RAC Cars News

#WeLoveCars

Honda Civic Type R First Drive

By raccars Published

Image Source

The long-awaited Honda Civic Type-R doesn’t disappoint. It should be the first choice for those seeking a thrilling hot hatch with genuine sports car performance.

Honda Civic Type R

• Price: £29,995

• Gearbox: Six-speed manual

• 0-62mph: 5.7 seconds

• Top speed: 167mph

• Fuel economy: 38.7mpg

• CO2: 170g/km

• On sale: Now

• Insurance group: TBA

Three Honda Civic Type R facts

1: The VTEC turbo engine is the first of Honda’s famous variable valve petrol engines to get turbo assistance

2: No front-wheel drive rival produces this much power: the Civic Type R produces a full 90hp more than the regular Volkswagen Golf GTI

3: Prices start from £29,995: despite this, Honda still expects 50% of buyers to go for the £32,295 Type R GT variant

What is it?

The Honda Civic Type R is the hot hatch enthusiasts have been waiting years for. A cult car in previous iterations, the new model has been out for several years now but has lacked the high performance range-topper to please sports car fans. Some doubted it would ever arrive at all. Belatedly, Honda has ensured they’re not disappointed – and how.

Packing the first ever VTEC turbo engine, the remarkable new Type R delivers a headline-grabbing 310hp, for a staggering 167mph top speed and 0-62mph in just 5.7 seconds. In terms of performance, it’s got the class sewn up without even turning a wheel.

There’s more to a hot hatch than simply going fast, though. This helps, of course, and interest in the Civic Type R is sky high as a result. But the rest of the car has to stack up – it has to handle well, be thrilling to drive, good to sit in and, perhaps most crucially, look the part.

Although Honda’s charging serious money for the Type R – prices start at £29,995 – the fact it’s delivered such amazing performance is backed up by another box firmly ticked: both inside and out, it looks superb…

Styling and interior

The Civic Type R is an unashamedly brash and bold hot hatch. Some rivals, such as the Volkswagen Golf GTI, take a more subtle and understated approach. Not the Civic Type R, from its immense front bumper filled with air intakes to its enormous rear wing that’s effective enough to cut destabilising rear-end lift at speed.

It looks exceedingly purposeful and poised, with big wheels, a muscular bodykit and real attitude. This is carried through to the inside, where Type R staples such as a near-perfect set of black Alcantara sports seats, shapely steering wheel and plentiful use of black trim give it purpose by the bucketload. Again, anything but subtle, and thoroughly on message.

The sensible bits of the regular Civic haven’t been lost. It’s five doors as standard, for example, has a boot that’s double-take deep and wide, plus clever folding rear seats and Honda’s ingenious storage space beneath them that mimic the original Mini.

Performance

Simply not in doubt. It leads the class, is the fastest front-wheel drive hot hatch you can buy, and ensures the car’s reputation for rabid pace is retained. Only this time, that performance is much easier to tap into – it still likes to rev hard, but there’s now not so much of an imperative to explore them all the time.

That’s because the addition of a turbocharger means the Civic Type R has plentiful low-down torque, or pulling power, as well as high-rev fireworks. 295lb ft is delivered at just 2,500rpm, giving you lugging grunt if you don’t want to use the slick, snappy six-speed gearbox.

Performance is generally instantaneous, with a bassy, burbly noise constantly in the background reminding you it’s a bit special (and a fair bit noisier than a Golf GTI). It’s also channelled through the front wheels without huge amounts of steering wheel fight or torque steer, which is amazing.

Honda’s achieved this by fitting an expensive limited slip front differential, tech eschewed by some cheaper rivals to save cost. On the Type R, it’s imperative, and ensures you usually can make full use of its wild 310hp output.

Handling

The fear with Honda sending so much power and torque through the front wheels is that the Civic Type R will be a wheel-spinning drama queen. Such fears are unfounded. It’s both surprising and pleasing to discover just how well the Honda manages all its power.

The limited slip differential and standard auto-adjust adaptive dampers bring high tech sophistication to the chassis, that Honda further enhances with a special design of front suspension. Even the rear end has been tweaked, despite being based on the basic system found in other Civics.

Sure, it’s very stiff in town – you’ll hit a pothole only once before the ensuing crash encourages you to steer around them – but poise at speed is impressive and it also gets appreciably more comfortable when on the move. Stability, particularly at high speed, is impressive, which breeds driver confidence.

The only thing that’s lacking is the engagement and involvement to equal Renault’s racecar-pure Renaultsport Megane. The Honda is good, but not that good. Purists will still prefer the Renault. For most, though, the Honda’s sheer power and focus will win through, and we’d completely understand why.

Price and value

List prices start from £29,995, placing it at the upper end of the hot hatch sector: a Ford Focus ST can be bought for £4,000 less. But that won’t be as quick as the Honda, nor will it have all the Civic Type R’s specialist engineering, and nor will it be as well equipped.

We thus reckon Honda’s being fair with the pricing of the Civic Type R, particularly as an added value GT pack is on offer: costing £32,295, these models add sat nav, more tech gadgets and a better stereo. Spot them from the red stripe in the middle of the front and rear bumpers.

Fuel economy

It’s perhaps not a priority for hot hatch buyers, how many miles to the gallon their Porsche-chasing performance car does, but CO2 is more of a factor: tax and VED are based on it for one.

The new Civic Type R’s 38.7 mpg is a big boost on the old model, which is strong: even better is the 170g/km CO2 this results in.

Verdict

We think the Honda Civic Type R is fantastic. A thrilling performer, it’s a riotous return to form for Honda that sits in good company at the head of the hot hatch sector.

It’s not perfect – if you want ultimate handling finesse, you’ll still go for the Renaultsport Megane – but for thrills per mile and more performance than has ever been delivered in this type of car, look no further.

Looking to Buy?
Search for cars