Besides exterior, interior and the lack of an A2 or A, i dont see what the differences could be. (i'd consider the tranny a part of the motor)
While I do agree that the handling isnt something to praise, Honda did try something new to the civic, and i cant fucking spell the name of it. But it's setup that the front wheels chamber throughout a turn, bend, or corner. Did they succeed, slightly but not well enough.
Can the system be improved upon, sure why not. Using a coilover system, various braces, a cage, and welding it's not impossible to destory road courses with an ep. BTW, tein sucks balls, they have the shittiest spring rates ever, people only buy because its JDM bling.
The ep is "slow" but it is the second fastest Si to date (only beaten by the fg coupe). Completely stock it will put down 130whp, which doesnt seem like a lot, but the A3 is really responsive to bolts ons. Running I/RH/E i've seen charts reading 160-170whp. Run somekind of engine management (Hondata KPro) reset the rev. limiter from 6800rpm to 7200-7700rpm and you have a relativly quick car.
Right now Im running I/E and i've yet to lose to another NA car or truck. The only race I've ever lost was with a JZA70 Supra, 3 races. First two from a 40mph roll, he was already spooled and I never left his rear bumper all the way up to 80mph. Thrid race was from a dig, 1st I had 1/2 a car on him, 2nd i he was at my front bumper, 3rd he was spooled and I was at his door. Oh, and I've paced a supercharged F-150 all the way to 100 when he hit his speed limiter.
Well the Type-R comes with better brakes, Forged Alumunium front suspension as well as various other suspension pieces (swaybars etc), Recaros which were optional, Momo Steering wheel (which is the same steering wheel i dont get the "real" difference), Less sound deadening material to contribute to a lower weight. It is a fact, that a Stock EP3 Type-R will outhandle a DC5 Type-R.
As far as the Ep civic, honda completely messed up that car. I love the dash shifter, the hatchback look and the interior. The packaging was all wrong and the sales showed. I just feel sorry for the people that paid MSRP. But the A3 isnt meant for any real performance. Unless your go with boost, N/A on that engine is almost a lost cause with bolt ons. I/RH/E and hondata pro on a A2 and you are well into the 200whp, and in a Z3 well in the 210whp range.
The suspention system you are referring to is not a "system" at all, just the new Macpherson strut suspension, which was a critical mistake that was made by honda in designing the EP3 and DC5 chassis, bump steer for days, Because of the steering arm position, and it isnt the most tuner friendly set up. If you lower the car even just slightly, it completly messes up the steering geometry, and you either get too soft a ride, or the car doesnt dampen well and this problem is linked to the front suspension design. You can hear more about it in best motoring's Rotary reborn. Spoon almost abandoned their EP and DC cars for the JDM Accord euro-R because of its Double wishbone suspension. Honda knew this with the new FG and it revised the suspensions geometry heavily, which is why the FG Si handles so good. Now tein is a different story, most of the time they produce good quality products, but there is better stuff out there.