RE: Honda Civic Type R: Driven

RE: Honda Civic Type R: Driven

Friday 5th June 2015

Honda Civic Type R: Driven

Open wide and say 'R' - Honda's hot Civic is finally here and we've driven it!



Fast Hondas are back, the red badge is back, the Civic Type R is back. For hot hatch fans, indeed for fast car fans, this is hugely significant. Moreover, we are all patently aware that quite good simply will not cut it - anticipation has snowballed since the FN2 Civic's departure but the sector is now chock full of fantastic cars.

Since 2012 the Ford Focus ST, SEAT Leon Cupra, VW Golf R and BMW M135i have all arrived. The Renaultsport Megane is better than ever. There's even a bewinged Subaru back to tempt prospective hot hatch buyers out of their £30K. All 250hp or more, all very good cars in their own way and all capable of presenting a tough case against the Civic Type R. Oh yeah, don't forget the Focus RS as well. Tough job.

Finally!
Finally!
And it's turbocharged. Fine for making a fast hatch, but making a fast Honda? Hmm. It has always, always been about high-revving petrol engines and the Type R legend (no pun intended; what a thought...) has been built on screaming atmospheric motors. Honda even joined the diesel party late, such was its apparent reticence to sell anything but petrol. Type Rs are more than just magnificent engines, but they are such a key part of the appeal that average just will not suffice.

"Form follows function" says Honda of the design. Right. So at least every vent, spoiler, scoop and skirt has a purpose, which certainly has its own sort of nerdy appeal, but subtle this car is not. The previous car, the Civic which appeared so space age and mad not that long ago, looks almost demure by comparison. It certainly has some good angles but many very gawky ones also, creating a car that just has too much going on to appeal purely on looks. Certainly it will find some fans, but are those fans the people spending £30K on a hot hatch? A point to be picked up later...

Fortunately the inside is vastly more appealing. The new seats drop the hip point 20mm and grab you tight, the pedals and gearknob sit ideally even in a LHD car and there are shift lights. An interior is always improved by shift lights. The steering wheel is a little disappointing, festooned as it is with buttons and overly thick where your hands rest, but overall the cabin is spot on for a new Civic Type R.

Does work better in the flesh. Honest
Does work better in the flesh. Honest
Just kicked in... oh?
Let's talk about the engine. It's what everyone wants to know about. Put your fears to rest - it's excellent. Truly fantastic. It's not quite perfect but it does prove that Honda can make such a thing as a VTEC turbo.

The bad bits? Er, it doesn't sound great. There are whooshes and sneezes and a blaring induction but that sweet metallic howl of old VTECs is missing. Amongst the competition it's good, and at least the noise isn't fake, but those yearning for a piercing shriek over the last couple of thousand revs will be disappointed. Sorry.

However, it's a brilliant turbo. Honda has reversed the VTEC - bear with us - so that the high-lift exhaust cam is in operation at low revs, allowing exhaust pressure to be built up and ensure the turbo is responsive at higher revs with the less aggressive cam. The changeover is entirely variable also. So there's no thrilling 'just kicked in' episode but in its place is a fantastically responsive forced induction engine.

Fast enough? Absolutely
Fast enough? Absolutely
There's a lovely lack of inertia throughout, more so than in the Civic's rivals. There's a discernible ramp up in performance from about 2,700rpm but what's so exciting is the willingness at higher engine speeds. There's no sense of breathlessness as so often occurs, the keenness of 3,000rpm still there at 6,000 and above. Even with the lights you'll occasionally hit the (frustratingly soft) limiter, convinced there are more revs to come. By which point the Type R will be going really jolly fast too. It doesn't feel far off on A45 AMG to be honest. Of course some will bemoan the lack of natural aspiration, and it can't entirely disguise being turbocharged, but even the most ardent VTEC fanboy will enjoy this new engine.

Moreover, even die-hard dual-clutch advocates will love the manual 'box. Honda of course has a reputation for these too and it's a pleasure to report business as usual for a great gearbox. The throw is short (just 40mm) and precise, the weight really satisfying and the whole process will remind you just why the manual is worth saving. The brakes are superb too - full of feel, progression and power from the top of the pedal - which makes corner entry a joy. Approaching in third, rolling a foot to the throttle and blipping just as the lever snicks into second is joyous. If the shift lights don't illuminate then you're not trying hard enough...

Variable dampers superb on road and track
Variable dampers superb on road and track
"Optimised for the Nurburgring"...
Turn-in is super sharp, the whole car responding to the merest input on the wheel. Initially it's a little unsettling, especially as the steering itself is overly light, but you soon adapt to its immediacy and the rest of the car easily keeps up. Through a corner the Civic is fascinating, the outside wheel aiding the early stages as an inside wheel is braked with the focus switching to the inside as the limited-slip diff boosts exit traction. It's typical to say a diff 'drags' the car out of bends but the impression in the Civic is just of absolute resolve and composure. The dual-axis front strut really proves its worth out of slow corners, the car unfazed by exit bumps and ensuring every last bit of power reaches the road. The new Continental tyres - SportContact 6s, developed for the Type R - must help too. There's the occasional nibble at the wheel but nothing like the frenzy you may expect.

