Honda Civic Hatchback 2.0 VTEC Turbo Type-R GT
Many of the bigger hot hatches have automatic gearboxes and all-wheel drive nowadays. The Civic Type-R sticks to its guns with 320PS, manual gearbox and front-wheel drive. It may not be as fast from 0-62mph as some rivals on paper, but on the road it’s a different story. There’s a great degree of driver engagement, and the grip level on dry roads is off the scale. This is still one of my favourite cars to drive.
The exterior styling of the Honda Civic Type-R is one of the most dividing I have ever experienced. From speaking to people during my week with the car the reaction was either absolute hatred, or fan-boy level of adoration.
To be fair, that’s completely understandable. There is just nothing subtle or understated about this car. Not least when finished in Racing Blue Pearl – this thing stands out a mile. So if you’re looking to inconspicuously go about your business, this isn’t the car for you.
The front end is aggressive and purposeful from every angle. There are several vents, from the bonnet to the bumper edges, designed to guide air to help cool the engine and brakes. The bumper is wide and muscular, and the gloss black detailing creates a striking image in the rear-view mirror of other motorists. A carbon-effect lower skirt with red pinstripe is a nice sporty flourish.
To the side you get gloss black 20-inch alloy wheels with a red pinstripe around the outer edge. The side skirts are the same carbon effect and red pinstripe as the front skirt, and there is a significant flare to the front wheel arch.
At the back there is lots going on. There is a rather large rear wing, but in addition there are also two fins at either edge of the roof, with smaller ridges in between. How much benefit they bring – aerodynamically-speaking – is not clear, but they do look impressive.
The rear bumper is as aggressive as the front, with sharp edges and a triple exhaust in the middle. Not quite sure why there are three pipes, but it certainly makes the Type-R stand out. There is also a carbon effect skirt and red pinstripe at the back, which unifies the styling from every angle.
The lack of subtlety continues inside the Civic Type-R, too. Before you even open the door to climb in, you spot the very large, very red front seats. They are inviting, with huge side and leg bolsters that hold you firmly in place. What’s more, the alcantara finish is wonderfully sporty, and much more visually impressive than leather.
There’s more alcantara in the cabin – with the centre console, gear gaiter and steering wheel wrapped in the stuff. Whilst there may be questions about how an alcantara steering wheel will wear over time, there is no other material which feels as good to grip for spirited driving.
Also good to hold is the teardrop-shaped aluminium gear knob. It has a heaviness to it that feels good in the hand. Just watch out in the winter months as it gets very, very cold!
As would be expected in a Honda, the materials used in the cabin are of a high quality. The plastics are softer-touch, and these are complimented by a carbon-effect finisher and red pinstripe on the dashboard. It marries the exterior styling with the cabin, bringing that sportiness inside.
The infotainment display is neatly incorporated into the dashboard, although the interface isn’t the slickest-looking. It still feels a little aftermarket.
There’s not a great deal to say about the instrument cluster either. There is a very large rev counter with a digital speed readout and multifunction display in the centre, in which you can display a variety of dials and gauges. You also get shift lights which are cool.
But on the whole it is just nowhere near as aesthetically-pleasing as the virtual cockpits available from the likes of Seat, Audi and VW. But we can let the Honda off given the overall feeling in the cabin.
Powering the Honda Civic Type-R is a 2.0-litre, turbocharged VTEC petrol engine. Whilst purists would say that the turbo unit will never be as exciting as the older, higher-revving naturally-aspirated one; there is no denying that this is a seriously powerful engine.
With a maximum power of 320PS at 6,500rpm and peak torque of 400Nm available from as low as 2,500rpm the Civic Type-R is properly fast. 0-62mph takes 5.8 seconds, and the top speed is 168mph.
Now I know, on paper, 5.8 seconds doesn’t sound especially quick when compared to the likes of the Seat Leon Cupra 300 4DRIVE, which will do it in 5.2 seconds. But all of these VW/Audi group cars have all-wheel drive, and DSG gearboxes which include a launch programme. So inevitably they will be quicker in a straight-up 0-62mph sprint.
