Honda Civic Type R EP3 used car buying guide

  • The Parkers used car buying guide for the Honda Civic Type R EP3
  • Why you want one, and what to watch out for
  • How to find a good example

Honda Civic EP3 Type R Buyer's guide

The first Honda Civic Type R introduced in 2001 couldn’t be any more different to today’s heavily-bodykitted, five door brute.

In fact, this three-door hatch, codenamed EP3, and its very subtle looks feels understated compared with all its successors. It’s safe to say you’d expect see this level of restraint from a mildly sporting, lower-powered trim level these days – think more towards a Type S, Ford ST-Line or SEAT FR variant.

The basic profile of this generation Civic didn’t lend its most frantic hatch a great starting point either - the long, sloping front reminiscent of people-carriers (or MPVs) so popular with families at the time wouldn’t have enticed many fans – but dig a little deeper, and it’s easy to find its appeal.

Honda Civic EP3 Type R Premier Edition, grey

Competitive pricing helped when it was new, but the 200hp, high-revving 2.0-litre engine, dash-mounted gearlever and entertaining handling inspired a huge number of followers.

In terms of rivals, the Ford Focus ST170 was sweet to drive, but down on power, while the equivalent Renault Megane 225, SEAT Leon Cupra, Vauxhall Astra GSi and VW Golf GTI delivered a different experience with their turbocharged engines.

The Honda Civic Type R EP3 - 2001 to 2006 

As well as that K20 engine, the EP3 Type R came with sports suspension, a six-speed manual gearbox and 17-inch alloy wheels.

Special edition models came with Recaro front seats, such as the 30th Anniversary (in a bright red colour) and run-out Premier Edition (in red and black). These are preferable to the standard-fit items, which look the part, but are a little flat and unsupportive.

When it comes to the EP3’s timeline, it’s pretty simple and these are the main dates to note:

  • 2001: Type R EP3 on-sale
  • 2003: 30th Anniversary models
  • 2004: Facelifted (some early 53-reg models are around)
  • 2005: Premier Edition models
  • 2006: EP3 Type R sales end

Cosmetically, facelifted models came with tweaked lights and bumpers, a larger front grille and badge, while inside, red interior highlights on the seats and doors replaced the dark green ones.

Honda Civic EP3 rear view

Mechanically, the steering system was revised (and less prone to break), and a lighter flywheel was fitted to improve engine response.

Tracking a Civic Type R down

Parker's cars for sale section usually has a small number of EP3 Type Rs available – about a dozen or so – so these aren’t particularly plentiful, and finding the one you want might take a little time.

This is particularly true if you want one as standard as possible, as plenty of owners will have fitted varying degrees of modifications to them – considering the car’s reliability and how affordable parts can be, it doesn’t take long for owners to start shopping.

Honda Civic EP3 Type R handling, rear

You’ll soon learn to look for the standard-fit twin exhausts, original air intake box in the engine bay and whether the car sits on lowered suspension.

If you are struggling to find one, don’t be disheartened, these cars can go through a high turnover of owners as some find it doesn’t suit their needs as well as expected, so new listings do crop up frequently.

If you want a specific colour, there’s red, black, silver or grey. White ones are imported from Japan - and these 'JDM' (Japanese Domestic Market) models may be harder to insure with your existing insurer, though ultimately shouldn't cost more once you find the right specialist. Look for a bracket in the passenger footwell to hold a small emergency flare, as well as instruments recording in km/h to spot an import.

Is the Type R exciting enough?

Yes, but you’ll have to work for it. With 196Nm available, that’s not much torque in today’s world – in fact, this was already down compared to its turbocharged rivals when it was new - but the Civic’s high-revving K20 engine and the way it delivers it’s power (and noise), is what sets itself apart.

Honda Civic EP3 Type R K20 engine

It helps that the Civic Type R is also light, at 1,204kg - the current Ford Fiesta ST is heavier, at 1,262kg - so not only does the EP3 feel agile, it gets up to speed quite eagerly as well.

If you’re pootling around at low speeds, this Civic does feel quite docile. With maximum torque available at 5,900rpm – which is also around the engine’s VTEC system engages - you have to work the gearbox and keep the engine’s revs high up in the range to get the best performance out of it.

Honda Civic EP3 Type R six speed manual gearbox

This is great when you are in the right mood, but this Jekyll-and-Hyde personality means it’s not as accessible, or as relaxing to drive as its rivals. As a result, when you need that sudden burst of power, you can be left floundering, and this tends to be a little tiresome for some after a while.

But, the Civic’s handling is entertaining enough to bring back a smile on your face. The early-generation electric power steering system lets the side down as it’s overly light and has no feel whatsoever. It’s also quite slow to respond off centre compared to modern hot hatches, but the Civic's lack of weight means it’s quite eager to turn-in.

