Hot hatch high
After having the Honda Civic Type-R for a four-month test drive, serves up his end-of-term report
Signing up for a long-termer is the definition of a mixed blessing. Sure, within the parameters of realism you can run any car you like. The only trouble is, choose too well and the final handover can be worse than any other kind of long-term break-up.
The Civic Type-R was undoubtedly the most interesting hot hatch to turn up in 2015. Not only did it represent a quantum leap from the outgoing FN2 version – 50% more power, remember – it also proved that Honda wanted to take on the super hatches.
It was one of the least discreet cars I’ve ever had the pleasure of driving, and this is something you’ll see either as a major plus point or a severe hindrance. The arches are pumped out to accommodate the wider track and the rear wing is large enough to provide significant downforce.
Those looks, particularly finished in white, attracted more attention than some cars costing three times as much. Opinion was also evenly split; some people thought it too brash and too showy, while others were vocal – to the point of swearing – in their praise.
Me? I sat firmly in the latter camp. I never tired of how it looked and that it promised excitement every time you walked up to it with key in hand. This, surely, is the whole point of a hot hatch.
There were some spectacular drives during my time with the Type-R; a couple of gear changes, or if you were feeling really lazy, a squeeze of throttle was all that was required to access the monstrous performance of that 2.0-litre turbo engine. It fizzed and buzzed with enthusiasm, never seemed to be short of grunt.
And yet it was the fact that the Type-R remained so liveable despite all the performance available that was equally impressive.
The street on which I live is in a shockingly poor state and, given that the Civic runs on rubber-band tyres and stiff suspension, it still coped admirably. Driven normally, it barely created any more noise than a regular Civic; wind and tyre noise faded away at sensible motorway speeds and the fiery engine was happy to
lope along at a little over 2,000rpm. Previous generations of the Type-R were praised as icons of the hot hatch segment in their day and are prized and sought after even now. But today it is the current model that quite rightly defines what a modern hot hatch should be: desirable, spectacular, useable and, most of all, damned good fun.
IN A NUTSHELL Honda Civic Type-R Price: £29,995 Engine: 2.0-litre unit producing 306bhp and 295lb/ft of torque Transmission: Sixspeed manual gearbox driving the front wheels Performance: Top speed 167mph, 0-62mph in 5.7 seconds Economy: 38.7mpg combined Emissions: 170g/km of CO2