For years, we pined after the forbidden fruit of the Honda line — the epic Civic Type R, the hottest of the hot hatches, available to our European cousins but not for sale here in the New World. When Honda finally brought the new Type R to the U.S., our world was made right. The 306-horsepower, turbocharged four-cylinder engine is a screamer, right up to its lofty redline. You get there only by rowing your own gears through a super-slick, lightweight, amazingly satisfying six-speed manual transmission. It’s a front-wheel-drive car but features some of the most amazing balance and chassis tuning we’ve ever experienced. Purists may say you need rear-wheel drive for a proper sports car, but then purists will also lament the Civic Type R’s four doors and trunk, so we say purity is overrated.

There’s nothing pure about the styling, that’s for sure — it’s boy-racer chic here, with fender flares, silly fake black plastic vents in the front bumper, plus a huge wing bolted to the trunk lid. The Type R’s amazing performance characteristics combine with an interior that’s exciting and bold, if not exactly tasteful. Grippy, heavily bolstered sport seats keep you in place, racy red trim is everywhere, and there’s room to bring along a couple of friends on your blast through your favorite canyon route. Don’t have a favorite canyon route? Go get a Civic Type R and find one. It’s made for such shenanigans, and will deliver more smiles per mile than anything short of a Ducati 1199 Panigale.