For decades, Honda have been perfecting their craft at building track inspired, road cars – by taking a mass production model and making it quite fast, whilst refining the chassis dynamics and giving it a ‘Type R’ badge, before hitting the forecourts.
The Type R range of cars has developed quite a cult following with many models still undertaking weekly duties within local motorsport – testament to Honda’s development team who know exactly what the customer wants from such a model.
For me however, the Honda range has never done anything for me – mainly as I am a fan of forced induction, rather than the high revving – normally aspirated set-up as found within the Honda Type R models.
My better half once owned a Civic Type R, of the EP3 vintage and after borrowing it many years ago for a spirited blast around the countryside, I really couldn’t gel with the car – yes ok, it handled great and went alright, but it just wasn’t for me.
I like torque, lots of low down grunt on tap, without the need to rev hard to find some power – something the Honda range never offered through the generations – a microwaves turntable likely has more torque to be honest.
The Japanese firm, in recent years, have clearly been watching the market and seen that nowadays, turbochargers are in high demand – from a 3 cylinder engine with less capacity than a carton of milk, to fire breathing V8’s – they are all coming equipped with turbo’s.
The decision to bolt a single turbocharger to the already reasonably potent, 2.0L VTEC Honda engine, means that for once, I am a little excited about a Type R model and after two-years of chasing a drive in one, can finally bring you this review.
Having received some changes for 2017, I collected the keys of this latest Civic Type R and on seeing it outside the showroom, was expecting Darth Vadar to appear and proceed with the handover.
Due to pre-movie-launch rehearsals, that wasn’t the case and it was a car loving Sales Manager that talked me through what this latest Type R is all about!
Black on black is what this demo car is all about and it looks devilish. Aggressive, bold styling by Honda really sets the Type R apart from the rest of the Civic range, something that no other manufacturer has been brave enough to do with its performance models.
Many see it as styling achieved by crashing through the local tuning shops window, circa 1990 – I personally love it, I mean why would you build and all singing – all dancing model, to then allow it blend into the rest of the range?
Featuring rear privacy glass and 20” alloy wheels with road legal summer-slick tyres, the Civic hosts a plethora of ‘in-your-face’ arch extensions, wings, splitters and spoilers around its body – not for style so much, but mostly to aid aerodynamics and down-force, especially when at speed.
Blending in is something that you will not achieve with the Honda Civic Type R – it will get drop jaw reactions, it will get slanderous remarks and it will get laughs, but when push comes to shove, and the open road calls, most will be left speechless!
I will quote Honda here for a second, to just help you understand where they are coming from “The new Civic Type R is a car only Honda could make. It reflects our unique thinking, our drive for constant reinvention, re-evaluation and relentless pursuit of better”.
Honda continues “Our desire to create the perfect sports machine for the road and the track is imprinted into its DNA and drawn into every curve of its body. It’s a car that has been built for the sheer thrill of driving, a car built with soul, a car that speaks to you the way few others can”.
The biggest area of abuse towards the Civic is the centre-exit triple exhaust pipes around the rear of the car that poke through the purposeful lower bumper diffuser – if it’s okay for a Ferrari F40 to run a similar exhaust set-up, then the race-bred Honda can do it too in my eyes.
Opening the boot reveals a reasonable load area of 420 litres, capable of swallowing all of my camera equipment meaning it will cope with family life and sports bags with relative ease but don’t expect to travel as a family of five, as this is only a four-seater.
Inside the Civic is motorsport inspired to say the least, a mix of materials inside offer good quality whilst retaining the renowned red front seats, a trademark of the Type R range, making it clear of what model this is whilst a plaque featuring the build number sits proud in the centre consol.
The sports seating is very comfortable whilst offering mega amounts of support in all the right places and within seconds of getting into the driver seat, I found a very snug driving position, which is unusual for me to achieve before setting off, well done Honda on creating a cabin of sheer ergonomics.
Infotainment comes in the form of Honda’s 7” touch screen ‘connect’ system offering AM/FM/DAB Radio, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Internet Radio, Internet Browsing, aha app integration as well as Bluetooth with streaming and a reverse camera.
Two models are available – an entry level ‘Type R’ starting from £30,995 which offers massive spec as standard whilst the model tested, a ‘Type R GT’ starting from £32,995, adds – dual climate control, rear electric windows, power folding wing mirrors, sat-nav, wireless phone charging, 11 speakers audio system LED front fog lights and red pin striping around the lower exterior.
Personally, for the extra £2,000, I feel the GT is the best option to go for, offering that extra bit of technology that we seem to rely upon in modern times.
At the heart of an exhilarating driving experience is a turbocharged, 2.0L VTEC petrol engine producing a staggering 315bhp with 295lb/ft of torque via a helical limited slip differential and six-speed manual gearbox, to the front wheels.
At this point we all say, ‘how the hell does it get grip with all that power going to just two wheels’ – and in all honestly, on our wintry roads on the summer slicks, it struggles in the first couple of gears but once up the gears or on a dry road, the Civic is nothing short of rapid.
With a top speed of 169mph, 0-62mph is achievable in a mere 5.8 seconds with a real world combined economy of low 30’s mpg, though giving it some manners on a track or such likes, expect mid 20’s mpg.
The rigid body lends itself perfectly to this Civic and body roll is less than minimal, power delivery in first two gears is hilarious, grip and delivery of power thereafter is nothing short of mind blowing though and it did shock me.
Thankfully this Civic still revs like a Honda should and constantly needs gears fed to it, adding to the adrenaline of it all – the Type R even has a rev matching control system that auto-blips on downshift to be sure that you are perfectly poised for the next squeeze on the fast pedal.
The Type R’s steering is just glorious and as precise as can be but head onto a decent B road, like that used in rallying and things get a little harsh and crashy – the 20″ wheels and rubber band like tyres, really aren’t suited to our landscape but it still feels grounded enough on the rough roads.
First and foremost, the Civic Type R is at home on the track and using the switchable driving personalities, doubles up perfectly as a fast and fun, family car that demands driver input and rewards massively for those brave enough.
These driving modes, changed via a switch near the gear stick include ‘comfort’, ‘sport’ and ‘+R’ – adjusting throttle response, adaptive damper settings, steering force and feel along with the traction control settings to best suit the driving style you wish to enjoy.
I found the Civic Type R to be a complete thug, the kind of thug you would like to befriend though and one with huge amounts of character and charm that you wouldn’t mind being seen with.
Most people looking at the Civic Type R, believe it is four-wheel-drive and as such pitch it against the likes of VW’s Golf R and Ford’s Focus RS, but this car is not in any way comparable due to being front-wheel-drive.
Think of it as an alternative to Renault’s Megane RS or Hyundai’s i30N that has just been launched and you are on the right track – I am pretty confident neither of the above would come close to the raw driving pleasure that the Civic offers.
If you can get past the looks and the lack of all-wheel-drive then this is one car that will reward profoundly!
Words and Photos: Graham Curry
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