In reality, the Civic Type-R is blisteringly quick. The acceleration as you climb up the gears doesn’t let up. And you realise how much power this car has when the road is damp, or the tyres are cold. Because the Type-R will still be spinning its wheels in third gear.
The soundtrack is not the most exciting, but with the fakery of Active Sound Control you get a bit of atmospheric rumble in the cabin. It’s convincing enough for me, so there are no complaints.
There are three drive modes in the Type-R; Comfort, Normal and R+. These change characteristics such as throttle response, damping and steering weight. In the most hardcore R+ mode the Civic feels like dog pulling at its lead, eager to run off. It is incredibly lively, and this only enhances the sensation of speed.
Given how the Civic Type-R looks, nobody in their right mind would expect this car to have a supple and comfortable ride. It looks like spends its life on the track, and the painted-on 245/30/ZR20 tyres offer little in the way of bump absorption.
Nevertheless, you can’t knock the Honda for its efforts. In Comfort mode the steering is lighter, and the damping is on the softest setting available. It’s no Bentley, but it is tolerable on the motorway, helped by those comfortable bucket seats.
In R+ mode the car reacts to every little bump and undulation of the tarmac. I reckon in this mode running over a marble could potentially shatter your spine. But then a hardcore ride is exactly what you expect of this car.
Plus, the cornering ability with the firm setup is astounding. The Civic Type-R will corner at speeds you would not think possible. In the dry, with warm tyres and some driver bravery, you can take every corner at least 10mph than you’d expect would be safe.
The limited-slip differential works tremendously to tuck the front end in to the apex, and that 2.0-litre VTEC turbo launches you out of the other side like a maniac. The traction control is quite liberal – there is no excessive axle tramp – but I found this car most engaging with the electronic aids off, allowing you to become more in sync with the mechanics.
Rev-matching technology means that even the most aggressive downshifting is smooth, whilst the Brembo braking system with 4-pot front calipers is more than capable of ripping your face off.
There are two downsides with the Type-R. Firstly, it is hard to get the power down when wet and slippery. Secondly, R+ mode can be a little too firm and skittish for bumpier B-roads.
How good the fuel consumption on the Civic Type-R is depends largely on how you drive it. Stick to Comfort mode and take it easy, and you will be able to achieve the quoted combined 33.2mpg on the WLTP cycle. Certainly on gentler motorway stints this figure is achievable, if not beatable.
But let that VTEC Turbo run free and you will see diminishing figures. Go for a good A-road blast and expect a figure in the low-20s. That being said, any car with this level of power will have the ability to empty its tank should you drive like a maniac. So the Type-R is by no means on its own.
CO2 emissions, again on the WLTP cycle, are 193g/km. That means your first-year VED will cost £1,345. Since this is absorbed into the on-the-road price of the car it is less of an issue. Subsequent VED will be charged at the standard rate; currently £155.
The Type-R GT should come in under £40,000 even with an optional extra or two, so you needn’t worry about the VED surcharge. That will help to keep the ongoing running costs of the Type-R down.
I don’t expect that many people choose a Civic Type-R as a company car. Hardly surprising either, given that it would attract a Benefit-in-Kind charge of 37%, which is the maximum possible.
How well the Civic Type-R would perform in your day-to-day life, or if it would work at all for that matter, will depend entirely on what you need it to do.
The biggest drawback that I can see is that the rear bench, despite being the same size as in other Civic trims, only has two seatbelts. And whilst traveling in the middle seat is never the most pleasant, the ability to do so is something that some people simply require. If you have a family of two adults and three children, you’d have to pick your least favourite to stay at home. And that’s frowned upon.
But if you don’t need rear seats often, then having only two will be of little concern. In fact, it may mean that rear-seat passengers are actually more comfortable. Even more so if Honda had fitted a centre armrest to the rear, which it didn’t.
Boot space isn’t an issue – the 420 litres offered in the Type-R is more than enough for your shopping backs or a couple of suitcases. Plus you wouldn’t want to overload it anyway – the kerb weight of 1,380kg is a little lighter than rivals, so best to keep it that way!
Despite looking like it belongs on a race track, the Civic Type-R is actually a good car to live with. If you stick to comfort mode around town and on the motorway it is comfortable enough, and the engine has ample torque to make slow-speed driving effortless. The brakes behave themselves at low speed and the diff is well-mannered so it’s not overly grabby when using full steering lock.
