After driving both cars at length, I’ve come to the conclusion that…
It’s not about which car is “better”.
It’s about which car is better… “for you”.
Honda Civic Type R – Pros & Cons
The Honda Civic Type R is incredibly well engineered.
Where it’s a little underwhelming, is the launch from a standstill… and that’s to be expected with front-wheel-drive. The limited slip noticeably helps to find traction. But when you’re pulling out into traffic, you have to hold back in 1st gear. And in a car like this, that’s no fun.
But once you’re rolling, the Type R is incredible. So good! The understeer you would normally expect from a FWD car is not there. And the ‘grip & bite’ that you wouldn’t expect to be there… definitely is! The turbo K20 delivers such crisp & clean power. And it’s unimpeded by a power robbing all-wheel-drive system. Meaning that once you’re underway, the Civic Type R can do more with less horsepower.
The CTR’s suspension in R-Mode is so perfectly tuned, it even had my seasoned Porsche race/tech/engineering buddies scratching their heads… wondering how Honda could produce something so potent at just 35K.
If you’re an internet racer putting all your eggs in the “CTR sucks because its wrong-wheel-drive” basket… you’re gonna go home embarrassed & confused. It’s hard to describe how maneuverable this Civic Type R really is. The variable steering let’s you put the car anywhere at any speed… with a dumbfounded level of confidence & precision. The CTR is lighter than the Focus RS by 300 pounds. And, it’s got more cargo/passenger room for daily versatility. I think the Type R is set up to be the better ‘track car’ in most cases. Especially if we’re talking about endurance.
Ford Focus RS – Pros & Cons
The Ford Focus RS is, however, the ultimate street terror! Let’s be honest, real word street driving is NOT the same as ‘track driving’. On the street, there is a lot of stop & go… red lights, stop signs, merging, etc. And the RS’s turbo + all-wheel-drive combo absolutely rips off the line! It’s a missile.
In tight quarters, the Focus RS runs the show. In snow & slush, the RS is your trusty steed while the TYPE R ain’t havin’ it.
The turbocharger on the 2.3 Ecoboost strikes hard & fast. And the RS’s AWD system has the muscle to translate that torque into grip.
The attitude of the Focus RS is totally addicting, and a lot of times, that’s the main appeal behind hot hatches, right? The RS bullies more expensive & more powerful performance cars off the line. It gunfire-pops between shifts. It cuts 90-degree corners at what feels like 90 mph. It’s got Drift Mode. The whole mentally behind this car – is totally nuts! It’s like… trying to walk a gorilla on a dog leash.
If there’s a downside to the Focus RS, it’s the known head gasket failures (which Ford is stepping up to the plate & covering, even if you’re modified). Still, it seems to be affecting resale values & reputations already. And – on track with continuous hard demand, the Ford’s AWD system has been known to overheat & shut down in as little as a few laps… rendering it as just a FWD, open-diff, 3400lb car. And as far as I’m aware, there is no ‘fix’ in the aftermarket… yet. But I’m confident it will come.
We also have to be fair, and realize that the RS was released a year-model ahead of the Type R. So the RS’s weak links have had more time to simmer & surface, while the CTR is still the brand new puppy who hasn’t chewed up your table yet.
All allegiances & favoritism aside, the reality is: Both cars are so radical, that it’s hard to make a definitive choice as to which is ‘better.’ It’s the kind of situation where… the car you drove last, is probably going to be the one you like the most… until you drive the next one again. Meaning – there’s no wrong answer here. So let’s cheers to the fact the these manufacturers are going head to head so strongly & competitively… and that the USA is finally getting a choice between the RS & Type R!!
photos by Jonathan Walker