The last of a dying breed: Honda Civic FN2 Type-R

Clouted by the success of its own father, the FN2 was quickly dubbed a flawed and gimmicky car, a Type-R from concentrate. Now though, with nearly every hot hatch featuring a turbo under its bonnet, it’s probably about time we looked back on what this car is, the last of a dying breed.

The FN2 Civic launched in 2007, it followed the long running and hugely successful EP3 Civic, yet featured the same 2.0 litre naturally aspirated powerplant, albeit a reworked one with a slightly different tune.

Purists groaned at the loaded spec sheet of the FN2, which for a relatively small expense, could include the likes of dual-zone climate control, cruise control, folding mirrors and a sat nav system.

Aesthetically the FN2 was brave, and its futuristic styling both inside and out certainly divided opinion.

DSCF7060

 

Technically speaking, things were generally considered a disappointment too. The Civic had gained a bit of weight over the EP3 and had switched to a cheaper, simpler torsion beam rear suspension design over the independent back end found in the EP Civics.

All of these things very quickly came to light when the UK media reported on this car. The most damning of reports came from BBC’s Topgear when Jeremy Clarkson universally slated the model (you can watch it here). I can only imagine how disappointed Honda employees must’ve been when the show aired, and I can’t help but feel that the car may have been looked on entirely differently without his opinion.

Then again, UK television programme Fifth Gear were similarly negative, a point reinforced by the show’s Vicky Butler Henderson who pitched the car against its JDM cousin, the FD2. A lap of dramatic understeer concluded with a three second loss for the FN2. (You can watch that here)

 

DSCF7070

 

In order to understand this car’s criticisms fully it’s essential to know about the cars that came before it. Closest is the Civic EP3, a car that ticked all the right boxes for so many: it had pace, it had Honda’s legendary reliability and it was still practical too.

Most importantly though, it was sharper and more focused than its competitors, and its manic K20 powerplant managed to keep up with boosted competitors. Yes, you had to work its gearbox like it was going out of fashion and out of its VTEC zone you weren’t going anywhere fast, but that was the appeal of this car – it made you work for it.

At the same time, those lucky enough to be in Japan had an altogether more focused version of this car. Along with other tweaks, the JDM cars had a higher compression engine that put out more power plus a limited slip differential as standard – meaning you could leave two enthusiastic tyre marks rather than one. Those Japs really do keep the best for themselves.

The cousin of the EP3 was of course the DC5 Integra, which along with its longer wheelbase and coupe body style was only produced for the Japanese market. This car turned things up a notch, and used a more powerful 220hp version again of that same K20 engine. Pair that to an LSD-equipped close ratio gearbox, stiffer suspension and Brembo brakes and you had a real track weapon.

DSCF7053

Rather than using a power-sapping belt driven power assisted steering system, EP3’s had an electronic steering rack. Subject to much criticism in regards to feel and plagued by early reliability issues, these parts never made their way onto the DC5 which featured regular hydraulic steering throughout its life.

So, Japanese cars were already a whole lot more hardcore than what we were getting in the UK but this was actually nothing new.

Anyway, what I’m getting at here is that as Honda’s cars were going forward they were getting softer, less track orientated and less raw. Prior to the DC5/EP3 Honda produced its legendary EK9 Civic, DC2 Integra and the Accord Type R, cars that taught people what Honda meant by a Type R. Each one was a separate marvel of engineering and managed to take the mundane and made it ever so slightly mental.

DSCF7071

Why I’ve got respect for the FN2

It’s always fun to gun for the underdog, and the FN2 is a car that on the whole isn’t looked back on with a lot of love. This is very much reflected in its second hand values; at the time of publishing this I could find various (admittedly slightly tatty) examples that came in at under £5,000.

Then there’s the real world performance, which shouldn’t be sniffed at. Later examples and Championship White Edition cars also arrive with the much sought after limited slip-differential as standard. Cars equipped with the LSD actually scored particularly well among motoring journalists who say it transformed the driving experience.

DSCF7058

 

The FN2s, just like EP3s, were also made in Swindon, England, and us Brits should take some pride in that, or at least I think so.

The FN2 did have some quality control issues, and in a typical Type R style there are many that can already be found with rust, but on the whole the mechanicals of these cars are very tough. They’re also relatively cheap to maintain and parts are readily available.

I was lucky enough to have a short drive in my friend’s 2009 Championship White FN2 last week and I really enjoyed the car. Having previously owned a DC5 Integra I thought I’d be disappointed but for me it offered about 80% of what the Integra did in a package that was more practical (those flat folding seats are awesome) and comfortable. In all honesty I’d take an Integra every time over the FN2 but I still find it hard to believe that people regularly choose Volkswagen Golfs over these cars.

Top Trumps

DSCF7044

 

For:

  • A bargain right now
  • Better performance than you’re probably expecting
  • Very well equipped
  • Reliable and strong
  • Your last chance to get behind a K20 engine

Against:

  • Owners of older Type-Rs may find the experience more Type-S than Type-R
  • Everyone will tell you about the ‘superior’ EP3
  • Nobody ever called it pretty

The most mature type R with odd looks yet an undeniably engaging drive. The last high revving naturally aspirated Honda

People like to think they’re too good for this car, most of them probably aren’t. Also, its creature comforts make it a better daily driver than its predecessor. From here in, anyone looking for a high-revving naturally aspirated Honda will have to switch to two wheels.

 

© Oliver Woodman and RevMatch.me, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Oliver Woodman and RevMatch.me with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.