Login | Register
SearchMy Stuff
My ProfileMy PreferencesMy Mates RSS Feed
Wednesday 11th January 2012

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?



It will not come as a surprise to learn I do not like every car I drive. I am not alone in this - we all experience the same sense of disappointment when something doesn’t meet our expectations. Or if it’s just pants. Nor am I the only person to find some machines that I have never driven so unappealing that the incentive to do so is virtually non-existent.

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?

All the ingredients for greatness ... but
All the ingredients for greatness ... but
Honda Civic Type-R (EP3)
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.

Manic engine dominates the Type R
Manic engine dominates the Type R
So I don’t need persuading on the engine. Nor the brilliant gearbox and its dash-mounted lever. I do need the steering and chassis explained though. This car had the specification from the gods, struts at the front and double wishbones at the rear at a time when its rivals dragged torsion beams under their arses. But it just wasn’t that much fun. And it was so stiff that the extra wheel control potentially on offer from that expensive rear suspension was never realised.

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.

10 years on is Chris right or wrong?
10 years on is Chris right or wrong?
Two things I’ll concede: the EP3 CTR deserved the massive sales on the back of the powertrain alone. And its replacement was in many ways far less special. But if you’d offered me a used 306 Rallye instead back in 2001 I’d have jumped at the chance. Nothing like as fast or well-built, but more fun in more situations. So, did I miss something? Am I being unfair? Did those of you who drove them back then, or drive them now, feel the same?

Tell me.

Chris Harris
2 3 ... 28 29
Reply to Topic
Author Discussion

frankthetank2

Original Poster:

576 posts

71 months

[news] 
Wednesday 11th January 2012 quote quote all
Did you ever try a facelifted version (post 03 from memory) Much improved handling IMO.

Hellbound

2,254 posts

63 months

[news] 
Wednesday 11th January 2012 quote quote all
A fair and accurate comment.

Just stay away from the DC2 Integra.

Edited by Hellbound on Wednesday 11th January 15:04

AbarthChris

2,246 posts

102 months

[news] 
Wednesday 11th January 2012 quote quote all
I really wanted one but after test driving a mate's, I realised that I'd probably end up driving like an absolute tw*t all the time... So I bought a 5-pot stilo abarth, and drove like a tw*t some of the time smile

unseen

54 posts

48 months

[news] 
Wednesday 11th January 2012 quote quote all
frankthetank2 said:
Did you ever try a facelifted version (post 03 from memory) Much improved handling IMO.
spot on although the steering was still a weak point

Jonny TVR

1,121 posts

168 months

[news] 
Wednesday 11th January 2012 quote quote all
when new I was considering this and the Seat Leon Cupra R. I chose the latter and didn't regret it the 3 years I had it.
Advertisement

Hoygo

724 posts

48 months

[news] 
Wednesday 11th January 2012 quote quote all
Completely my thoughts,very low torque at low revs and understery too in most occasions. With some mods its a good track car but not good for what it was intended.

nick-elise

109 posts

99 months

[news] 
Wednesday 11th January 2012 quote quote all
I agree... I wanted an EP3 Type R for quite a few years, I eventually made the plunge and bought a facelift model. For me like you say the engine and gearbox were superb, but the car just didnt flow on b roads in my opinion at all. It was very frantic, didn't have nice steering and in comparison to the clio 197 I owned previously (which I much preferred) I just didn't enjoy it!

On your average drive the VTEC wasn't there when you needed it and then you would find mid corner you would end up with it in the VTEC causing the front wheels to spin up.

I can imagine on a track day where you keep it on the boil all the time it would be fun, but then the steering just wasn't great. I even had an ABP fast road geometry done on mine and it still wasn't any better.


y2blade

54,567 posts

102 months

[news] 
Wednesday 11th January 2012 quote quote all
WOW another FWDs are rubbish trolling thread. rolleyes


I drove one briefly, I thrashed the tits off it and loved it

CarsGoVroom

105 posts

35 months

[news] 
Wednesday 11th January 2012 quote quote all
Jonny TVR said:
when new I was considering this and the Seat Leon Cupra R. I chose the latter and didn't regret it the 3 years I had it.
^^^ This.

