Honda Civic Type R-ternatives: When you have cash to spare

Almost as soon as it was launched, the Civic Type R has been embroiled in a price-gouging scandal that has honestly turned off a lot of potential buyers from the coveted 4-door sports car.

Unwilling to give in, these people are by no means hard up or are unable to pay the exorbitant markups – on the contrary, a cool half-mil to some of these people is simply a proverbial drop in the ocean. What they don’t care about is being cheated out of their hard-earned money for someone else’s gain.

So what do you get if you want Civic Type R performance and practicality, but refuse to deal with agents whose scruples leave something to be desired?

GAC Empow – ₱1,131,000

The GACEmpow was designed specifically to go up against this generation of Honda Civic, though it’s highly unlikely the engineers at GAC had the Civic Type R in their sights when developing this 4 door sedan. Still, the Empow isn’t a bad shot when it comes to cheap thrills, and at just ₱1,131,000 for the base GS trim level, it’s less than a third of what the Civic Type R costs before surcharges and markups.

Granted, it also only has roughly a third of the power of the Civic Type R, coming from its 1.5-liter turbocharged inline-4 engine. All 170 PS and 270 Nm of torque are sent through a 7-speed DCT, so don’t expect much in terms of outright power, unlike the Civic Type R.

That said, you’d be hard-pressed to find where GAC clawed back some of that price because this handsome devil of a sedan is quite well-appointed both inside and outside. The headlines for the Empow include Adaptive Cruise Control, Apple Carplay, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keep Assist, and Traffic Jam assist.

As a compact “sport” sedan, the Empow was designed for road use, so expect some body roll if you plan to use it on your next track day. And because it’s only a 1.5-liter, you’ll likely be lapped several times if you’re running with something like a Civic Type R. But when you’re off the clock, and you want to enjoy your car, even a slow car can make you feel like you’re going fast.

MG GT – ₱1,015,888

Much like the GAC Empow, the MG GT is a compact sedan that the engineers over at MG have tried to infuse with sporting characteristics. Powered by a 1.5 liter turbocharged inline-four engine making all 161 PS and 250 Nm of torque, this sedan has to send all that performance through a CVT with eight simulated gears, which translates to somewhat lackluster acceleration.

While quite striking and aggressive, the MG GT starts to mellow out inside, with an austere black interior that perfectly counterbalances the outrageous yellow paint it can come with. Highlights on the inside are the Android Auto and Apple Carplay connectivity, the 360° camera, forward collision warning and avoidance, and lane departure warning.

It may not be in the same league as the Civic Type R, but just like the Empow, the MG GT excels at making slow feel fast, and that’s not a bad thing.

Subaru WRX – ₱2,508,000 – ₱2,558,000


Arguably the Original Gangster regarding performance sedans, the Subaru WRX has spawned many rally enthusiasts, with its high flying jumps over crests and that oh-so-sweet boxer exhaust note. With age came weight, and the WRX is no longer the svelt thoroughbred it once was.

Powered by a 2.4 liter turbocharged flat-4 engine mated to a CVT, the new WRX is motivated by 275 PS and 350 Nm of torque put to the floor via Subaru’s patented Symmetrical AWD system. This makes the WRX sedan and its wagon variant very close to the Civic Type R in terms of power; however, the Civic still has them beat in terms of weight. All that mass makes the WRX a typical Subaru in terms of fuel consumption – poor to middling.

The presence of Subaru’s Eyesight safety package is worth noting, which provides drivers with all the safety aids expected in a premium vehicle such as this. Lane departure and lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, forward collision mitigation, and lane centering are some of the key features that keep you, your occupants, and those around you safe.

The value of the WRX – the wagon, in particular, is unmatched among the high-performance offerings in this segment. At just ₱2,508,000 for the manual sedan and ₱2,558,000 for the WRX Wagon automatic, it’s a full million pesos cheaper than the Civic Type R, making it quite a steal if you want a track toy you can still use every day.

MINI John Cooper Works – ₱3,980,000

If you want a retro design instead of the austere white that is the Civic Type R, then perhaps the MINI John Cooper Works is the car for you.

Inspired by the legendary rally driver and tuner John Cooper, the MINI JCW is a lightweight hot hatch that makes full use of its weight advantage over the Civic Type R. Weighing in at just 1,350 kg and powered by 231 PS and 320 Nm of torque from a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 engine; the JCW is bound to set your trousers on fire both on track and on the road.

