Civic Type R: Buckle up and prepare for lift-off
Honda’s latest Civic Type R throws caution to the wind and bucks hot hatch convention
After handing back the previous generation Honda Civic Type R, I deemed it the best-handling front-wheel drive hot hatch, period. It had at that point trounced a long-standing king of the genre, the Renault Megane RS Trophy.
The latest generation arrived in SA earlier this year and it is an even more purposeful looking animal, replete with all the requisite performance addenda including a carbon fibre front splitter, a bonnet scoop for the intercooler, extended side sills, a roof-high boot spoiler and a trio of exhaust tips at the rear. It might look over the top, but everything fulfils a purpose and I am a big fan of the unapologetic, nonconformist design language articulated here.
Being based on a new platform, the Civic Type R also has bigger dimensions overall (165mm longer), while it squats 36mm lower than its predecessor. This has provided one of the most spacious cabins in the segment and it also has some of the most comfortable seats with excellent support.
Ergonomics have been improved with everything falling easily to hand, while materials are good with respect to the front quarters, but the rear door plastics seem to have been lifted off its Jazz sibling and have no place in a vehicle retailing for more than R600K.
The infotainment system lags behind rivals with low resolution and a finicky user interface that is near impossible to use accurately while on the move. Thankfully the remote controls on the steering wheel make it easier for controlling volume settings.
Place all those quibbles aside though and get down to the gist of what the Civic Type R represents to the market and you are left in no doubt that it’s a purpose built, driver’s hatch bar none.
Under the hood is the 2.0l iVtec turbocharged engine, essentially a carryover item from the previous model that is good for 228kW and 400Nm, channelled to the front wheels via one of the sweetest and sneakiest six-speed manual transmissions available. Granted, it is a little frustrating using it in traffic, but all is forgiven once you have a clear, flat road ahead of you with a series of coiling bitumen for good measure and it is here that the Type R simply comes onto its own.
Variable dampers are adjusted via a toggle switch, which changes their stiffness from Comfort to Sport to +R mode, ditto the steering weighting and throttle response. The latter mode is arguably better left for super smooth tarmac or a racetrack and the fact that our test unit’s tyres were a bit the worse for wear when it was delivered meant that initial traction off the line was not particularly prodigious, so the thing just spun its front wheels and this with the traction control still on.
Once past that scrabbling phase, though, the Type R is simply brilliant. There’s nary any torque steer and the mechanical differential means you can easily jump on the power earlier out of the corner and off you go.
In fact, so good is the vehicle at dispensing with corners that one bloke in the latest BMW M3 tried his luck to egg me on through a series of twists and he was left in the wake of the Type R which relishes and dispenses with corners leaving you simply gobsmacked.
Achieving a front-wheel drive record of lapping the Nurburging Nordschleife in 7 minutes 48.3 seconds speaks volumes of the vehicle’s dynamic abilities. For some perspective, the fastest production car around it is the latest Porsche 911 GT2 RS in a time of 6:47.6.
The new Type R is a much easier car to live with on the daily commute, thanks to the new multilink rear suspension and adaptive dampers, and it rides exceptionally well over broken tarmac, particularly in Comfort mode and in spite of its 245/30/20 profile tyres.
If there was one criticism I would level at the Type R, it is the lack of aural stimulation, which is at odds with a vehicle that looks as though it is about to take off into space.
School kids point in admiration, adults in any performance car want to dice it and the driver can gloat that they have the best-handling front-wheel drive hot hatch in the market and that is why I would happily vote for it with my wallet.