PH Heroes


Wednesday 24th July 2013


A forgotten Type R, but the Accord is more than worthy of the badge

If ever proof was required that the UK doesn't really take to fast saloons from mainstream manufacturers, consider the Honda Accord Type R. Whilst the first Civic Type R sold in Britain, the EP3 hatch, garnered a near cult following thanks to its affordability and performance, the Accord has remained rather unloved despite offering similar dynamic virtues.

Still brilliant, 15 years on from launch
Still brilliant, 15 years on from launch
But just as pertinently, the Accord fought for showroom attention with the Integra Type R, a car entrenched within the annals of automotive history as one of the finest front-drivers ever. It was cheaper than the Accord as well plus, whilst not a design classic, it had the visual aggression of a coupe shape too.

If it faced a superior sibling in the Integra, contemporary opposition of the Accord was less talented. Various V6 Mondeos, Vectras and 156s were often dispatched in group tests so comfortably that the Accord lined up against Japanese rally reps like the Impreza Turbo. For ultimate thrills, the Impreza surpassed the Accord, but the Type R was far closer than anyone predicted.

Engine revs to 7,500rpm and makes 98hp per litre
Engine revs to 7,500rpm and makes 98hp per litre
The mature Type R
When the spec is given a thorough inspection, it's not hard to see why. It even makes the later Civic look rather undernourished in its engineering. The Type R was 57kg lighter than a 2.0-litre Accord thanks to the removal of some sound deadening, taking its kerbweight down to 1,306kg. By way of modern comparison, a Peugeot RCZ R weighs just 26kg less at 1,280kg. This is despite a reinforced rear bulkhead that contributed to a 40 per cent stiffer bodyshell than standard.

The 2.2-litre engine was a development of that found in the Prelude, but comprehensively overhauled with a higher compression ratio (11:1), low-friction pistons, sequential fuel injection, a new intake manifold and a free-flow exhaust.

Family can join in the fun too!
Family can join in the fun too!
Its headline figures were 212hp at 7,200rpm and 158lb ft at 6,700rpm. Some typically VTEC numbers then, but the extra swept capacity did allow for a tangible increase in low-down torque, albeit still a long way from a similar V6.

Five, four, three, two, one...
The five-speed manual gearbox (remember those?) featured shorter ratios, but the gearing still allowed the Type R to hit 120mph in fourth (!). The long gears predictably dented acceleration; 0-60mph took seven seconds but nearly 20 (19.7) was required for 100mph as the engine dropped out of VTEC when selecting third and fourth.

A limited-slip differential was also standard (omitted from the later Civic), although the uprated brakes (300mm discs at the front, solid 260mm at the rear) were described by Autocar as 'effective rather than inspirational'.

Dull to look at, anything but to drive
Dull to look at, anything but to drive
Predictably, the changes elicited a transformation in the Accord's character. Where the standard car was rather insipid and uninspiring, the Type R was rapid, exciting and involving. The Autocar road test noted steering feedback that improved upon the Integra with crisp handling allied to a decent ride. It gave the Accord four stars out of five, proclaiming it 'Japan's answer to the Sierra Cosworth'.

Japan's Sierra Cosworth
Our featured car is facelifted 2002 example, standard aside from a new exhaust and induction kit. Today it still feels composed, accurate and agile, the engine predictably doing its best work (with even more noise now!) beyond 5,500rpm. The Recaro seats are a real asset too, holding you in place without unnecessary bolstering.

Recaros and white dials mark the cabin out
Recaros and white dials mark the cabin out
10 years on from the end of Accord Type R production and has just over 1,000 models remaining on British roads. Early cars are now available from £1,000, but be wary of any crunches in fifth; cars built before the 2001 facelift have become infamous for chomping through the synchro in top gear. A repair will cost around £1,000 as replacing the clutch is a wise move at the same time.

Facelifted cars start at £2,000 and aren't afflicted by the synchro issues; they can also be fuelled by 95RON fuel, rather than the 98RON required by the earlier models. But all Type Rs require a cambelt change at 70,000 miles, and some cars will be due their second swap by now.

One of the FWD greats, now for £2,000
One of the FWD greats, now for £2,000
Rare breed
Then post-2003, the fast Honda saloon was no more in the UK. Japan received a 'Euro R' based on the CL7 Accord, but the only ones in Britain are imports. The Euro R used the 2.0-litre K20A engine with 220hp and the useful addition of a six-speed gearbox. The focus and subtle styling remained, though.

It may not thrill like an S2000 or enjoy the Integra's legendary status, but the Accord Type R remains a great driver's car. Despoilered, it epitomises Q-car cool and remains practical enough to transport a family if required. As the latest news on the next Civic Type R has shown, even Honda can't halt the inexorable rise of the turbocharger so the models of the late 90s and early 2000s really are the likes of which we won't see again. An Accord Type R will remind any enthusiast just what a fantastic period that was.

 2,157cc 4-cyl
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Power (hp): 212@7,200rpm
Torque (lb ft): 158@6,700rpm
0-62mph: 7.1 sec (to 60mph)
Top speed: 140mph
Weight: 1,306kg
On sale: 1998-2003
Price new (1998): £23,250
Price now: £1,000-£4,500

A huge thanks to PHer Jake Harvey for putting his car forward for this feature

Photos: PrimeExposures

Author: Matt Bird