Honda Civic EP3 Type R handling, front

There’s plenty of grip from the front in the dry, while the rear will rotate around nicely – quite lively in wet weather conditions - but the lack of electronic stability control means you can get caught out if you are unprepared.

Find out what 100+ owners say in the Parkers Owner reviews section

What’s it like to live with?

When it comes to practicality, the standard version of this generation Civic was already known for its generous interior space and none of that is lost here.

There’s enough space for four adults and the absence of a transmission tunnel means a fifth passenger shouldn’t complain too much either. The boot is big and there are enough storage areas up front.

Honda Civic EP3 Type R interior

The interior plastics are cheap but durable, and the minimalist design means it’s easy to use. Air conditioning and fog lamps are among the few optional extras available, so keeping an eye on your ideal spec is easy, too.

For a car to cover long motorway journeys in, it’s quite noisy with the engine spinning quite fast, despite the sixth gear ratio. Road, wind and engine noise is high for today’s standards and you don’t have the option of cruise control. The stereo is quite weak, and the turning circle is quite large too.

What should I consider when buying a used Honda Civic Type R?

  • Rust – check the rear arches on facelift models. They fitted material to line them here which acts like a sponge and traps moisture, causing the metal work to rot away if you don’t catch it in time. Once bought, you can also remove the rear speakers and peer down to have an inside-out look from there.
  • Steering rack issues: more commonly found on pre-facelift models but should have been rectified under warranty. Check if it self-centres properly or pulls to the right from centre.
  • Second gear: can be a bit reluctant to get into gear when cold, but is common.
  • Inconsistent revving at idle: if the rev needle is hunting and the engine sounds like it wants to stall, it’ll just be the idle control valve sticking from not being used for a while. People replace them, or just remove them, but a drive normally loosens it back up again, so there’s not much point.
  • Rattles – could just be a heatshield underneath from the exhaust so check that before fearing it’s something major. If it’s a tappety noise coming from the engine bay when cold, it could be valve clearances that need doing, or the timing chain is on its way out.
  • Starter motor ‘sneeze’: This is also normal - even the Type S does this. The starter motor effectively keeps turning just a little longer than required after the engine itself has started.
  • Dials – a cold start should see the engine idle around 2,000rpm. The needle on the temperature gauge sits about a third of the way up when warm.
  • Boot hinges: check the bootlid spoiler on the tailgate sits flush with the roof when closed. These need lubricating as they age otherwise the hinges will break and the tailgate doesn't sit in line.
  • Oil level: the higher the better. Not only do these VTEC engines require enough oil pressure to perform at their best, but if you hear a knocking noise at idle, then permanent damage may have already been done, having been driven while starved.

Honda Civic EP3 Type R -check rear arches for rust

Would we buy an EP3 Civic Type R?  

One member of the team already has. Senior staff writer, Lawrence Cheung started hunting for one shortly after driving one for the first time.

‘I wasn’t that big a fan of this when it first came out, looking a bit slab sided and too much like a people carrier up front. But it’s aged well, in my mind, looking increasingly compact as everything else around it grows. The demise of the people carrier has also been a bonus as it no longer reminds me of them anymore!

Buying a used Honda Civic Type R EP3

‘The seating position is compromised, the windscreen wipers judder and refinement is rubbish, but I bought it for the noise and its handling. It’s still practical though, with plenty of boot and rear passenger space.

'Apart from a flat battery during lockdown it’s never failed to start. Costs for insurance and road tax are a little pricey compared to newer hot hatches, but this is cheaper to buy in the first place. If you avoid using VTEC, you might see 300 miles to a tank, which is still better than what I used to get from a 2.2 Defender 90, I guess!

Honda Civic EP3 jump start

'Running costs? Wear and tear items really. The brake pads and discs are new while the callipers were refurbished at the same time. This one also came on new budget tyres and they were awful, so I eventually changed to Michelins – this should’ve been the first thing I’d done!  

'MOT failures have been due to the rear brake lines corroding and the centre pipe for the exhaust rusting away. This had fused to the catalyst so I had to replace that too.

'The timing chain is just starting to stretch, so replacing that will be the next thing to do just for peace of mind.'

Where's the Civic Type R now?

This generation Civic Type R was discontinued in 2006, with the FN2 successor on sale in 2007, followed by the turbocharged FK2 in 2015.

Honda Civic Type R generations from 2001-2021

Now we’re at the FK8 in 2017. and the Civic looks very different to how it started.

How much should I pay for a Honda Civic Type R EP3?

Used prices: From £2,000

New price: £16,785 - £17,785

High mileage early models are creeping down towards £2,000 if you buy privately. Clean examples are holding their value, while the special edition and JDM ones are sought after. Modified models are worth a little less too.

Find a Honda Civic Type R EP3 for sale on Parkers