tighter than a clingy girlfriend (they really are that tight) and light… at the back, black and white instrument sensors.
The practical leather steering wheel has a classic three-spoke design and relatively small dimensions, making it a pleasure to use on technical courses. It is also completely devoid of any buttons. It’s a throwback to the old days when the steering wheel’s only job was to change direction at high speed. The center console-mounted gearshift lever may give off a minivan vibe, but it’s perfectly positioned a few minutes away from the steering wheel – something that’s been carried over to the FN2 model.
Still relatively affordable, but not for long
front 3/4 shot of black 2004 Honda Civic Type-R EP3
These are sad times for car enthusiasts looking for the best deals in the used car market. Formerly available to enthusiasts, models like the Porsche 944 are increasing in value, and the Honda Civic EP3 Type-R is no exception. Good, low-mileage examples can be found for around €16,000, which is roughly $15,900 in 2022. If you are not afraid of mileage, 8000 euros can also give you a decent example. While it’s not as scary as other iconic enthusiast cars, I can’t help but think back to the days when a nice one could be yours for as little as €5,000.
While far from its predecessors, The 2023 Honda Civic Type-R is one of the few surviving cars that is somewhat true to its origins. After all, the EP3 Civic Type-R is a generation favorite for its simplicity, focus, incredible K20 engine and of course Honda’s proven reliability.