SEATTLE – We all know the story of the Honda Civic: Reliable, affordable, sensible, fuel-efficient, its luster marred by a half-hearted ’12 model-year redesign that was fixed three years later with a masterful roof-to-rubber do-over. Until November, it was America’s best-selling passenger car.

Now in its 10th generation, the Civic adds a completely new (and long overdue) dimension to its legacy – one that will catch off-guard even the Civic Si loyalists who craved more power, more track-ability. If Subaru could have the STI and Mitsubishi the (dearly departed) EVO, then why shouldn’t Honda customers have something equally lust-worthy, the thinking went.

Satisfaction comes in the 5-door Civic Type R hatchback, now available in U.S. showrooms with a red-hot interior (literally, the only color available), a boy-racer wing that adds 66 lbs. (30 kg) of downforce, an aggressively tuned suspension, sticky tires and a throaty 3-way exhaust.

And don’t forget the 306-hp 2.0L turbo-4 that propels the ’18 Type R on its way like a pinball – purposeful and momentarily straight, but ready for whatever careening good times lie ahead. It’s the most powerful Honda ever sold in the U.S.

This is the first time the Civic Type R has been available to Americans, although five previous generations of the hot hatch have been offered in other markets, beginning in 1997.

Most impressive about this new package is the stability with which 295 lb.-ft. (400 Nm) of twist is transmitted to the pavement under the front wheels with so little torque steer, thanks to active dampers and a slick dual-axis strut front suspension design.

With boost pressure of 22.8 psi (1.6 bar) and weighing in at only 3,117 lbs. (1,414 kg), the Type R by all rights should be bucking like an angry bronco. Instead, the car tracks predictably as intended and actually is a perfectly good daily driver, especially in comfort mode.

Honda has made all manner of enthralling 4-cyl. engines in vehicles such as the Prelude, S2000 roadster and Acura RSX, but all those powerplants were naturally aspirated, which required steady caning at high rpm to ring out the full potential. That high-revving formula was alluring to many but could be hard on the ears.

The new Type R uses single-scroll turbocharging to solve that quandary. Peak torque comes as early as 2,500 rpm, virtually eliminating turbo lag. This engine’s sweet spot is around 4,000 rpm, revving happily and always willing to slam up against the 7,000-rpm redline.

There’s only one transmission available in the Type R – a short-throw 6-speed manual – and S2000 lovers will enjoy the standard rev-matching feature by switching to third at 80 mph (129 km/h) while on the highway, just for old times’ sake. Even then, this all-aluminum 4-pot assembled in Anna, OH, will respond in kind, without excessive buzzing or vibration.

In “+R” track mode, rev matching is always on. When not on the track, the system can be shut off. This is the first time the Type R has been offered with rev matching. A water-cooled oil cooler in the transmission helps keep operating temperatures down.

Premium fuel is recommended, but the Type R will run on regular as well. European customers able to find 98-octane will see 315 hp, Honda promises. With low-octane unleaded, the engine will produce about 290 hp.

In true Honda fashion, the Civic Type R is fuel-efficient, too, rated at 22/28 mpg (10.7-8.4 L/100 km) city/highway. During test drives here and in Detroit for Wards 10 Best Engines testing – much of it heavy-footed – the Type R nonetheless pegs its EPA ratings, achieving up to 26 mpg (9 L/100 km) in mixed driving.

The redesigned Honda Accord uses a similar all-new 252-hp 2.0L turbo-4 with lower boost pressure, different connecting rods and a different turbocharger. That engine also is in the hunt for 2018 Wards 10 Best Engines.