When top gear reviewed the hot hatches around a fair while after these were released they beamed about the CTR. Cheapest, most reliable, best 0-60, fastest round track etc etc. They barely mentioned the much better looking and far better spec'd Leon, which if you were quick enough to see the laps of the hot hatches on the board they used, it was 0.1s slower than the Civic, and cheaper than all of the others. Perhaps not as "spirited", but I have to agree the feel of the civic is inert below anything other than full beans.

elementad

531 posts

37 months

[news] 
Wednesday 11th January 2012 quote quote all
I bought one of these in 2002 and kept it for 4 years. They initially were supposed to be limited to 1000 and I had a few pamphlets from Honda saying that. Cleverly they meant in the "first year" and the car went on sale around sept/oct 2001 so that "1000" was a 3 month window.
I see your point, but I think that's why I loved it. It was like a road going go cart. It wasn't supposed to be subtle. Especial illy with those big manga style type r logos on all 4 sides of the car.
I still look back at that car and think how good it was.
That FN2 doesn't have half the soul the EP3 had

markSTI

61 posts

78 months

[news] 
Wednesday 11th January 2012 quote quote all
I had a brand new one of these back in 2001 when they originally came out. I loved it to bits as it was a bit of a wild child, it was also a very rare sight on the roads back then and it stood out. When compared with a DC2 ITR that I had a few years later, there was no comparison and it showed up the flaws in the CTR chassis. However I did also have a 172 sport not long after the CTR which was the darling of the car magazines back then and it bored me to bits, sold after three months. So I suppose it horses for courses.

Baryonyx

10,282 posts

46 months

[news] 
Wednesday 11th January 2012 quote quote all
Poor show, the EP3 is one of the best handling hot hatches around. Primiarly because it never concerned itself with the developing power wars of the time, it just did it's own thing with a manic engine and a sense of purpose. I often think of it as a scalpel of the hot hatches of the time, when everyone else seemed to intent on developing and perecting the sledgehammer.

Often, the VTEC engine is a source of a criticism, yet it is what it is. I suspect years of driving turbo powered cars (and also sadly, diesels) has made people lazy to the extent some have forgotten how to use a gearbox, or are not concerned with 'the right gear', only 'the gear I'm in'. The EP3 demands attention, and it demands some input from the driver to get the best from it, which is why I think it's found such favour as a drivers car. The whole experience is so much better when the car demands something back, and in this case, it is the willingness to take the car by the scruff of it's neck and rev it hard. I don't think it's particularly lazy below the VTEC range, but the explosive noise and power when the new cam profile engages is as addictive as any turbo spooling up and throwing you down a road!

Similarly, it's not a car I'd recommend for someone who wants to pootle to the shops and have the occasional blast down a B road in, because it the Civic Type R demands that you drive it hard everywhere. For a petrolhead though, that is perhaps one of it's most charming qualities; namely that it inspires the driver to give it some leather.

I also take issue with the comments about it's handling. While I'm far more familiar with the post-facelift version, I have always thought of it as being a very sharp, accurate hot hatch. Hence 'the scalpel', cutting and slicing through B roads where more clumsy rivals like the Focus ST and Astra VXR just try to force their way down on the back of a turbo-charged wave of power. The Civic Type R is the perfect antidote to hot hatch drivers who are becoming lazy, or starting to feel jaded with the power wars. Of it's time, it was my favourite NA hot hatch (better than the Clios of the day, IME). Though I'll always love turbo powered hot hatches too, the appeal of the Civic Type R cannot be denied.

Keyser Soze

14,336 posts

78 months

[news] 
Wednesday 11th January 2012 quote quote all
y2blade said:
WOW another FWDs are rubbish trolling thread. rolleyes


I drove one briefly, I thrashed the tits off it and loved it
How can you possibly glean that, from what was written? Did you even read it?

AngryPartsBloke

522 posts

38 months

[news] 
Wednesday 11th January 2012 quote quote all
I saw a nice red one for sale the other day and the only thing that came to mind was "I could keep the engine for a project then break it and make my money back"

much rather put my money in an ITR or an EK9.

adambcvg

32 posts

60 months

[news] 
Wednesday 11th January 2012 quote quote all
I had a 306 rallye for a number of years. By far the most complete driver's car i've owned out of the box.
Gearshift and rubbish interior quality let it down, but then they were a huge amount cheaper at the time.

Its not a FWD is rubbish thread, its a something is missing from an EP3 to make it the car he hoped it would be thread.

So Honda engine and box in a 306 then? wink

St John Smythe

4,665 posts

104 months

[news] 
Wednesday 11th January 2012 quote quote all
y2blade said:
WOW another FWDs are rubbish trolling thread. rolleyes


I drove one briefly, I thrashed the tits off it and loved it
Not being funny but driving one briefly and 'thrashing the tits off it' isn't really a comprehensive test of a car tbh.

