Motor (Australia) - - CONTENTS -

Our lat­est BFYB cham­pion adds another tro­phy to its cab­i­net

WHEN THE Honda Civic Type R’s 2018 Per­for­mance Car of the Year ti­tle was an­nounced, our in­boxes clogged with enough emo­tion-charged emails that month to al­most crash our web servers. Some peo­ple of­fered a con­grat­u­la­tory com­ment, or an am­biva­lent one, but many were so dis­be­liev­ing a fron­twheel drive car could beat ev­ery­thing from a Porsche to an HSV, they rea­soned it was only be­cause it ar­rived with gold bul­lions hid­ing in its boot.

Well, those doubters should be stuff­ing them­selves with hum­ble pie right now. The Civic Type R has just be­come the only car in this mag­a­zine’s his­tory to win our two big­gest events back-to-back, con­firm­ing Honda’s hero has the quan­tifi­able per­for­mance to thump all-com­ers at an event al­most com­pletely based on cold, hard and trans­par­ent data.

It dom­i­nated the brak­ing dis­ci­pline, showed fe­ro­cious pace around a race­track, and ex­celled on the drag strip where a front-wheel drive car usu­ally has no right to. And be­fore you beat the con­spir­acy drum again about its clean sweep atop the judges’ rank­ings, its price and per­for­mance data was so con­vinc­ing on the spread­sheet, each judge would have had to place the Civic eighth or lower to de­throne it from top spot. And that’s a sit­u­a­tion we’d find truly un­be­liev­able.

The Civic Type R is so be­witch­ing to drive on road or track that it’d con­vince any­one that the Type R brand is back – bet­ter than ever. From the way it grasps you in its G-force-proof front seats, or how the gearshift is al­most level with yours hands on the steer­ing wheel, there are clas­sic Type R cues strewn through­out it. The dig­i­tal clus­ter thrusts an arc-shaped rev gauge into view like an S2000, while the gear knob’s cool ti­ta­nium touch hon­ours the orig­i­nal In­te­gra Type R or NSX-R.

What the new Civic Type R brings to the ta­ble, be­sides a long-awaited re­turn to form, is a new ap­proach to bril­liance. That tur­bocharger lurk­ing un­der its bon­net means there’s no more fre­netic red­line-chas­ing drama or ex­plo­sion of noise as VTEC bumps its camshafts onto its big lobes.

The slightly over­square engine still likes to spin and uses vari­able valve lift, but it now surges to red­line from ear­lier in the rev range. It’s smoother than the other turbo four cylin­ders here and de­liv­ers a bet­ter top-end, too, feel­ing threat­ened only by the Fo­cus RS’s 2.3-litre for torque.

Lack of all-wheel drive trac­tion means the Civic lags be­hind oth­ers from a stand­ing start. There’s a fair chunk of wheel spin through first gear and the car’s shortly stacked six-speed ra­tios, sep­a­rated by BFYB 2018’s slick­est and most sat­is­fy­ing shift (although not as but­tery as Honda’s great­est), means you’ll need to nudge into third at 99km/h, pe­nal­is­ing its 0-100km/h time. How­ever, it’s still leagues ahead of any­thing else front-drive and once on a roll it’ll dec­i­mate its all-wheel drive ri­vals, prov­ing Honda knew what it was do­ing by se­lect­ing a lighter, sim­pler front-drive lay­out.

Where the Civic Type R shines brighter is in the brak­ing zone. Its rel­a­tively hum­ble steel brakes are tremen­dous, ar­rest­ing it from 100km/h in 32.95m and with so much bite, stop af­ter stop, you’d swear Honda had snuck big-dol­lar car­bon ce­ram­ics into its wheel guards.

The Honda con­tin­ues to wage war in the data’s av­er­age cor­ner­ing speeds. The 370Z Nismo might have pipped it in first place by an ant’s foot­print, but when you re­alise the Nis­san presses 80mm more tyre width into the road un­der a more in­her­ently bal­anced rear-drive lay­out, the 0.01km/h gap di­vid­ing them fades into a moral vic­tory for the Civic Type R.

It’s all thanks to some se­ri­ous engi­neer­ing un­der­neath. Like that he­li­cal LSD bolted be­tween dual-axis front struts,

bridged by a stiffer bodyshell to re­vised rear-sus­pen­sion arms. Grippy 245mm-wide Con­ti­nen­tals are the last touch, un­lock­ing bril­liant drive, neu­tral­ity, and pre­ci­sion for a front­driver with this much power. Peo­ple were spend­ing so long out on track, smash­ing the brakes harder and lean­ing into its wall of grip with more com­mit­ment as the laps went on, we al­most needed a crow­bar to pry them from the driver’s seat.

It packs vary­ing lev­els of ESP in­ter­ven­tion in its drive modes, in­clud­ing full off, and the switch­able rev-match is doo­fus­proof. If the Type R was a politi­cian it would trans­form into Barack Obama – un­flap­pable, in­fec­tious, ap­proach­able by novices and pro­fes­sion­als alike.

In Luffy’s hands the Civic slices Win­ton Race­way in 1min 35.9sec, the fastest lap time on the day and com­fort­ably bury­ing pre­vi­ous ef­forts in any pro­duc­tion front-drive car. To share that time with the Ford Fo­cus RS LE might sour its achieve­ment a lit­tle, but con­so­la­tion lies in the fact the Ford’s tyres could sat­isfy a GT3 car’s grip re­quire­ments.

It’s not all roses, though, as a few chinks lurk in its ar­mour. Honda hasn’t aced the elec­tric steer­ing, which can be a touch vague just off-cen­tre, Luffy sniffed out some wheel­spin in tight cor­ners, and that engine could use some singing lessons un­der the Hyundai i30 N’s tute­lage. Most of its engine noise is muf­fled by the gases rush­ing through the tur­bocharger. Also, its looks, and in­te­rior, are sure to fuel a lot of ar­gu­ments at your lo­cal pub.

But let’s not lose sight of the big­ger pic­ture. While an In­finiti Q50 Red Sport’s blis­ter­ing speed is bol­stered by crappy brakes, or a Toy­ota 86’s crisp steer­ing is con­trasted by lit­tle grip, the Honda Civic Type R’s el­e­ments com­ple­ment each other, and that’s why it logs the sec­ond high­est lap V-max – even though it’s far from be­ing the sec­ond most pow­er­ful car. The BFYB for­mula favours the Honda’s per­for­mance fig­ures so much that you would have to heap another $13K on the Civic Type R’s $51,990 price tag to knock it down to sec­ond place.

It’s this all-round bril­liance that in­jects the Honda not only into an elite BFYB win­ner’s cir­cle, but lifts it into another ech­e­lon of fame al­to­gether. Only Nis­san and BMW have bagged both PCOTY and BFYB be­fore, yet needed mul­ti­ple years and vari­ants (an S14 200SX/S15 200SX and E36 328i/ E36 M3) to achieve the feat, leav­ing the Honda Civic Type R as the force be­hind the most dom­i­nant award sea­son in MO­TOR his­tory. All hail our scorch­ing-hot BFYB king.


ABOVE Seat­belts, seats, trim, rims, brakes, badges and engine cover are all red on the Type R

ABOVE Jump it may, but the Civic’s adap­tive dampers give it a com­pli­ant and con­trolled ride

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