Honda Civic Type R
It’s a warm welcome to this steaming hot hatch. But is it too fiery for Britain’s roads?
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than its forebear, and there’s a revised suspension set-up – most notably at the rear, where the torsion beam has been replaced by a multi-link configuration – and a new adaptive damping system.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