10 Pence Short

32,880 posts

104 months

[news] 
Wednesday 11th January 2012 quote quote all
I ran one for 125,000 miles in just under two years.

Honda made life difficult for themselves in a few areas:

1) The suspension was firmer than it needed to be. At 1200kgs, it's not a heavy car. The compliance that made the Integra (DC2) flow at 50% fun-speed was missing, and for no apparent reason. The rear in particular was just a mismatch of damping and springs that meant it only came to life at a full heave

2) The front end. The JDM version (also built in Swindon alongside the EU version) was fitted with a similar limited slip differential to the Integra. In the Integra, slow speed, low gear corners were as entertaining as the fast ones, as the car would tighten its line under throttle and power out of a corner faster than a black man at Anfield. For reasons that I assume are bean counting, the powers that be decided the EU version didn't need one- they were wrong

3) Tyres. A symptom of the overly stiff suspension was a reliance on the Bridgestone RE040. The stiff sidewalls were required to make the whole thing work and only added to the problems building above the contact patch. Try using an alternative contemporary of the car, such as Goodyear Eagle GSD3s, and the car was ruined- tramlining, sniffing across the road left and right like George Michael in a room full of naked bums.

4) Steering. Honda used the EP series Civic as it's first foray into mass producing an electric rack. Sadly the run through the motor seemed to remove that last bit of communication, as well as being a terribly unreliable system as a whole.


To be fair, the car was fantastic fun, and amazing value when it came out. I suspect, given the same tyres and contact patch as the current crop, it would hold its own on track and probably beat Honda's later effort. But no car is perfect, and certainly no hot hatch- which is exactly as it should be.

Edited by 10 Pence Short on Wednesday 11th January 12:54

MarkRSi

4,329 posts

105 months

[news] 
Wednesday 11th January 2012 quote quote all
Surely the Civic Type-R would be no less gutless than a 306 Rallye?

My heavier FN2 was perfectly fine at low revs, very smooth, enough power to drive briskly, and had a nice subtle induction snarl before the upper VTEC rev range, was the EP3's engine was much different?

doogz

23,381 posts

74 months

[news] 
Wednesday 11th January 2012 quote quote all
Baryonyx said:
Poor show, the EP3 is one of the best handling hot hatches around.
Better than an Integra? 106? 306? 205? Saxo? Previous shape Civic? various Clios? Focus?

Don't think so.

y2blade

54,567 posts

102 months

[news] 
Wednesday 11th January 2012 quote quote all
Baryonyx said:
Poor show, the EP3 is one of the best handling hot hatches around. Primiarly because it never concerned itself with the developing power wars of the time, it just did it's own thing with a manic engine and a sense of purpose. I often think of it as a scalpel of the hot hatches of the time, when everyone else seemed to intent on developing and perecting the sledgehammer.

Often, the VTEC engine is a source of a criticism, yet it is what it is. I suspect years of driving turbo powered cars (and also sadly, diesels) has made people lazy to the extent some have forgotten how to use a gearbox, or are not concerned with 'the right gear', only 'the gear I'm in'. The EP3 demands attention, and it demands some input from the driver to get the best from it, which is why I think it's found such favour as a drivers car. The whole experience is so much better when the car demands something back, and in this case, it is the willingness to take the car by the scruff of it's neck and rev it hard. I don't think it's particularly lazy below the VTEC range, but the explosive noise and power when the new cam profile engages is as addictive as any turbo spooling up and throwing you down a road!

Similarly, it's not a car I'd recommend for someone who wants to pootle to the shops and have the occasional blast down a B road in, because it the Civic Type R demands that you drive it hard everywhere. For a petrolhead though, that is perhaps one of it's most charming qualities; namely that it inspires the driver to give it some leather.

I also take issue with the comments about it's handling. While I'm far more familiar with the post-facelift version, I have always thought of it as being a very sharp, accurate hot hatch. Hence 'the scalpel', cutting and slicing through B roads where more clumsy rivals like the Focus ST and Astra VXR just try to force their way down on the back of a turbo-charged wave of power. The Civic Type R is the perfect antidote to hot hatch drivers who are becoming lazy, or starting to feel jaded with the power wars. Of it's time, it was my favourite NA hot hatch (better than the Clios of the day, IME). Though I'll always love turbo powered hot hatches too, the appeal of the Civic Type R cannot be denied.
Well said smile


2 3 ... 28 29
Reply to Topic