Part of the Cooper JCW’s charm is its short wheelbase and agile handling, a trademark of Minis ever since they launched nearly 60 years ago. It may not have the same power, but because of its dimensions and weight, it’s capable of cornering at ridiculous speeds – take note of your braking, as these have been known to go through brake assemblies like no one’s business.

The Mini Cooper JCW is the cheapest premium car on this list that’s more expensive than the Civic Type R, coming in at ₱3,980,000. What that price gets you, though, is a thoroughbred hot hatch with the heritage to back it up.

Dodge Charger Scat Pack – ₱5,550,000

Surprisingly, the Dodge Charger is one car that, despite being an indent order vehicle, is more readily available than a Civic Type R – and it’s arguably the better-equipped vehicle.

Under the hood is no puny 4-cylinder. An American icon such as the Charger can only have one engine – a 6.4-liter Hemi V8 mated to an 8-speed automatic pumping out 486 PS and 644 Nm of torque. That much power and torque are enough to make anyone’s day, and because of the car’s Fiat-designed suspension and 6-piston Brembo brake calipers, the Dodge Charger is pretty potent not just on the drag strip but even in the corners.

It may not have the advanced safety features of the Subaru or even the Mini Cooper. Still, it does have Android Auto, Apple Carplay, Rear park assist, and a drag race assist called Line Lock launch control – which holds the front brake to allow the driver to do a burnout to heat up the tires before making a pass down the drag strip.

Now, of course, none of this comes at a cheap price, and the Dodge Charger Scat Pack Widebody is about as expensive as it gets when it comes to sedans at ₱5,550,000. That’s a lot of money to part ways with, even if you consider how much the agents at Honda dealerships are charging on top of MSRP. Whether that’s a dealbreaker or not is your decision, however.

Audi RS3 Sportback – ₱7,500,000

Ok, sure, a car that costs nearly eight figures isn’t a car that you’d consider over a Civic Type R – no one is that desperate for a track toy. But if you’ve got the money to spend, then perhaps instead of buying something that makes you a boy racer, why not buy something a little more sophisticated and refined, like the Audi RS3 Sportback?

Between the two, the Audi is the gentleman’s hot hatch of choice for ripping at the track on Sunday and commuting to work on Monday. It is a practical hatchback and has a 400 PS, 500 Nm 2.5- liter turbocharged inline-5 engine to light your pants on fire on the track.

It’s hardly a faker when it comes to cornering either, thanks to Audi’s Quattro AWD system, which sends power to whichever axle has the most grip.

The interior is far better appointed than the Civic Type R, too – no hard-touch plastics can be seen anywhere, and the screens are oriented towards the driver for the ultimate driving experience wherever you go.

Yes, a price of nearly ₱7,500,000 is enough to give most people heart attacks. But if you’ve got money to spend, the RS3 Sportback is an excellent car for the track-driving dad or dad-to-be.

Toyota GR Yaris –  ₱2,740,000

The Toyota GR Yaris is the first car that people usually go to when looking for something to compare the Civic Type R with. Originally supposed to be worth around ₱2,740,000, the GR Yaris wound up selling for over sticker price too due to a huge number of buyers clamoring for them.

Who wouldn’t, after all? The GR Yaris marked the return of homologation specials to public roads, giving buyers a rally car for the road. Powered by a 1.6 liter turbocharged inline 3 making 261PS and 360Nm of torque through a 6-peed manual, the GR Yaris was poised to run full rings around the Civic Type R, especially with its dedicated AWD system. It was a premium car on the outside, and it looked like it deserved every penny it cost.

Inside was a different story, though, as the interior of the GR Yaris was uncharacteristically spartan for such an expensive car. No power seats and an infotainment screen that looks like an afterthought make the interior feel cheaper than it should, but none of that matters because of the way this car drives.

If you’ve ever wondered what it feels like to corner like you’re on rails, the GR Yaris is an excellent place to start. Its AWD System keeps all four wheels planted and turning, making acceleration a dawdle and not worth the extra cost.

So it’s cheaper, quicker, and arguably more interesting than a Civic Type R; why didn’t you lead with this, to begin with? Simple: It’s not available.

You can blame the semiconductor shortage or simply Toyota Motor Philippines for not ordering enough GR Yaris units to give the illusion of popularity. Whatever the reason, you can’t walk into your local dealership and buy one off the lot. There’s a whole process that Toyota has to go through to get you an allocation, and even then, they’re not obligated to give it to you – that depends entirely on what Toyota is willing to send our way.

So what do you think? Would you rather have one of these readily available options on our shores or take your chances with a Civic Type R allocation?

Source: Honda Civic Type R-ternatives: When you have cash to spare

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