The continuously variable dampers (VDS) do a marvellous job of controlling body movements while retaining decent ride comfort, emphasising the sense of complete control and focus. It is a ruthlessly fast car. In fact the Type R doesn't feel dissimilar to a Renaultsport Megane in the way it tackles a road, and that's intended entirely as a compliment.

Aero is all functional says Honda
Aero is all functional says Honda
In all honesty, the '+R' mode ("optimised for the Nurburgring" say the engineers) seems a little redundant. Pleasingly it doesn't ruin anything with unnecessary stiffness or artificial weight but the standard setting never feels like anything is held back. It's the usual party box of sharper throttle, stiffer damping and heavier steering (through less power assistance actually) but also illuminates the dials bright red. That's enough to keep the button off.

On track at the Slovakiaring there is more good news though. The steering gains a little more life as the forces mount up, it still feels indecently quick and the brakes stand up really well. As for the high-speed aero, it certainly felt stable enough but that's something to investigate further with more time and a familiar track. A passenger ride with Gordon Shedden reveals it's more than willing to play the hooligan as well. There's a video too if you wish to laugh at a pathetically inaccurate lap and some hopeless flirting with the pretty instructor.

Whatever, any concerns that turbocharging will have seen the Civic Type R go soft have been entirely allayed here. It's ferociously rapid, technologically advanced, thrilling and involving in the best Honda Type R tradition.There remains much to discover when the car is in the UK - 50 or so road miles and five circuit laps is hardly extensive - but every sign suggests it will be a superb addition to the hot hatch segment.

Expensive yes, but damn good with it
Expensive yes, but damn good with it
Numbers game
There's a problem though. A big one. The Civic Type R has always been a cheap car in Britain. Remember the furore when the EP3 was launched in 2001? '200hp for £16K!' the magazines excitedly proclaimed. Its successor followed a similar recipe of a low price and high revs to many buyers' delight. While superb at what it now does, the fundamental focus of the Type R has now shifted. It will match all and beat many of the c. 300hp hatches but it's also a £30K Civic Type R and that could be a stumbling block for many. It was the cheap hot hatch for young lads once, and now it competes with far more mature alternatives. Dull though the Golf R really is by comparison, the VW will slip into many situations the bewinged Nordschleife renegade will not. Annoyingly enough that matters to a lot of people.

Consequently sales forecasts are low. Honda says it's aiming for a 6.5 per cent market share with the Type R, which works out to about 1,500 cars in the first 12 months. Put simply this Civic will not be as numerous as the previous models, which seems a shame given the huge number of fans built up by the affordability of the old ones. But those that do take the plunge will find a truly exhilarating, superbly capable and outstandingly fast hot hatch, one that unequivocally proves Honda can definitely still do quick. Can it match the Renaultsport Megane? That's a question we'll answer soon, but knowing the comparison will be exceptionally close should be pleasing news for enthusiasts everywhere. Welcome back matey.

Video here.There's a lot to learn at the Slovakiaring...


HONDA CIVIC TYPE R
Engine:
1,996cc 4-cyl turbo
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Power (hp): 310@6,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 295@2,500-4,500rpm
0-62mph: 5.7 sec
Top speed: 167mph
Weight: 1,382kg (Honda figure with a full tank)
MPG: 38.7mpg (Honda internal figure)
CO2: 170g/km (Honda internal figure)
Price: £29,995

Keen for more on the Civic Type R? Read the PH tech preview here.







   

 

Author
Discussion

The Don of Croy

Original Poster:

4,613 posts

93 months

Wednesday 3rd June 2015
quotequote all
How does one coax 310hp from a 2 litre engine but also nearly 40 mpg? Witchcraft?

Nice seats...

Tom1312

394 posts

80 months

Wednesday 3rd June 2015
quotequote all
The Don of Croy said:
How does one coax 310hp from a 2 litre engine but also nearly 40 mpg? Witchcraft?

Nice seats...
With lies...

Shame there won't be as many on the road, I miss the loud hot hatch in a world of S Line / AMG line kitted cars.

Thunder18

160 posts

53 months

Wednesday 3rd June 2015
quotequote all
I look forward to a test drive, but we need this engine in a grown up car!! Bring back the Accord!!

Ali_T

3,267 posts

191 months

Wednesday 3rd June 2015
quotequote all
Why did it have to look so bloody awful? I'd be first in the queue if it didn't look so damned terrible.

Thunder18

160 posts

53 months

Wednesday 3rd June 2015
quotequote all
Ali_T said:
Why did it have to look so bloody awful? I'd be first in the queue if it didn't look so damned terrible.
Buy it in black, will at least hide half the madness!!
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Denver09

129 posts

121 months

Wednesday 3rd June 2015
quotequote all
From the pictures it doesn't look very nice from behind and the four tail pipes, again, why??

I miss my FN2 GT

Nerfbat

63 posts

60 months

Wednesday 3rd June 2015
quotequote all
That really looks hideous - shame, as it sounds like it's a pretty decent car underneath that fugly exterior.

