Honda Civic 2.0 VTEC Turbo Type R GT
The new Civic Type R GT is every bit as bonkers as the last car; possibly even a little bit more mad looking. The performance is just as electric, and the 6-speed manual gearbox is even more engaging thanks to rev matching technology. But with front-wheel drive it’s hard to get the power down in anything other than the bone dry. And, for some unknown reason, the Civic Type R is only a 4-seater.
When we tested the previous Civic Type R, we noted that it was one of the more extreme-looking hot hatches. This new model has built on that foundation, and the result is a car that is even more bonkers than the one it replaces.
Before we go on to talk about the extreme features, it is worth pointing out one significant statement from the brochure. “… the muscular shape is as dramatic as it is functional.”
The key word is “functional” because the last car was criticised (including by us) for having some superficial styling features, so Honda has made a point of adding functionality. That’s progress.
At the front, it’s vents galore. From the large bonnet scoop, to the brake cooling ducts in the bumper, it certainly is functional. And the angles on the front bumper are so harsh and blunt. The Civic Type R is muscular, in-your-face and comes with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. The carbon-effect bumper lip has a racing feel to it.
To the side, the skirts are also finished in fake-carbon with red accent. The 20-inch black alloys also feature a red pinstripe. Their open design allows you to see the 350mm discs and red Brembo calipers in all their glory.
Move around to the back, where the Civic Type R is at its most bonkers. The rear bumper is as angular as the front. In the centre, are three (yes, three) exhaust pipes. There’s a rear spoiler that would make a Subaru WRX STi weep in a corner.
And in case one spoiler wasn’t enough (is it not enough?) there are two pointy wings, four aero bumps and a sharkfin aerial on the roof. But don’t worry, I’m sure it’s all functional…
Whilst the exterior of the Civic Type R is a solid 10 on the extremity scale, the interior doesn’t quite reach the same heights.
Open the front door and you are greeted by big, red bucket seats. Brandishing the Type R logo, they are a fitting centrepiece for the Civic’s cabin. Red seatbelts are equally sporty.
The steering wheel is ever-so-slightly flat-bottomed, and finished in red and black leather. Look through it and you will spot the digital instrument cluster. Switch on the ignition and they are a nice, fresh white. Hit the R+ button and they instantly glow red.
The cluster itself is far from an Audi Virtual Cockpit, but you can select from different performance-based features. There’s a G-force meter, and even shift lights well, because hot hatch.
There are lashings of alcantara in the cabin, which creates a racing feel. Red stitching and trim accents match the detailing on the exterior, as does the carbon-effect finisher.
The plastics in the Civic are OK, but the interior doesn’t have the same premium feel as the likes of the Audi S3. Having said that the aluminium gear knob is a masterpiece.
There are two main problems with the interior of the Type R, aside from the odd scratchy plastic. The first is the centre console.
It’s essentially a hole in the centre, with no cover. The armrest slides out slightly, but not enough to cover it. So you end up with an unsightly, but useful, storage compartment.
The other problem is the rear seats. For all the red, sportiness of the front buckets, the rear seats are a plain black bench. Nondescript. They are made even more obviously boring by the carbon-effect back of the front seats.
The new Civic Type R develops an impressive 320PS from its 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine. That’s an improvement of 10PS over the previous model. Every little helps…
Torque remains the same at 400Nm, which is available from just 2,500rpm. This Civic Type R is very driveable, with plenty of low-end grunt. A far cry from the high-revving naturally-aspirated VTECs of yesteryear.
Power is sent to the front wheels only, through a 6-speed manual with a limited-slip differential. The diff has its work cut out, trying to harness that amount of power. In the most part it does ok; the Type R is ferociously fast in the dry.
Off the line, the Civic is never going to be as fast as its 4WD rivals; 0-62mph takes 5.8 seconds. That’s somewhat leisurely when compared to the sub-5 seconds of the Golf R, Focus RS, S3 and BMW M140i. Top speed is an impressive (but useless) 169mph.
The 6-speed manual gearbox has rev matching; one of our favourite features in a car. This is a clever bit of electronic wizardry. As you go for a lower gear, the engine revs increase before you complete the shift, resulting in a delectably smooth shift. Even the harshest, most aggressive downshifts are completed with race-like precision, which is both satisfying and engaging for the driver.
What’s sadly less satisfying is the audible experience. The engine note is a little harsh, and there’s no clever symposer to enhance its entry into the cabin. Worse still, none of those three exhausts make any interesting noise.
For a car with such a striking appearance, it just doesn’t have the bark to match. A precise and decisive rasp would have given the Civic Type R some proper character. Come on, Honda.
The G-force meter on the dashboard comes in handy when trying to evaluate handling prowess. For example, those huge Brembo brakes can pull over 1g of stopping force. Wow.
In the dry, the grip level is astounding. You can use all the Type R’s 320PS, with the limited-slip differential ensuring none of it is scrubbed away.
The turn-in is razor sharp, with pin-point accuracy. Movements of the steering wheel translate to the nose darting precisely where you tell it to. At this point you’ll be glad the front seats are sufficiently bolstered to keep you firmly in position.
The adaptive dampers go from modestly sporty in ‘Comfort’ mode, to bone-jarringly firm in ‘R+’ mode. You’ll want R+ mode for enhanced throttle response and steering weight.
One of our qualms was the inability to independently control aspects of the drive mode. An ‘R Custom’ mode, so to speak. Because on bumpier B roads the stiff dampers result in a lack of composure, when a more forgiving setting would give the driver confidence.
