Honda’s Type R badge could not have had more appropriate beginnings.
First applied to the back of the Honda NSX sports car in 1992, that car set the tone for every Type R that followed: An aggressive program of weight removal, a blistering high-revving engine and a chassis ideally suited to high performance use.
Subscribe to evo magazine
Times have changed and the latest Honda Civic Type R, with its turbocharged engine and relatively civilised cabin, seems far removed from those early cars – hugely capable, but less uncompromising.
Yet it’s not impossible to get a hint of what that first NSX-R offered, as the used market is littered with relatively affordable Type Rs that still offer that original formula – all the while offering Honda’s virtuous reliability.
Honda Integra Type R (DC2)
It makes sense to start with possibly the best-loved Type R of all: the DC2-generation Integra. Not only are owners smitten with the high-revving coupes, but evo is too – back in issue 095, we declared it the best-handling front-wheel drive car of all time, indeed concluding it is ‘one of the truly great drivers’ cars of any kind’.
While some brilliant front-drivers have come and gone since, it’s hard not to suspect the DC2 would fight hard for that same crown today: It saw off the 2005 Renaultsport Clio Trophy in that test, still a Clio handling zenith.
Amazingly, given the handling on offer and the addictive buzz of that VTEC-equipped 1.8-litre engine (good for 187bhp in UK spec), they’re still remarkably affordable. Prices for the very best are edging ever upward but it’s still possible to find examples in the £4k-£5k range. It’s hard to imagine a better-handling car for similar money.
Honda Civic Type R (EP3)
If the Integra brought the concept of Type R to the UK, it was the EP3-generation Civic that popularised it.
It is a car of contrasts: The aggressive Type R body addenda and large alloy wheels contrast with the upright body shape, often dubbed ‘breadvan’ styling by fans and detractors alike. The ultra-tactile gearshift contrasts with its MPV-like positioning on the dashboard. And the screaming 2-litre engine contrasts with its general ease-of-use – it’s still a Honda Civic, after all.
And they’re fabulous value right now. If you accept that virtually all Type Rs will have been driven hard, it’s possible to find early EP3s for less than £2000, while the very best won’t be much more than £8000. And as our full buying guide suggests, they’re not problematic cars to run, with most problems – such as worn synchros – down to careless use. If the seller is giving off the wrong signals, walk away.
Honda Civic Type R (FN2)
The second generation of Civic Type R imported into the UK (and the third generation of Civic Type R overall) never quite attained the praise heaped on its predecessor, but as time passes and the recipe of a naturally-aspirated engine becomes more rare, the appeal of the FN2 Civic Type R increases.
Launched in early 2007, it’s undoubtedly a more visually-striking car than the EP3, and despite piling on a few extra kilos it’s equally fast, thanks to some small engine tweaks – one of which lowered the VTEC engagement point slightly, so you can enjoy the switch in cam profiles even more often.
It’s almost as much of a bargain as the EP3, with prices now starting from around £4000 for those early 2007 cars. You’ll pay more if you want a late, ultra hardcore Mugen variant – the ones we’ve found are around £14,000 – but it’s hard to ignore the value of those cheaper cars. Problems – you can read a full buying guide here – are much the same as the previous car.