Honda Civic Type R v Ford Focus RS

Moving Well | Ernest Litera | Posted on 23 April 2018

Our vehicle testers take this pair of hot hatches through their paces for a real-world comparison on and off the track.

It’s a recipe employed since the dawn of the motor car: manufacturers taking a version of their humble family sedan off-line for performance enhancement. Call it a specialist development department, motorsport division or skunk works, the result is always a significantly upgraded version of the production model.

These performance-oriented hero cars are sold in limited numbers, designed to enhance brand image and aspiration for the bulk of buyers compelled to buy run-of-the-mill models. Such is the case with Honda Civic Type R and Ford Focus RS. The trick is ensuring modifications add genuine competence, in addition to that desired image, without sacrificing everyday use.

For both Civic and Focus, the fundamental five-door body structure, cabin and seating space is basically the same as in their respective volume-selling models. That said, the Type R is a four-seater where all other Civics are five, while the Focus RS is a single-colour limited edition with no options.

Honda Civic and Ford Focus side by side

Aerodynamic redesign

It’s the substantial aerodynamic outer-panel redesign that visually sets these two apart from their siblings. The aggressive body architecture that distinguishes the Focus RS, incorporating a unique rear wing and aero enhancements, looks positively tame when parked side by side with the radical aero package that adorns the Type R.

A massive, complex rear wing along with diffusers, splitters, undertrays, vortex generators and various air intakes constructed in carbon fibre give this Civic demonstrable stability control at speed but also trump the RS in the ‘look-at-me’ stakes. Despite their sporting orientation, both cars have the hatchback load versatility, but in terms of overall load space and practicality the Type R boot is massive and well ahead of the RS.

Although priced substantially above the top spec of their everyday siblings, that money brings you performance enhancement of the engine, driveline and suspension, rather than a full suite of equipment. The pursuit of improved power-to-weight ratio means things such as electric seats are replaced with deeply sculptured lightweight seats for hip-hugging side support, while both cars carry a tyre sealant/inflator kit in lieu of any sort of spare wheel. The major equipment difference is inbuilt navigation in the Ford whereas the Honda relies on a phone link.

Standard Civic and Focus hatchback models have ANCAP safety rankings, however these exclude both Focus RS and Civic Type R which are low-volume modified models and not yet rated. The RS, for example, does not have as many driver-assistance features and its Recaro race seats don’t incorporate side airbags.

Interior view of Honda Civic
Interior view of Ford Focus

On the inside

For drivers, the seat padding in the Focus is less forgiving and the side bolsters are higher, making it feel more like a track-day car. Unfortunately, the instrumentation and switches fail to back up that impression, being poorly graduated with toy-like colouring and randomly positioned. By contrast, the Civic provides a more comfortable seat, still with good side support but more easily accessed. Its dash presentation is smarter and tidier in layout while the gauges are clearer and aided by a digital speedo.

The Focus RS limited edition comes with the additional grip of all-wheel drive, adding weight that offsets its superior power and torque figures and larger 2.3-litre four-cylinder turbo engine. The Civic Type R is front-wheel drive, powered by a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbo, and despite less power and torque it’s substantially lighter, an advantage once the initial launch is done. Both are six-speed manuals only, the Honda providing three selectable performance/handling modes to the Ford’s two. On paper the power-to-weight ratio is identical at 6.11kW/kg, however the RS delivers peak torque lower in the rev range to aid its take-off.

Honda Civic in motion
Close up of Honda Civic rear
Ford Focus on road
Close up of Ford Focus rear

The verdict

It would be difficult to separate these two in a track-day competition, the Focus RS likely edging out the Civic Type R where all-wheel grip is a factor. However, in terms of presence, performance delivery, refinement and everyday useability, the Honda is the standout.

  • These comments are from RACV’s experienced team of vehicle testers. Check out the full range of RoyalAuto car reviews, news and other motoring information at

Honda Civic Type R

Ford Focus RS


$50,990 + $4151 (est) ORC. Premium paint $575.

$56,990 + $4636 (est) ORC. Premium paint – standard. 


ESC. ABS. 6 airbags. Autonomous emergency braking. Lane-keep, lane-departure and blind-spot systems. Adaptive cruise control. Reversing camera. Front/rear parking sensors. ISOFIX child seating.

ESC. ABS. 4 airbags. Autonomous emergency braking. Reversing camera. Rear parking sensors. Emergency assistance.


7” touch-screen. Phone-linked sat-nav. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Digital/AM/FM radio. 2 x USB, 1 x HDMI ports.

8” touch-screen. Sat-nav (with voice control). Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Digital/AM/FM radio. 1 x CD. 2 x USB ports.

Vehicle features

Dual-zone climate control. LED headlights. Auto-folding mirrors. 

Dual-zone climate control. Bi-xenon headlights. Auto-folding mirrors.

Driver features

Keyless entry/start. Selectable drive/dampers. LSD torque vectoring. Alloy sports pedals. Fully adjustable steering.

Keyless entry/start. Selectable drive/dampers. Torque vectoring. Alloy sports pedals. Fully adjustable steering.


Drivetrain: 1996cc 4cyl turbo-petrol engine. Front-wheel drive (LSD). 6spd manual. 228kW@6500rpm, 400Nm@2500rpm.
Performance: 0-60km/h, 3.6sec. 0-80, 4.9. 0-100, 7.0. 50-80, 3.4. 60-100, 4.1. 0-400m, 14.7. Stopping from 80km/h, 20.7m.
Fuel: 8.2L/100km (RACV test); 8.8L/100km (govt test). 47L tank. 95-RON petrol. 
Wheels: 20” alloy, 245/30 ZR20 tyres. No spare wheel (inflator kit). 
Environment: 200g/km CO2.

Drivetrain: 2300cc 4cyl turbo-petrol engine. All-wheel drive. 6spd manual. 257kW@ 6000rpm, 440Nm@1600rpm.
Performance: 0-60km/h, 2.8sec. 0-80, 4.3. 0-100, 6.5. 50-80, 3.7. 60-100, 4.2. 0-400m, 14.4. Stopping from 80km/h, 21.7m.
Fuel: 10.1L/100km (RACV test); 8.1L/100km (govt test). 52L tank. 95-RON petrol.
Wheels: 19” alloy, 235/35 R19 tyres. No spare wheel (inflator kit). 
Environment: 190g/km CO2.


12-month/10,000km services. 
5yr/unlimited km warranty.

12-month/15,000km services. 
3yr/100,000km warranty.

Category ratings

Pricing                                                            ✩✩✩

Features & equipment                             ✩✩✩✩

Presentation                                               ✩✩✩✩

Seating comfort                                     ✩✩✩   

Space                                                  ✩✩✩✩✩

Noise                                                ✩✩✩  

Performance                            ✩✩✩✩1/2 

Ride                                                   ✩✩✩     

Handling & braking                 ✩✩✩✩1/2 

Economy                                                 ✩✩✩✩

Safety (ANCAP)                      Not tested    

Pricing                                             ✩✩1/2
Features & equipment                     ✩✩✩
Presentation                                      ✩✩✩  
Seating comfort                             ✩✩1/2   
Space                                                ✩✩✩✩ 
Noise                                                   ✩✩✩   
Performance                               ✩✩✩✩1/2  
Ride                                                   ✩✩1/2      
Handling & braking                          ✩✩✩✩
Economy                                             ✩✩✩
Safety (ANCAP)                      Not tested   

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