HONDA CIVIC TYPE-R
Punching above its weight
NOT TO TRY AND CONSTRUE THE SCRIPT OF SPEEDY-CAR FRANCHISE, THE FAST & FURIOUS FOR THE PURPOSES OF THIS ARTICLE, BUT LIFE WITH THE HONDA CIVIC TYPE-R, IS MEASURED IN SECONDS RECKONS DEON VAN DER WALT.
We had it on test for around 604,800 seconds, while it took only 5.8 of those precious seconds for the Type-R to accelerate from zero to 100 km/h. And now, reading back that statement, 5.8 seconds seems to be an eternity compared to how savagely fast it felt.
Don’t, however, dismiss this car as just one of those reasonably hot hatchbacks that come around every so often. See, the Honda Civic Type R is the most powerful front-wheel-drive production vehicle in the world. In fact, it is so powerful that at the time of writing this article, the nearest front-wheel contender, namely the Ford Focus ST, weighed in at 184 kW. While that is an imposing figure, it is down on its proverbial knees by 44 kW, compared to the 228-kilowatt savagery that the Type-R produces.
Still, that’s only numbers, and numbers are forgiving. How about a practical example of its performance prowess? The Civic, in all its bad-mannered antics, lapped the Nürburgring in a time of 7:43.8, shattering the existing record set by the Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport by nearly six seconds. Translation: on a racing track, albeit a near21 km loop, that is an eternity.
And speaking of ‘the Ring’, driving the Type-R you get the idea that it was developed just to blister through chicanes rather than carting groceries around. While that is not a bad thing, by any measure, it is different from the norm. Let me explain: while most performance hatchbacks are derived from their mild-mannered siblings by adding a few go-faster components, the Type-R gives you the sense that Honda wanted to build a Franken-monster from the get-go.
It attacks corners with the tenacity of a brain-damaged honey badger, thanks to the traction provided by the combination of 20” wheels and a helical limited-slip differential, that ensures both the front wheels can spin at different speeds while it also distributes power to the wheel that offers the most traction. In turn, this dramatically reduces understeer.
This lunacy is not only reserved for corners, though. Nudge the accelerator downwards, and it shoves you into the red body-hugging Type-R seats, at which point it is still in its default ‘sport’ mode. But, flick the drive-mode switch upwards, and into R-mode, and the car’s dynamics changes in an instant.
You feel the right pedal tingle underfoot as the car becomes enraged. The instrument binnacle turns red, and you must bring your A-game as you slot the mechanical chinking gearbox into each cog, all the while enduring a mocking chipper from the front wheels. And just like that, quicker than you were probably able to read that statement, it reaches the applicable speed limit.
Despite what the aggressive styling — where every crevice serves a purpose — will have you believe, it can actually settle down. To a degree. While you’ll bear a strong resemblance to a bobblehead on a rough surface, thanks to the low profile tyres and sports suspension, the manual gearbox provides a decent overall level of control.
That means, while it will feel more at home aiming for the apexes on a track, it is not at all bad on the last-minute milk-run. Yes, the Civic Type-R doesn’t have the air of civility of say, the Golf R, but the fact that it’s only available with a manual gearbox means that you can remove all the go-faster bits like the seats, the red safety belts, and those flamboyant Brembo brake callipers, and it still doesn’t feel all that different at the core than a more civilian hatchback. It doesn’t even growl or shriek, despite what that three exhaust organ muskets will have you think.
It doesn’t happen every day that something like the Honda Civic Type-R comes along. Sure, there are quicker hatchbacks out there, all of which, it must be said, are endowed with smart all-wheel-drive systems and gearboxes that have more logic than a mathematics thesis. But, as a driver’s car where electronic interference plays second fiddle to driving enjoyment, the Civic won’t likely be topped.
We had the Civic on test for more than 600,000 seconds, but it barely took a second behind the wheel to fall hopelessly in love with this angular track attacker that features number-plates.