8000rpm out, 400Nm in
Despite the looks this is a car Honda’s built with its head, rather than its heart
transmission, and even more complex differential designs, to prioritise weight and balance. They also moved the fuel tank aft, at the expense of IKEA friendly ‘Magic’ folding seats, to again shift its centre-of-balance rearward. Now, 62.5 per cent of its 1380kg lies over the front treads, while 37.5 per cent of it is carried on the rear.
The bigger footprint allows the Civic Type R to tackle long radius bends at more than 160km/h with rock solid directional stability. It’s also helped braking. Even though huge four-piston Brembo front calipers slow the car like parachutes have deployed, it doesn’t twitch nervously into corners.
Honda’s white coats tweaked the dual-axis suspension system that splits the steering and damping axes like in a Megane RS or previous-gen Focus RS with a new aluminium lower arm. Renault Sport or Ford might find more turn-in with their arrangements, however, the Honda feels more sorted after the apex. The combination of inside wheel braking, a helical LSD, and extra toestability give it phenomenal traction, and precision, under full throttle at corner exit. With no push or torque steer whatsoever.
What lets the package down is that dual-pinion electric steering rack. The weighting feels artificial, and darty off-centre gearing requires quick corrections to keep a smooth cornering arc on highways. There’s not a whole lot of feedback, either.
Inside, the rear seats are a bit drab, there’s no satnav available on Aussie models, and we’d appreciate electrically adjustable front seats. But the interior feels solid, forward vision’s great, and the Type R-specific seats are extremely comfortable and well bolstered.
You won’t dread interstate trips, either. A shorter final drive in the transmission means revs are still relatively high at 100km/h, humming along at 2450rpm in top gear, but it doesn’t feel like it’s going to shake itself apart. The exhaust system’s been upgraded, and thanks to a new centre pipe that cuts booming noise at mid-range rpm, you can quietly yarn with passengers at any cruising speed. Although we can’t vouch for speeds nearing its 272km/h V-max.
Those polarising, juvenile looks might say different, but this is a car Honda’s built using its head, rather than its heart. If you didn’t know there was a red Honda badge on the front of it, you wouldn’t pick it. There’s a broad range of ride compliance, a quiet tractable engine, an insulated interior, unflappable chassis, and lots of electronic assistance. Not VW Golf R levels of plushness, but different to a Focus RS or WRX STI dayto-day, then.
Such characteristics make it an accomplished car, addressing all the flaws of Honda’s original Type Rs. Although they replace the frenetic redline-chasing, visceral feedback, and tactile handling that made its forebears equally as popular. However, we’re not going to let rose-tinted glasses cloud Honda’s efforts here. No way. In fact, not only does it make the Civic Type R an all-rounder, it also leaves room for Honda to inject old-school mongrel back into the mix. We’re already salivating at the idea of a stripped-down model with more power. And there are whispers such a thing lurks somewhere down Honda’s product timeline.
It’s just fitting Dresden was chosen as the launch location. The small city in Germany’s south was its cultural jewel before allied air forces levelled it in World War Two. It remained in ruins until, over the past 30 years, Dresden citizens rebuilt it to former glory. So maybe that’s what happens when you rebuild something from the past. You must lose its original foundations to make it better.
Europe will offer two specifications of Civic Type R, but Aussies will score just the one. It’s stuffed full of safety tech, yet misses out on sat-nav and high-end audio