Honda Civic Type R
The most eagerly anticipated hot car of the year is now with us. We’ve been teased long enough…and now the time of reckoning has arrived, and we at OX magazine are amongst the very first to sample its wares.
Honda have no reservations in boasting this car’s brawn. It is, after all Honda’s ‘big comeback’ performance car, having left a hungry and loyal group of lust for high revs Honda enthusiasts in the dry for five years. Whilst no doubt a sabbatical due in part to the interim drop in sales of 200 PS + performance cars – Honda have always been very good at doing ‘fast cars’. We needed to have the Civic Type R back, Honda reckon they ’missed it’ and with this new Type R it looks like we are getting it back in a very big way.
Honda boldly state, ‘this is a race car for the road’. It certainly looks suitably aggressive, evolving as much from high speed development work as a flair for fast looking design. Yes, courtesy of computer based modelling and wind tunnel testing it has muscles, scoops and vents, making it fit for the inevitable Nurburgring (credibility) challenge. Let’s face it, unless a fast hot hatch like this has impressed everyone ‘at the ‘ring’ it doesn’t stand a chance. The Type R has gone one better by topping the Nurburgring charts by achieving the lap record for front wheel drive cars.
Two into one
There are two versions of the new Civic Type R – the ‘Type R’ and the ‘Type R GT’. The Type R has a 2.0 litre VTEC turbocharged engine, generating 310 PS and a hefty 400NM of torque. Its acceleration (0-62 mph in 5.7 secs) and top speed (167 mph) also make it faster than any standard road-going Honda ‘Type R’ car we have seen to date, but we suspect the heart of the new Type R story is deeper than this.
At a guess (before we get behind the wheel) the magic ultimately lies elsewhere, handling and dynamics to be precise which no doubt makes this car truly ‘fast’ by all accounts. Some of that‘ll be due in large part to a new four point Adaptive Damper System, developed specifically for the Type R.
The ‘ADS’ works independently on each wheel to maximise performance and, Honda claim, gives a more subtle and comfortable everyday ride. As we drive this car on road and track soon we’ll see how this works, no doubt sweetened by the touch of the magic ‘R’ button adding a greater level of handling and grip on road and track by enhancing the engine management system, stiffening up the suspension, and firming up the steering.
One thing is for sure; this new Honda Civic Type R is a very pure, no messing enthusiasts machine. The good news for us traditionalists car buffs is that it is offered in six speed manual only, and it’s a sweet gearbox too! Whats more, there’s no artificial sound effects as we often tend to get in modern sports cars these days – it’s all real.
A new dimension to the traditional high revving crescendo Type R fans have come to know and love is the addition of a Turbo charger to the traditional VTEC engine. To this observer, it succeeds in retaining the essential linear ‘power to the red line’ characteristics that are a must to a Type R driver, although some colleagues felt it doesn’t retain it as much. It revs to 7,000 rpm though which is exceptional for a turbo charged engine. Brakes come courtesy of Brembo (350mm discs) and tyres have been specially developed with Continental.
Behind the wheel
Quite surprisingly, the Civic Type R is no stripped out racer. To the contrary, it looks comfortable and well equipped without detracting from its purist sporting purpose. The seats especially give the game away – tight hugging and purposeful, they hug you for the journey ahead, and certainly focus the driver on the task. The back of the car too, with that massive rear wing behind you and the bottom of the rear window sill near shoulder height combined with those big racing seats ahead, make you feel as if you are in a high speed space capsule.
The driver’s position is, of course, the most important for this car, and ahead of you is the traditional three dial set up plus digital speedo, and a whole range of electronic read out metres for track driving. To the left is the red R button, the one you press when you get really angry.
On the road
The engine starts with the depressing of the clutch and the touch of a button, greeted by a muted burble, giving nothing away of what’s to come. Neither does that impression change when you’re on the move, apart from the car immediately feeling both firm and precise. If anything it’s confidence inspiring, and you need to bury the throttle some way to extract the adrenalin from the car. When you do it’s there, oh yes, any unsuspecting passenger will be grabbing for something to hold on to, and polite conversation will be met by silence. Yep…this is serious performance.
You can hear the tyre roar from the big 235s’, and the ride is firm, the noise under high revs boomy. Too much for some, but not the enthusiast, for it is pure fast, committed stuff, the reason why you bought the car. On the motorways it drives like a precision jet; on the twisties of a B-road third and fourth are the order of the day and the fluid gearbox gives that Italian Job magic you always wanted to replicate in real-life. Yes, you’ve got that lovely high revving capacity when you want it, matched this time by change light indicators going from green to amber to red. The highlight is the handling, it’s tenacious, brilliantly balanced, no noticeable torque steer (that had been engineered out) and the understeer is predictable enough to warn you early about approach speed.
…and on track
That kind of forward thinking is even more important on track. Honda were generous enough to put me next to Touring Car Champion Matt Neal who just played with the car like a baby on Slovakia’s Bratislava test track, kicking out the back end, rumble stripping the front end with on the limit understeer and generally being a highly controlled and skilful hooligan. Matt’s a very talented guy (ex British Touring car Champion) but the Type R was equally talented. More so, you don’t have to be a Matt Neale to explore this car’s limits safely; you just needs lots of practise, and then you’ll hunger for more.
This is no doubt a halo car for Honda targeted at the enthusiast who is looking for the ultimate road burner. Surprisingly, for a car with this level of performance it can be yours for circa £30,000.
It’s an exciting time for Honda; more is to come in the form of the new Honda Jazz and the Honda HRV, so watch this space for more...
Engine: 2.0 litre VTEC Turbo. Maximum Power: 310PS @ 6,500 rpm. Maximum Torque: 400 Nm @ 2,500-4,500 rpm. Transmission: 6 speed manual. Weight DIN Unladen: 1,378 kg. 0-62 mph: 5.7 secs. Top Speed: 167 mph. Fuel Consumption: Average 38.7 mpg