Bottom line; there are more family-friendly hot hatches. But considering the Type-R is at the extreme end of its segment; it does very well indeed.
There are three models in the Civic Type-R line-up. There is the ‘regular’ Type-R. Then there is the Type-R Sport Line, which is a little bit like a toned-down version: it doesn’t have the enormous rear wing, nor the bright red seats. Lastly there is the Type-R GT which is being tested here.
All models boast a generous standard specification. Creature comforts include keyless entry and go, climate control, adaptive cruise control, auto lights and wipers, heated electrically-adjustable door mirrors and a rear-view camera.
On the safety front you get Brake Assist, Vehicle Stability Assist, Deflation Warning System, Collision Mitigation Braking System, Lane Keeping Assist, Lane Departure Warning, Road Departure Mitigation, Intelligent Speed Limiter, Intelligent-Adaptive Cruise Control and Traffic Sign Recognition. That really is comprehensive, and has helped ensure the Civic Type-R achieves a 5-star Euro NCAP rating.
Infotainment comes in the form of Honda CONNECT with 7-inch touchscreen display. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, as are DAB digital radio, Bluetooth Connectivity and USB input.
Unfortunately the interface feels a little dated now. As does the instrument cluster. I also find the preset drive modes a little restrictive – there should be a ‘custom’ one like you get on VW/Audi Group vehicles. It would be great to be able to alter the damping, steering and throttle response to find the perfect setup.
Sport Line and GT models get an enhanced specification which includes Blind Spot Information with Cross Traffic Monitor, a high-power 11-speaker setup, wireless charging pad for your telephone, front and rear parking sensors, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, electrically-folding door mirrors and Garmin navigation on the Honda CONNECT system.
The only options available across the range are more stylistic – such as the carbon exterior styling pack, or the red ambient lighting pack.
Value For Money
The hot hatch segment is bursting with choices these days, with a wide variety of cars. That can make it difficult to compare like-for-like in looking at value.
It wouldn’t necessarily be fair, for example, to compare the Honda Civic Type-R GT to the Volkswagen Golf R. Yes, they have similar power, but the Honda is strictly manual and front-wheel drive whereas the Golf is strictly automatic and all-wheel drive. They are different beasts.
So let’s look at the Civic Type-R on its own for the time being. Prices start at £34,415 for the Type-R. The Sport Line costs from £35,400 and the GT from £36,415.
Rallye Red is the standard paint colour. All other colours are £550, with the exception of the Racing Blue Pearl you see here, which is £850.
There is an optional Carbon Exterior Pack. It costs £3,660 and includes Carbon Mirror Caps, Carbon B-Pillar Decorations, the Carbon Wing Spoiler and the Carbon Rear Diffuser Decoration. Personally, I’d save the money – the standard outfit has enough kerb appeal!
Moving to the inside you have two options. First, the Carbon Interior Pack; comprising Carbon Interior Panels and the Carbon Doorstep Garnishes. It costs £1,865 and again, I just can’t see the value in it. Strangely, the configurator doesn’t allow both the Carbon Interior Pack and Carbon Exterior Pack to be specified together, which makes little sense.
The second option is the Red Illumination Pack, which includes Red Front Ambient Footlight, Illuminated Doorstep Garnishes and Red Lining Illuminations. I like the idea of this pack, but wouldn’t want to pay £880 for the effect.
The Civic Type-R is still one of the best front-wheel drive hot hatches around, and will put a smile on your face. Guaranteed. Consider the Hyundai i30 N Performance for a cheaper alternative.
Facts and Figures
|Engine||2.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbocharged petrol|
|Max power||320PS at 6,500rpm|
|Max torque||400Nm at 2,500 – 4,500rpm|
|Drivetrain||6-speed manual transmission, front-wheel drive with limited-slip differential|
|Fuel tank size||46 litres|
|Fuel consumption||33.2 mpg combined, WLTP|
|CO2 emissions||193 g/km WLTP|
|Towing capacity||N/A braked / N/A unbraked|
|Luggage capacity||420 litres|
|NCAP rating||5 stars|
|Price as tested||£37,265|