Last seen in 2010, the Honda Civic Type-R has always had a sizable following. So you can imagine the anticipation when Honda announced it would be making a return. The new Civic is 5-door only, so this would be the most practical Type-R to date. Don’t think for one second that this would be a tame, grown-up family car though, because the billboards showcased a humongous rear spoiler as a sign this car would in fact be the most bonkers Civic to date. Dubbed as Honda’s “race car for the road” I couldn’t wait to push the engine start button and go for a drive.
Looks – 8/10
Take a look at the pictures. Anybody still think that a 5-door Civic Type-R could be a bit sensible and understated? No, didn’t think so. This car is bonkers. Finished in Championship White (a classic Type-R colour) my test car looked great. At the front the gloss black contrast and red accent on the lower spoiler showcase an aggressive stance. The LED daytime running lights are angular and, like the pointy front end, have an aerodynamic flair to them. The red edge to the black wheels match the rather large Brembo callipers, and black door handles and wing mirrors again offer contrast the white paint. I’m not sure about the axe wound to the front wings, which doesn’t seem to do anything. At the rear there are four waste-paper-bin-sized exhausts, and a spoiler that looks like something out of The Fast and the Furious. The sizeable diffuser in the rear bumper is accented by a red trim, and ensures the rear looks as aggressive as the front.
Inside the Civic Type R is a tale of two halves. The front is the good half. There are huge, body-hugging bucket seats. In bright red they are as striking as they are inviting. The steering wheel also has red accents, and I really like the brushed aluminium gear knob. The dials are crisp white, but turn an evil red when you push the R+ button. The dashboard sweeps in front of the driver, with a digital speedometer and information screen (one of the options is a G-force meter; cool, right?). Sadly the rear of the cabin is a let-down. It almost feels forgotten, with some plain black seats, lacking any form of pattern or body-hugging shape like the front. The only bit of colour comes from the red seatbelts, and I think that’s a shame.
Handling/Performance – 8/10
So how does the Civic stack up on its top trumps card? Well the engine is a 2.0-litre, turbocharged petrol engine. Power is a monstrous 310PS and torque an earth-moving 400Nm. The Type-R is front-wheel drive with a clever differential. It will sprint from 0-62mph in 5.7 seconds, and go on to a top speed is 168mph. Power delivery is strong, pulling through the gears and accelerating hard even from low revs, unlike previous normally-aspirated models. The lack of a distinct, aggressive engine note is a little disappointing. There is no induction symposer and the rear exhaust note doesn’t add any extra bark. The Civic also struggles to put its power down in anything other than dry conditions. 310PS is a lot to put through the front wheels, and trying to get a perfect launch is difficult when the car has a tendency to spin the wheels. First and second gear are nigh-on useless in damp conditions.
The Type-R rides well in standard mode. R+ increases throttle and steering response, and stiffens the dampers by 30%. Ouch. The problem is that you can’t change the dampers on their own, so if you want the invigorating drive, then you have to have all of it. All well and good on the track, but the Civic is a little too firm for country roads in R+ mode; it gets a little bit skittish on the bumpier surface. The 350mm front brakes with Brembo four-piston callipers provide face-adjusting stopping power (I noted over 1g at times) and give confidence, as does the direct steering and balanced feel to the handling. In the dry the Type-R is an absolute rocket. The differential works well to keep the car pointing in the right direction, and corners come and go effortlessly. Again the problem comes in damp conditions, where the lack of 4WD stops you using that 310PS to full effect.
Economy – 8/10
When you consider the performance on offer, the Civic isn’t the gas-guzzler you might expect. That’s always been one of the appeals of hot hatches, and to this day remains an important factor. The Type-R has CO2 emissions of 1170g/km, putting it in VED band H. Road tax is £300 in the first year, and £230 thereafter, which is reasonable considering the Subaru WRX STi is £500 (and a whopping £885 in the first year). The Type-R features start stop, and a more efficient engine mapping when not in R+ mode to save fuel on motorway drives. Combined fuel consumption of 38.7mpg is respectable, but only similar to the likes of the Focus RS and VW Golf R, when really the lack of 4WD should really result in slightly improved fuel consumption.
Practicality – 8/10
Despite appearance of a hardcore, track-focused car the Civic is rather pleasant to live with. I tested the GT model, which has a whole host of extra features; including auto lights and wipers, dual-zone climate control, blind spot monitor, lane departure warning and forward collision warning. With the dampers in standard mode the ride is comfortable enough on the motorway, and the seats are comfortable. The boot is a generous size, and rear leg room is suitable for adults. I am disappointed that the Type-R is a four-seater. There’s enough room for a seat in the middle, and I note a fair amount of people on forums looking to swap out for a three-seat rear bench. Also causing some problems is the split rear window, which hampers visibility. However this is somewhat negated by the reversing camera.
Fun – 8/10
Saying the Civic Type-R is head-turner is somewhat understating the reality. Driving this car through Manchester city centre on a busy Saturday afternoon resulted in much pointing and camera phones being aimed at it. Every time you get behind the wheel it feels like an event, and that makes you look forward to going for a drive. And on a dry, sunny day what a drive that could be. Find the right road and the Civic will have you beaming from ear to ear. Where I feel the Civic falls down is that you never get the sense it’s sharing your enjoyment. This feels like a car that is too restrained on the road; it wants to be unleashed on the track where it belongs. It’s the age old tale: a car designed to go as fast as possible around the Nürburgring being a little too extreme for the road.
And that concludes my enjoyable week with the Civic Type-R. Anyone waiting for its return will not be disappointed. The new model is more powerful, faster, and a whole lot more bonkers than its predecessor. This sector has become somewhat crowded recently, so there a lot of alternatives out there. With many opting for 4WD systems, competition is tough. The Type-R starts at £29,995 with the GT model I tested costing £32,295 (plus £525 for metallic paint). This puts it on par with the mighty Focus RS, and that could cause problems. That being said, the Type-R has a lot of fans, and after spending a week with one it’s not hard to see why. See your local dealer for more information or log on to the Honda website
. The Civic Type-R; putting the power into “The power of dreams”.
Total Score – 40/50