Honda Civic Type R

A lot has been written about the Honda Civic Type R elevating it to an almost iconic status. After getting my hands on one last week, I'd like to set the record straight. It's not. It's a well engineered shopping car with bolt on bits to excite spotty teenagers.

I'll no doubt be raising some hackles already amongst those loyal to rice burners, but tough - it's time to take off the rose tinted spectacles and the reversed baseball cap and recognise the car for what it truly is.

I'm not for one minute disputing that the acclaim the car has received for its chassis. It is a fine piece of work. With a wheel at each corner, a rigid bodyshell and some very sorted damping, the Type R handles superbly. Its steering is direct and at times feels deceptively quicker than the 2.7 lock to lock turns may suggest. Cross country the setup delights. The car feels very planted and it does remind the cynical amongst us that you can have fun with front wheel drive.

A Class

The interior works well with good ergonomics and extremely supportive seats although the raked windscreen and seating position did make me feel like I was driving an A Class. Interior space is generous.

The Civic can be a surprisingly harsh environment though. It's tempting to think that most modern cars are much of a muchness when it comes to interior refinement these days but it's certainly not the case. Driving at speed in the Type R does highlight a level of wind and tyre noise which is surprisingly intrusive for a modern car. Shouting at my passenger is a pastime I prefer to reserve for convertibles or arguments.


My biggest disappointment was with the engine however. 2 litres, 197bhp? It's a useful headline grabber but it doesn't help when you're overtaking the numpty with the caravan. Maximum torque is a less impressive 145lb-ft. According to Honda 130lb-ft of that is delivered from 3000 rpm upwards. Bear in mind that's not much more than what an old 2 litre Astra GTE would put out a few years ago and you'll appreciate that there's nothing mystical about the performance of the Honda engine.

Whoa! I hear the VTEC enthusiasts screaming. Screaming is what it's all about after all isn't it? Hit 6000rpm and all hell breaks loose doesn't it? Well, hit the magic number and yes, the VTEC perks into life and starts hyperventilating. You'll feel a rush, well a pleasant surge as the engine decides that it's prepared to do a bit more to earn its crust. You've passed the max torque at 5,900 rpm though and you've got the needle screaming through the remaining 2000rpm rather quickly. It red lines at 8000 with the max power at 7400rpm. Needle time in that power band is fun, difficult to prepare for in everyday driving, and ultimately, pointless.

There's my gripe really. It's a hot hatch with a superb chassis, but let's keep some sense of proportion here. It's fun to chuck about, and it can nip to sixty in a chirpy 6.4 seconds - thanks to low gearing - but it is not the complete all round package that it could be. Peugeot's hatches of recent years can still hold their head high in the company of the Type R. A car of this type needs a great chassis and a torquey engine. Power is nothing without grunt. The VTEC screams like an pre-pubescent pig.

Honda say it's a "lean, mean and focused road going race car".

I say it's a noisy, nippy shopping car that handles.

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  • stc_bennett 04 Apr 2002


  • kevinday 04 Apr 2002

    I have never seen the need to go screaming up to 8,000 rpm in a road car. There is 'no substitute for cubes' when you want to go faster in a relaxed manner. In my 350i I rarely felt the need to exceed 4,000 rpm, and still made considerable progress. IMHO a screamy engine will result in a frenetic driver, much along the lines of driving style is related to the kind of music you listen too.

    The performance appears to be similar to a VR6 Corrado, I know which one I would prefer (and it ain't Japanese)

  • s2 giles 04 Apr 2002

    Come on guys.....

    Firstly I have an S2 for relaxed roofless driving (relaxed ish) and an Accord Type-R for work/ daily purposes.......

    However I would agree with the comments in the article. I test drove the Civic-R and found it lacking in X-factor, couldnt tell you what it was. But I could see why it is £7000 cheaper than the Accord, it was certainly built to a price point.

    No LSD, odd gearstick position, very very square boxy feel, the flat floor didnt help.

    Try the Accord Type-R now that its had some recent chasis tweeks & the kick is better when you get to VTEC at 5800 but max output isnt until 7400rpm.

    Whats your problem with NOISY ??

    The Type-R cars are designed without bulkhead soundproofing so its bound to be noisy.
    You know what they say..... if its too loud, your too ....?


  • pikey 04 Apr 2002

    As a current owner as one of these things (and previous owner of Chimaera and Cerbera), I disagree with your comments as I think they miss the point.

    I wonder where you test drove it or for how long. You failed to mention that the engine pulls quite happily from 1.5k all the way up to 8, but it only gets noisey and agressive once the VTEC kicks in at about 6. For driving around town or sitting on the motorway, you'd never go above 5... so it's quiet. The screaming is only when you're caning it, which most cars do anyway, and actually I do like it. No it doesn't sound like a V8, but it's an entirely different animal. What hot hatch does sound good? Having heard a 205 and a 172 on full chat, they're certainly not better.

    Must admit that the car is much more fun after about a month (ie. more than a weekend), but maybe that's me as I thought the same with the Chim and Cerb??

    I've had mine for 4 months now and am very pleased with every aspect of it. It does more than what it says on the tin; a reliable, cheap (16k), practical car that's great fun to drive, quick and fully guaranteed for 3 years! It can be as quiet or as noisy as you'd like.

    See you at P2002

  • s2 giles 04 Apr 2002

    I would agree that as you have it for longer, you get more used to it.

    compared with normal cars that slow down at the high end of 6000 revs, the Type-r are only just getting going.

    I enjoy my Accord more now, learning exactly where to change and what speeds in what gears plant you at the right point of the rev range

    Have fun

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