TELL ME I'M WRONG: HONDA CIVIC TYPE R (EP3)
Chris Harris has a problem with the breadvan Type R - can you persuade him otherwise?
Sometimes these dislikes, be they rational or irrational, are perfectly understandable because the car in question – the Austin Allegro for example – has proved itself to be a shambles. But others are less obvious. Sometimes they’re best-sellers, winning every magazine grouptest or, gasp, national treasures.
That’s right, I still don’t get the MX-5. But after a little outburst I made about it a year ago, and because of the subsequent responses, I now have a much, much better idea of what other people see in them. Well, nicely modified, earlier MX-5s. (Nice recovery – Ed) Was it worth the threats of violence to glean a better understanding of Mazda’s best-seller? Probably not, but it got me thinking on the theme. If I outline what it is I find exasperating, disappointing and irritating about a particular car, can people tell me what it is I’m missing? I don’t want a fight, I’m not trolling, I just want to be educated.
Can you persuade me?
How can a car which had (and in some respects still has) the definitive hot-hatch powertrain be not-quite-right? No idea. Maybe it’s just me.
I remember driving a late pre-production version of the Civic Type R which was delivered to the Autocar office. The engine was insane – easily the most impressive four-cylinder normally-aspirated production engine at the time, alongside Honda’s other high-revving motor in the S2000.
Why did I struggle with it and all the full production test cars I drove? It was like an effusive, bubbly, fun child – brilliant when you were in the mood, but a freakin’ pain when you weren’t and incapable of doing anything other than play the madman. From memory the VTEC power-burst arrived at around 5,500rpm, but it was as if the whole car’s DNA had been configured around this point, that it didn’t want to work below it, in the dull zone.
The steering was massively corrupted by the power delivery. I didn’t find it easy to place. In fact I found it very hard to place, which was a problem because the thing built speed like no hot hatch had done before. I felt trapped with the obligation to drive the Type-R like a mentalist – it was pretty horrid going slow anyway, and it just felt criminal to have a motor that sounded like a BDA on acid and not wring its neck. Self-control was necessary, but when you did succumb (as I did every few minutes) the resulting experience beyond the powertrain was disappointingly inert.