Ali_T

3,267 posts

191 months

Wednesday 3rd June 2015
quotequote all
Thunder18 said:
Buy it in black, will at least hide half the madness!!
I've seen pictures of the black version and it somehow makes the arches look even boxier and tacked on than the other colours. The rear 3/4 view is one of the most disjointed and ugly pieces of styling on the road. There is really nothing I like about this car at all, aesthetically.

matpilch

240 posts

74 months

Wednesday 3rd June 2015
quotequote all
is this still PH I'm on?
big wing, front splitter, boxy arches and you lot hate it?
I'm loving it, looks purposeful and aggresive

Mafffew

1,131 posts

45 months

Wednesday 3rd June 2015
quotequote all
I quite like the way it looks. But then again I've always liked the more ASBO looking hot hatches.

VVOODY

59 posts

69 months

Wednesday 3rd June 2015
quotequote all
Sounds great, and the fact that is not cheap is probably a good thing, it will be exclusive..... everyone keep buying those dull Golf Rs please.

Edited by VVOODY on Wednesday 3rd June 10:29

corcoran

417 posts

208 months

Wednesday 3rd June 2015
quotequote all
Reminds me of an ugly girl I pulled in a club, once.

sinbad666

179 posts

142 months

Wednesday 3rd June 2015
quotequote all
The old FN2 was marmite looks wise and this obviously divides opinion but I like it.

Pistonheads - Its 310 PS not HP

GTEYE

1,201 posts

144 months

Wednesday 3rd June 2015
quotequote all
matpilch said:
is this still PH I'm on?
big wing, front splitter, boxy arches and you lot hate it?
I'm loving it, looks purposeful and aggresive
The basic Civic shape is a munter, that's the problem, and no amount of add-ons can change that.

In fact, these tack-ons actually make it worse.

Whilst there might be a market amongst perhaps the younger audience for the slightly Max Power look, I doubt it's in the £30k bracket.

Golf R/S3/M135 thanks.

PS And a word of advice to Honda.....hiding the rear door handles doesn't make it look like a 3 door, it just makes it look silly. I can't think of a single car that this styling "trick" has actually worked.

Edited by GTEYE on Wednesday 3rd June 10:51

Calza

1,382 posts

49 months

Wednesday 3rd June 2015
quotequote all
A turbo being used for fun instead of just emissions?

Well done!

zerovira

63 posts

65 months

Wednesday 3rd June 2015
quotequote all
I just think... why?

I really don't get the point of uber hot hatches.

For me the ideal point of FWD cars is the fox terrier french approach of small, light cars with a big (but not enormous) engine. Clio 172 for example.

I truly think this is too much for the road, and if I was looking for something for the track I wouldn't look for a FWD hatch...

I mean I am sure is insanely fast, and it can be even fun, but it is not the kind of fun I am looking for.

Looking forward for a hot twingo, hoping the 'pocket rocket' fever starts again aided by low pricing (in comparison to nowadays hot hatches), less insurance and more 'real road' talent.

I truly do not think that pushing this to the limit on a normal road is even advisable. Too fast, too much weight, too much everything.

Maybe cars are hitting the same point motorbikes hit long ago, where a liter sportsbike is insanely fast for the road and even a 600 supersport is slightly too much?

I hope that some of the supermoto ethos comes into cars: focusing on fun bar performance.

Guvernator

8,692 posts

99 months

Wednesday 3rd June 2015
quotequote all
Ali_T said:
Why did it have to look so bloody awful? I'd be first in the queue if it didn't look so damned terrible.
Have to agree with this. Sounds like someone (other than Subaru) has finally made a turbo engine exciting again AND it's got a cracking manual gearbox. Just a shame then that it looks absolutely woeful. If I was 20 years younger I'd have probably loved it, now I'd just feel like a tt.

We are looking for a daily driver for family duties and I find things like the Golf R just sleep inducing but this, my word, 4 exhausts! How does the lead engineer justify that in his function over form mantra?

Could have convinced the missus that this would make a fine daily driver\family wagon, it has 5 doors and hatchback practicality, then I could have nicked the keys at every opportunity but looking like it does I think she'd just laugh in my face and I would have to agree. Shame as the looks mean they've missed out on a definite order and I suspect I'm not the only one.

Honda can you please please make a car with this engine and drive train but not make it look like it was designed by Ali G.

hwajones

677 posts

115 months

Wednesday 3rd June 2015
quotequote all
Looks awful...
Who in their right mind would buy one over an RS/Golf R?

Matt Bird

1,012 posts

139 months

PH Reportery Lad

Wednesday 3rd June 2015
quotequote all
sinbad666 said:
The old FN2 was marmite looks wise and this obviously divides opinion but I like it.

Pistonheads - Its 310 PS not HP
HP and PS are the same measurement, 310hp is 306 brake horsepower. Same as the EP3 was 200hp or 197bhp.

Studio117

4,250 posts

125 months

Wednesday 3rd June 2015
quotequote all
I just can't like any of these turbo hatches no matter how competent and fun to drive they may be. They all sound like utter crap.

sleep