What is it?
After all these years Honda has finally delivered a worthy successor to the oft lamented Integra Type R, complete with monster rear wing.
And it’s a bloody ripper.
We’re not huge fans of the Civic’s “interesting” styling.
Looking like a figment of Roald Dahl’s imagination, at least it stands out from the crowd and in the look at me, boy racer stakes – that’s what really counts.
Look deeper and you’ll discover a surprisingly practical, front-drive, five-door hatch, with a roomy cabin and large but shallow boot – that you could easily live with on a day to day basis.
There’s just one caveat, if you can call it that – it’s available only as a manual – there’s no auto.
What’s it cost?
There’s just one model and it’s not cheap.
But at $50,990 plus on roads, it’s certainly competitive.
If you’re in the market for one, you’d also be looking at say a Focus RS, Golf R, WRX STI, Renault Megane RS or in days gone by – the Mitsubishi EVO (sadly no longer with us).
Exalted company but we’ve driven every one of these cars and the Civic, as a complete package, is as good as any of them – maybe even better.
Standard equipment includes numbered plaque, Brembo stoppers, adaptive dampers with three drive modes, auto levelling LED headlights, front and rear parking sensors, plus black, red pinstriped 20-inch alloys with ultra low profile 245/30 Continentals.
Inside there’s 160 watt audio, digital radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a computer that displays all sorts of info like cornering G-force, plus red race style buckets with matching red belts and seats that accommodate lard arses like me.
Advanced driving aids include adaptive cruise, auto emergency braking and lane-keeping assistance.
What’s it go like?
But the bit we can’t get over is how easy it is to drive, even in manual form.
In the previous Type R you spent the whole time changing gears, chasing the sweet spot.
The latest model couldn’t be more different, remaining unfazed as we threaded our way up a series of rising hairpin turns, with as little as 1500 revs on the dial.
Trapped in a line of traffic, it didn’t start complaining until it had dropped to almost 1000 revs.
The big difference is the turbocharged engine that delivers twice as much torque and much earlier in the rev range.
The previous model that we got here was good for 148kW and 193Nm, the latter at a lofty 6000 rpm.
The 2.0-litre VTEC unit in the latest model develops 228kW of power at 6500 rpm and 400Nm of torque from 2500 rpm, with drive through the front wheels.
Acceleration is strong, with some torque squirm from the front wheels off the line that is kept in check by a trick helical diff.
More impressive is the quality of the ride and high levels of grip that it is able to maintain during fast cornering.
The Brembo stoppers bite hard and allow you to brake late and deep into corners.
Set up the turn, fire it in and hold on tight as car does all the work.
The old adage slow in fast out just doesn’t seem to apply to this car.
The close ratio 6-speed manual change is a snack to use, with rev matching in full-on performance R+ mode – designed to iron out driver inadequacies.
But watch out if you’re wearing clod hoppers because the clutch and brakes pedals are close together.
Yes, it’s front-wheel drive, but believe me that is not an issue – besides which it keeps the weight down.
Honda claims the Type R is the fastest accelerating car in the segment, with a 0-100km/h time of 5.7 seconds.
It’s also the fastest ever front-wheel drive car to lap Germany’s famous Nürburgring – with a time of 7min 43.8 secs.
Fuel consumption is rated at 8.8L/100km and it will take standard unleaded at a pinch, but 95 is recommended.
That figure is exactly what we were getting after more than 500km of testing, peaking briefly at 10.4 during an afternoon of excess.
It simply doesn’t get any better than this – at least not for the price.
What we like?
- Easy to drive
- The wife likes it (maybe yours will too)
- Short shifting manual change is user friendly, especially with rev matching
- Big wing doesn’t obscure vision through rear window
- Even with 20-inch wheels and liquorice strip tyres the ride is genuinely acceptable in comfort mode
- Excellent fuel economy and takes standard unleaded, although 95 is recommended
What we don’t?
- No spare
- No navigation (seriously?)
- Needs to be louder. Triple exhaust is too subdued inside.
- Over the shoulder vision not great
- Interior ultimately betrayed by too much hard plastic
- Clutch and brake pedal too close together
- Annoying electronic brake won’t release until you put your foot on the brake
- Rear seat adequate but claustrophobic
The bottom line?
To be honest we’d wait for the first upgrade when satellite navigation will probably be added. If you can’t wait that long grab a Type R now and enjoy the delights of a genuinely thrilling driver’s car.
Honda Civic Type R, priced from $50,990