The 2020 Honda Civic Type R drops the fake vents up front, still wildly popular

Cooling, suspension and design changes, plus an awesome Boost Blue paint color

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CHICAGO — Honda surprised us with a Civic Type R update at the Tokyo Auto Salon a short time ago, but today’s Chicago Auto Show was the first chance we had to get up close and personal with the refreshed hot hatch. Many of the changes are minor, but we were able to learn a lot more about what the updated Type R is bringing to the table. We walked around the car with Honda spokesperson Davis Adams to gain some insight into the design changes.

“Every car gets a mid-cycle halfway in, and also, if anything has been one of our design complaints, it’s been the mesh, the fake grille. It’s just changed,” Adams tells us.

He’s referring to the fake mesh vents that were on the front of the old Type R. We’ve complained about the fake vents on the high performance car, and plenty of others have, too. Now, Honda has inserted blank black plastic inserts with hockey stick-like paint color flourishes passing through them. We think it looks better in the flesh, and it should quell some of the fake vent complaints, too. That said, Honda kept the mesh inserts on the rear bumper.

The biggest change to the front end was to open up the front grille for enhanced cooling, not a common issue when most cars’ grilles these days are already oversized. Davis told us that it’s going to make a big difference on track.

“More significant than that, there’s more airflow into the front of the car, which is important, because early Type Rs were having overheating challenges in some cases with super high performance track driving, they were getting too hot too early, so this mitigates it.”

For those who spend time on desert tracks in their Type Rs, this one is for you. Cooling that high output 2.0-liter turbo requires a lot of fresh air, and Honda thinks this fix will be the solution. There are suspension changes, too. We didn’t have many complaints about the stellar handling of the Type R, but it’s going to be a more livable daily driver and a more aggressive track machine soon.

“Most of what’s changed in the car is underneath,” Davis told us. “The suspension is firmer in its most aggressive modes for aggressive driving in +R, and then it’s also more compliant when you put it in Comfort.”

Honda wouldn’t go into the details of the new damping technology, but we’re told that those will be coming soon. There are bushing changes, sway bar changes and a variety of other suspension tweaks. The brakes feature new two-piece un-drilled rotors (they were drilled before), and a new pad formulation that’s meant to greatly improve high speed braking. Honda PR is calling it a nuanced change now, not one that you’ll immediately notice when driving the car for the first time. There’s great reason for Honda to keep the Type R the same, too. It’s still wildly popular — Honda has sold about 10,000 Type Rs in total now.

“Honda hasn’t changed a ton, because it remains sold out,” Davis says. “Three years in, there’s still a waitlist for them. Dealers are still transacting at or above MSRP. So there’s been no real need to shake up the formula too much yet, because it hasn’t fatigued in the marketplace. So it’s getting finessed now.”

The last thing we asked Honda about was the “Active Sound Control” system being added for 2020. Enthusiasts complain plenty about fake noises over a real exhaust sound, and that’s exactly what the Type R is featuring.

“Effectively it’s sound piping. It’s piping into the speakers. It’s the same kind of system as in the 2020 Si,” Davis told us. “It sounds bassy and rumbly. It’s all emulated.” 

So, none of it is real noise. It’s just being played over the speakers. We’ll be the judge of it when we drive the updated car, so the jury is still out on this one.

We’re told there will be more news and more details about the Type R in the coming weeks. It’ll go on sale later this winter. Pricing also hasn’t been announced, but we expect the MSRP to continue its gentle creep upwards.

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