Honda Civic Type R
PICK ONE hot hatch to do it all and it has to be the EP3 Type R. Fun to drive fast, it has an engine and gearbox of delectable mechanical precision, plus an unflustered ride, and it can seat five in relative comfort. That it’s so affordable only increases the temptation: you can pick up a tatty car from £1k, and only the best edge past £6k.
The EP3 Type R was the first Civic Type R to reach Britain, and its MPV-a-like bodyshell was unusual for the time. The looks have aged well, though, as has the interior, with its strikingly simple layout garnished with white dials, aluminium gearknob, perfectly proportioned threespoke wheel – and the Recaro seats that grip you firmly in our highly prized facelift Premium Edition, even if they do perch you a little too high.
With only 197bhp and 145lb ft to deploy, the Type R now feels only modestly quick, and you’ll need to work the unusual but effective dash-mounted gearlever hard to keep it bubbling. Those short, tight shifts are as key to the appeal as the raw energy of the VTEC engine, which feels almost competition-spec elemental as it trembles and zings towards 8000rpm.
There’s no traction control or stability control, so a heavy foot elicits a light chirrup of wheelspin from junctions, but more importantly a playful wiggle from the multi-link rear end when you back off quickly mid-bend. It makes the EP3 far more engaging than its more stubbornly nose-led – and torsion beam-equipped – successor.
Combine that adjustability with brakes that are unbelievably feelsome and effective, and the speed you can carry into a corner is far higher than first impressions suggest – it’s all about keeping the momentum up in the Type R, and you’ve got all the tools to do just that.
Gearshift is a work of art – the general interior design less so