Honda Civic Type R

It’s a warm wel­come to this steam­ing hot hatch. But is it too fiery for Bri­tain’s roads?

Autocar - - THIS WEEK - STAN PAPIOR

Say hello to hot hatch hoonery

WHY WE’RE RUN­NING IT

To de­ter­mine whether the most fe­ro­cious front-wheel-drive hot hatch on sale to­day is us­able on a daily ba­sis

It’s less than two years since the pre­vi­ous-gen Civic Type R left our long-term fleet. That’s pre­cious lit­tle time in the grand scheme of a man­u­fac­turer’s model devel­op­ment plans, but Honda had good rea­son to quickly usher its lat­est ban­zai-hatch to mar­ket.

Not only was it con­ceived as a way to mark the 25th an­niver­sary of the Type R sub-brand, which fell in 2017, but it was also pro­duced in par­al­lel with the cook­ing Civic. This made it eas­ier for Honda’s go-faster wizards to in­stil the foun­da­tions of hot-hatch nut­ti­ness from the out­set, whereas this Type R’s fore­bear was de­vel­oped long af­ter the base model.

As much as this is a new car, though, the fun­da­men­tal tech­ni­cal set-up isn’t too far re­moved from the Fk2-gen­er­a­tion Civic Type R that pre­ceded it, in­so­much as the power is pro­duced by a 2.0-litre tur­bocharged VTEC petrol en­gine, which is mounted trans­versely and mated to a six-speed man­ual gear­box that drives the front axle only, us­ing a lim­it­ed­slip dif­fer­en­tial to me­ter the power. The en­gine pro­duces slightly more power than the old car’s, at 316bhp com­pared with 306bhp, but torque re­mains the same at 295lb ft.

Be­neath the sur­face, though, there are more sig­nif­i­cant changes aimed at re­fin­ing the han­dling. The car is based on a new plat­form that en­ables it to be lower, wider and stiffer than its fore­bear, and there’s a re­vised sus­pen­sion set-up – most no­tably at the rear, where the tor­sion beam has been re­placed by a multi-link con­fig­u­ra­tion – and a new adap­tive damp­ing sys­tem.

The move to a new plat­form has had an ef­fect on the in­te­rior too, be­cause the fuel tank has been moved from its po­si­tion be­neath the driver’s seat to a lo­ca­tion aft of the rear seats, en­abling the driver to be seated lower, more in keep­ing with what you’d ex­pect from a hot hatch.

An­other change that’s been made pos­si­ble by the new un­der­pin­nings is a move to 20in wheels and 245-sec­tion tyres; our pre­vi­ous car ran on 19in wheels and 235/35 tyres. As much as those big­ger, wider hoops should con­vey some dy­namic ad­van­tages, I’m a lit­tle con­cerned at the ef­fect they might have on the ride. As Au­to­car’s snap­per-in-chief, I rack up a lot of miles per week and it’s fairly im­por­tant to drive a car that’s as for­giv­ing to cruise in as much as it is en­gag­ing when I want it to be.

And here’s where one of the most sig­nif­i­cant changes be­tween the old and new Civic Type Rs should come into play. In this new one, you get three se­lectable drive modes, whereas the old one sim­ply had two choices: stan­dard or ‘R’. The lat­ter, en­gaged via a red but­ton on the dash­board, turned all of the old car’s me­chan­i­cal set­tings up to 11. ‘R’ mode, how­ever, of­ten felt too harsh and un­com­fort­able for the ma­jor­ity of Bri­tish high­ways and by­ways.

Honda clearly lis­tened to feed­back

Can it cover swathes of mo­tor­way with­out me need­ing to keep my os­teopath on speed dial?

from the en­thu­si­asts who buy its per­for­mance cars – and per­haps even took a long, hard look at what its hot-hatch ri­vals have been do­ing – be­cause this new Civic Type R has an ad­di­tional ‘Com­fort’ mode. It can dial down the di­rect­ness of the steer­ing feel, damp­ing, sta­bil­ity as­sist, trac­tion con­trol and throt­tle re­sponse. At the same time, the de­fault (or ‘Sport’, as Honda names it) and full-bore ‘R’ set­tings – now ac­cessed via a rocker switch near the gear­lever – have been made more ex­treme.

What we ex­pect to dis­cover over the course of the com­ing months is a hot hatch with a broader spread of con­fig­ura­bil­ity. But can it re­ally be ca­pa­ble of lap­ping at a su­per car both­er­ing pace yet com­fort­able enough to cover vast swathes of mo­tor­way with­out me need­ing to keep my os­teopath’s phone num­ber on speed dial?

What’s also sim­i­lar to the last Civic Type R we ran is the spec­i­fi­ca­tion be­cause, like our 2016 ver­sion, this new car is in ‘GT’ trim. For an ad­di­tional £2000, you get a raft of com­fort and safety fea­tures of the kind you might find useful on longer trips: blind-spot warn­ing, park­ing sen­sors, front fog­lights, an au­todim­ming rear-view mir­ror and dual-zone cli­mate con­trol.

That ex­tra kit comes with a weight penalty that means the Gt-spec Civic Type R takes one-tenth of a sec­ond longer to sprint from 0-62mph. Based on our early im­pres­sions, we’re un­likely to quib­ble over 5.8sec rather than 5.7sec, though – so far, it has felt might­ily quick to us.

Be­yond opt­ing for the bells-and­whis­tles GT trim, the only cost op­tion we’ve added is pearles­cent black paint. They do say black is the new white when it comes UK mo­torists’ favourite car colour – al­though, this be­ing a pho­tog­ra­pher’s weapon, I’m fas­tid­i­ous about ap­pear­ances and ex­pect to spend quite a bit of time and ef­fort keep­ing the body­work clean.

It’s cer­tainly an eye-catch­ing car, but so far our Type R has also been turn­ing heads for the wrong rea­sons. In the slow crawl of rush-hour traf­fic, there’s been a rather loud squeal from the Brembo brakes that draws glares from pass­ing pedes­tri­ans. Could it be just a new-car is­sue, in­dica­tive of a deeper prob­lem or some­thing we’ll have to ac­cept due to the Type R’s per­for­mance in­tent?

We’ll keep an eye (or, rather, an ear) on it, al­though we in­tend to waste as lit­tle time as pos­si­ble plod­ding through traf­fic jams and more of it ex­ploit­ing this hot hatch on some of the na­tion’s best driv­ing roads.

Com­fort mode could make the Type R eas­ier to live with New gen­er­a­tion re­tains 2.0 turbo VTEC petrol unit, but power is up to 316bhp

Al­ready turn­ing heads, for its strik­ing looks and squeal­ing brakes

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