Other than that, the only real issue comes when the road isn’t dry. At which point you realise just how much power 320PS is for the front wheels to deal with. Axle tramp is one thing, but the third-gear wheelspin is as impressive as it is frustrating: knowing that power is being wasted.
Honda developed the Civic Type R at the Nürburgring, where it was some seven seconds faster than its predecessor. It’s not hard to believe either; on a dry track I would bet the Civic could have a good scrap with its rivals.
The bottom line though, is that life in Britain isn’t a dry track. It’s often damp, and miserable. And that lends itself to the 4WD setup donned by several rivals.
For all the flaws of a front-wheel drive setup in this situation, you will be pleased when it comes to fuel consumption. It is, without doubt, a more fuel-efficient powertrain. But don’t underestimate the likes of the Golf R, with its clever adaptive 4WD system and efficient DSG gearbox.
On a combined cycle, the Civic Type R GT boasts 36.7mpg. Whilst not bad for a hot hatch with such performance capability, it’s not as good as a Golf R DSG’s 40.0mpg…
Realistically, you get what you give with the Civic Type R. Be gentle and considerate with the throttle pedal, and you’ll see a good return. Drive like a hooligan, and 36.7mpg will be nothing but a pipe dream.
CO2 emissions for the GT are 176g/km. That equates to a first year VED of £830, which is absorbed into the purchase price. Subsequent years’ are the fixed £140. With a list price far below £40,000, there’s no danger of the VED surcharge.
Despite a hardcore appearance, the Civic Type R is sensible in ways. It features start/stop technology, which is quite a grown up thing. There’s also a comfort drive mode, which eases the throttle response, and ensures the GT is anything but hardcore on a long motorway drive.
Despite the flared arches, big spoilers and oversized alloy wheels, hot hatches need to be practical. First and foremost, they are family cars. So how does the Civic Type R GT perform once you’re out of ‘R+’ mode, heading to the local shops?
The boot is a reasonable size, at 420 litres. What isn’t reasonable? The parcel shelf. It pulls across from one side to the other, and just looks a bit naff. On the plus side, it’s lightweight and doesn’t need removing from the car when carrying bigger loads.
The biggest downside of the Civic Type R is that it is only a four-seater. We’re not entirely sure why, but it kind of dents the image of a practical family car. Put simply: if you have three children, look elsewhere.
It’s a shame, because you could quite easily live with the Honda Civic Type R. In comfort mode it’s forgiving and calm. So you can tootle round town at low speeds with no issue.
Despite the wide arches and pointy bumpers, car parks weren’t a problem either. Front and rear parking sensors, and a reversing camera, help alleviate any fears of a scrape.
Another pleasant surprise is the rear visibility. You’d be forgiven for thinking that outrageous rear spoiler would render the rear window useless. Actually, it is designed in such a way that it frames the rear window perfectly, so is no hindrance at all.
In typical Japanese style, the Civic Type R is generously equipped. The only optional extras are special colours and exterior styling features; mostly carbon fibre in nature.
Standard equipment includes LED headlights, drive mode select with adaptive dampers, auto lights and wipers and privacy glass.
A DAB tuner and Bluetooth audio ensures you can have your favourite music whenever and wherever. For convenience, there’s keyless entry and go, adaptive cruise control and heated front seats.
Let’s not forget safety either; the Civic Type R has plenty of the latest technology. You get forward collision warning with emergency braking, lane departure warning with lane keep assist and road departure mitigation.
The Type R ‘GT’ adds further equipment in the form of blind spot monitoring system, dual-zone climate control, front and rear parking sensors, electric folding door mirrors, wireless charging and Garmin navigation.
You’ll notice the carbon-effect exterior styling, which is actually quite convincing. In particular the side skirts are brilliant. Whether this would look less convincing if you purchased the carbon exterior pack, where certain bits become real carbon fibre, remains to be seen.
You can also purchase a carbon interior pack, if carbon fibre is your thing. Or if you’re more into ambiance and illumination, then consider the red illumination pack. It brings some additional anger to the interior, filling the cabin with ambient red lighting.
Value For Money
When writing these reviews, it’s alarming how many cars are now around the £40,000 mark. Even the Audi Q2 was up there. As was the XC40. So in a world where you don’t seem to get as much for your money, the Civic Type R is a spot of light refreshment.
The ‘regular’ Type R without the extra goodies, starts at £31,525. For the Civic Type R GT, that rises slightly to £33,525. Throw in the premium paint, and our test car was £34,050.
All things considered, that’s not bad value at all. There is no doubting the performance capabilities of this car. In the dry, it is simply blistering.
Take a step back, and you can appreciate the amount of mechanical equipment you get for your money. The adaptive dampers, limited-slip differential and Brembo four-piston front brakes don’t come cheap.
So there you have it. Taken in its entirety, the Honda Civic Type R GT is great value for money. But, we can’t simply stop there, because the hot hatch market is hotly contested.
Even just sticking to the 300PS-plus club you have the Ford Focus RS, VW Golf R, Seat Leon Cupra, BMW M140i and Audi S3. Most of these have 4WD systems, bar the BMW which has rear-wheel drive.
Nevertheless, all are quicker 0-62 than the Honda, some by a full second. So think carefully when making your choice.
Facts and Figures
|2.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbocharged petrol
|320PS at 6,500rpm
|400Nm at 2,500-4,500rpm
|6-speed manual gearbox, front-wheel drive with limited-slip differential
|Fuel tank size
|36.7 mpg, combined cycle
|Price as tested