A lighter engine flywheel does not sound like a big deal. But crucially the weight saving this achieves allows Honda's advanced i-VTEC engine to spin up a bit quicker, shaving two tenths of a second from the car's 0-62 mph sprint.
It means that the hot Civic can get there in just 6.6 seconds, so maintaining its position as the fastest accelerating front-drive hatchback in the land. It also makes the engine feel more responsive and the gearshift slicker - by virtue of the engine being able to shed revs more rapidly during upshifts.
The lighter flywheel is one of a host of detail refinements introduced in the Civic Type-R for the 2004 model year.
Like the rest of the Civic range, the Type-R benefits from a freshened external appearance. It gains new three-light projector-style headlamps and new tail light clusters, revised bumpers, Accord-style door-mounted indicator repeaters plus the option of a Cosmic Grey metallic paint finish. Each of the additional body panels - chin spoiler, side sill garnish, rear under spoiler, larger roof spoiler - have been carefully shaped and tested to provide improved aerodynamic performance.
Inside, there are now red seat inserts and door panels and chrome cabin highlights to further emphasise the car's out and out sporty nature. Additionally the R benefits considerably from the NVH (noise vibration and harshness) tuning applied to the whole range.
With such an already exciting package, there are no changes to major specification details. So the car continues with the 200PS 2.0 litre DOHC i-VTEC engine allied with 6-speed close-ratio transmission. The Type-R's handling benefits from firmer springs and dampers than standard 3 door models, uprated anti-roll bars front and rear and 17 x 7JJ alloy wheels shod with 205/45 R17 tyres. Braking is by large ventilated discs with solid discs at the rear with both ABS anti lock and Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD) maximising retardation.
Sales of the Type-R have been an unqualified success. The model accounts for one in three Civic 3 door models sold - and there are now almost 10,000 examples on British roads. More than that, the Civic Type-R has become the fast hatch icon of the early 21st century - never before had so much performance been offered for so little outlay.
That's one thing that will continue in 2004. Priced at just ?16,013 (on the road), the new Civic Type-R will cost just ?13 more than its predecessor when it goes on sale on 1 February - and that increase is solely due to the rise in First Registration fee introduced from January this year, rather than any actual price change!
From May this year, Honda will introduce an enhanced version of the 5 door Civic Type S equipped with Vehicle Stability Assist to partner the 3 door-only Type-R. The new Type S VSA will feature larger (16 in) wheels and bigger brakes, have shorter gearing for better acceleration, and will also feature a drive-by-wire throttle with traction control.