‘Type R’ is such an evocative word used by Honda. It immediately elicits sportiness in your mental image when you hear that. While Honda themselves never really clarified what the R stands for, I reckon most will think of ‘racing’ when asked. It’s just such an exciting word.
Perhaps befitting then Honda’s Type R models represent their finest know-how in developing and manufacturing some of the world’s finest sports cars.
A contemporary model that perfectly illustrates the point is the latest Honda Civic Type R FK8 which took the world by storm for offering a refreshingly visceral driving experience.
That said, some may argue that the powerful turbocharged 2.0-litre inline-4 found in the FK8 Type R is heresy.
That 7,000 rpm redline feels too un-Type R, it’s too complex, the design is silly and ostentatious, it’s too expensive, etc. Well then, time to take a step back all the way to the early 2000s, when everything was just that bit simpler. Cue the Honda Civic EP3 Type R.
Honda Civic EP3 Type R
In my opinion, looking at the prices for a fair one nowadays, it’s a bit of a hidden gem. The Honda EP3 is a simple hatchback with three-doors, a 2.0-litre naturally-aspirated inline-4, and big ambitions.
It’s also a lot more domestic than you might think. In fact, all EP3 Type Rs were manufactured in Swindon, England.
Perhaps what made the EP3 Type R so great though is the engine. It isn’t just any other 2.0-litre inline-4, it’s the venerated K20A.
It made 197 hp and 188 Nm of torque which pales against the modern Type R, but I reckon everyone will give it a pass listening to the screaming, throaty symphony it made at 8,000 rpm.
The best thing? It comes with a close ratio 6-speed transmission that you operate with a metal shifter located quite literally right next to you.
It’s incredibly intuitive, and the ratio meant that during a spirited drive you can keep the revs up high through corners. It entices you to push harder every shift.
You’ll have to keep it high too to stay in VTEC, because that’s where all the power is made. Without the turbo and tech encumbering the EP3 Type R, it felt plenty quick for its purpose.
That lack of weight also translated into incredible alacrity, with an eager turn in, tight chassis, and responsive driver input to invigorate and enhance your driving experience.
Without electronics overseeing every little input you make, the EP3 Type R is an inherently rewarding car to drive. You can manipulate the car’s behaviour by modulating the throttle, even provoke a bit of off-throttle oversteer like the old rally hatchbacks.
It’s actually a car that’ll get you giggling like a child with its driving characteristics.
The best thing? Once you’re done with all that madness, the EP3 Type R can readjust itself to behave.
At heart, it’s still a pragmatic 3-door hatchback. It’s not so rigid and stiff that you’ll spite yourself going over every little road imperfections.
You can seat 2 adults in front comfortably, and there’s even rear seating here. It’s not capacious, but it’s there. There’s a boot that can haul plenty of cargo.
It’s not an ultra-high performance engine, so it can return around 30 mpg average. It’s a Honda, so parts aren’t unreasonable. This is actually a sports hatch that you can own and drive everyday.
Tempted? You have every reason to be. Fortunately for potential prospects, these are still quite easy to find for a fair price. And with a big aftermarket scene, the ownership doesn’t stop at buy and maintain.
It’s not so rare, like the EK9 Type R, that you wouldn’t want to tastefully spice it up and put miles on it.
The minimalist Championship White is the one to get. 2004 models onward enjoyed a host of improvements like quicker steering, revised suspension, lighter clutch and flywheel.
If you can find one, Japanese EP3s has LSD, more power, and a tweaked, more track oriented chassis. Consider this a bit of a love song to Type Rs of past, and a celebration for over 20 years of Type R.
The Honda Civic EP3 Type R is a specimen that, in my opinion, flawlessly exemplifies and illustrates what the Type R ethos is about: enthralling simplicity.