Cheap and Cheerful: the Civic Type R
Built as a successor to the iconic EK9 Civic Type R, the EP3 Civic is one of the most popular hatchbacks ever made. Assembled exclusively in Swindon, England, it was the first of many Civic Type Rs to be designed and built in England. First introduced in 2001, the EP3 remained in production until 2006. When it initially made its debut, it was extremely well-received among car journalists and customers alike.
Not only was it one of the first hatchbacks to crack the 200 horsepower barrier, but it was also one of the most affordable ways of getting into performance car ownership. Throughout the years, EP3 Civic Type Rs have held their value extremely well, to the point where they're now going up in price. Good examples at affordable rates are fairly hard to come across, which is why I think now is the perfect time to get into Civic Type R ownership while you still can.
In this week's 'Cheap and cheerful' section, I'm highlighting what looks to be an extremely well-looked after example with 105,000 miles on the clock selling for just £3,890. It's obviously a manual, as most Civic Type Rs are, and I think it represents amazing value for money given how expensive modern hot hatchbacks have gotten.
From the outside, the EP3 Civic Type R looks just like any other 7th generation Civic to most people. It doesn't have the crazy wings or fender flares modern Civic Type Rs get, so it isn't as easily distinguishable from the base Civic as the newer ones are. That being said, there are still several key giveaways which indicate that it's an actual Type R and not a base Civic with a body kit.
For starters, there's that aggressive front end with a different bumper featuring a large central air opening that you don't get with the base Civic. You also get a slightly more sporty blacked-out grille and Type R badging right next to the Honda emblem. Most facelift variants got projector housings with Xenon headlights, but pre-facelift versions such as this example we're highlighting had to make do with halogens. They get the job done though and work well enough.
From the side, the first thing that pops out at you is that rather aggressive-looking side skirt which swoops up near the back wheel arch, giving the Type R a very distinct look. Honda has also decided to slap on a Type R badging on the rear section of the side skirt itself. The Civic Type R also gets bespoke alloy wheels which are unique to the model, and if you look closely, you'll notice the larger front disc brakes as well as rear disc brakes instead of drums.
Round the back, the most prominent feature is probably that significant roof spoiler which sticks out a fair amount and looks utterly cool doing so. The rear bumper has also been modified to accommodate the twin exhaust pipe sticking out of the right-hand side. Obviously, there's a mandatory Type R badge just below the Civic badge for good measure.
Inside, the EP3 Civic Type R doesn't feel particularly special but it does have a few unique features. Although the materials don't feel great, they're not terrible either. I would say that the Civic feels period correct, and the superb fit and finish Honda is known for shines through the fact that none of the plastics are cracked and very few materials are worn out.
The dashboard layout is simple but effective, and even though you don't get a lot of tech, you do get basic rudimentary features such as air conditioning and a radio. The best part about the Civic Type R is the driving position. The bucket seats feel amazingly supportive even today, some twenty years after the EP3 initially made its debut. The steering wheel is the correct size and shape, and the pedals are nicely spaced out for heel and toe.
Even that funny-looking gear stick located in the middle of the centre console is amazing to use. It looks weird at first, but once you get used to it, you realise that Honda knew exactly what they were doing.
Engine and Performance
The EP3 Civic Type R uses a 2-litre i-VTEC naturally-aspirated engine producing 197 horsepower, giving it a top speed of 146 mph and an acceleration time to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds. It's also capable of reaching 100 mph in 16 seconds flat. Power is sent to the front wheels through a six-speed manual that uses close ratios and has a lovely short throw.
If those figures don't seem all that impressive to you on paper, I can definitely guarantee that the Civic Type R feels a lot quicker in the real world than those numbers suggest. The K20A engine loves to be revved out and thoroughly used, which is great since you need to wring its neck as there's not a whole lot of low-down torque. The chassis is lovely and neutral, with very little understeer, even though this is a front-wheel-drive hatchback.
To this day, the EP3 is heavily regarded as one of the best handling Civics ever made. It's a real joy to use and throw around corners. It's extremely forgiving, making it the ideal car for beginners or people who want to learn proper car control. It's also ideal for experts who know how to get the best out of it and embarrass much more expensive machinery on a twisty stretch of road.
Model: Civic Type R
Trim: EP3 3dr
Not only is it one of the best Honda Civic Type Rs ever made, but it's also one of the most affordable hot hatchbacks at the moment. If you want to experience what driving is all about without spending tens of thousands of pounds on a new hot hatchback, just get an EP3. I promise you'll have as much fun as you can have in any new performance car.
DesperateSeller.co.uk rating: 9 out of 10