A big wing and loud exhaust, but plenty of room for the family: Honda's Civic Type R is an unapologetic hot hatch, but is it too extreme to use every day?
- Honda's £30,000 no-holds-barred hot hatch put to the test for one week
- The Type R boasts 306bhp, 0-62mph in 5.7 secs and a 167mph top speed
- It could be a sound investment - find out why we expect to see future values rise
Any motoring fan with red blood in their veins will know all about the Honda Civic Type R. The new fourth-generation model has big shoes to fill.
The spec of the new car has all the right Type R ingredients: adaptive suspension, mechanical limited-slip differential, and a mighty 306bhp pouring through to the front wheels from the turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine.
But best of all is its properly rambunctious attitude. It’s like a touring car racer that’s been slightly civilised for the public highway. But is that too much to live with?
There's nothing reserved about the Civic Type R. It fits the 'hot hatchback' description closer than any other car on sale today
Focused looks translate directly to on-road performance
If you want relaxing and quiet, look elsewhere. If you like the idea of feeling like you’re on a daredevil funfair ride every time you get in, step this way.
There are other cars that can offer a similarly track-focused experience – the rear-wheel drive BMW M135i, the four-wheel-drive Volkswagen Golf R and Ford Focus RS, and the all-but-defunct Renaultsport Megane 275 Trophy – but there’s something raw-edged and raspy about the Honda that gives it a unique appeal.
That’s actually quite an achievement given that it’s a turbo motor.
Turbocharging was an interesting challenge for Honda - their performance cars have traditionally been powered by non-turbo high-revving engines, but they’ve managed to instil real character into the Type R’s 2.0-litre unit.
As expected, low-rev urge is slightly limp but as soon as the turbo is spinning it runs hard and fast to the redline.
The beautifully crisp and punchy high-set gearshift zips you through the six ratios with none of the old VTEC’s trademark surge. Some fans may regret that, but they won’t have any issues with the relentless acceleration that’s on offer.
With five doors and a big boot, the Honda Civic Type R has the credentials to be an everyday family car
Despite the practical features, the performance Civic is unquestionably a hot hatch. Just look at the enormous grille, wide skirts, big wheel arches and colossal rear wing
Honda has performed similar magic on the handling.
In its standard mode it has sharp turn-in and progressive, nicely weighted steering.
Now switch into ‘R+’ mode to harden up the dampers and hone the pedal and steering responses. Body lean is all but banished. The car feels almost manically agile, with useful side orders of massive grip and clawing traction.
The ride might be an issue for some owners who plan on using the Type R as an everyday vehicle, though.
The suspension has two settings: hard and harder. Every bump and bobble will come through the car’s body and into yours. Low speed bumps aren’t too taxing but be prepared to react quickly when you hit a mid-corner imperfection at more serious speeds.
This need to be constantly aware is of course one of the things that make a Type R so much fun, but when you throw in the ever-present exhaust and road noise there’s no getting away from the fact that the Type R can wear you down on long trips.
As standard, the Civic Type R costs from £30,000. The higher-spec GT model is just over £2,000 more expnesive
Performance stats are impressive: 0-to-62mph in 5.7 seconds and a top speed of 167mph - not bad for a car costing £30k with enough boot space to carry luggage for a two-week holiday
Comfort, practicality and refinement, in small doses
At least your body will be well looked after by deep bucket seats that work as well on the track as they do on the road.
You need those those thick side bolsters to clamp you into place when the car is generating the sort of cornering forces it’s capable of. They provide decent levels of adjustment and lumbar support too.
Less praiseworthy is the ergonomically peculiar dash inherited from the standard Civic.
There are no less than three screens trying to show the driver information at the same time, and shorter people won’t be able to see much of the speedo over the top of the steering wheel.
The centre-dash touchscreen is the main display and is fairly responsive once you’ve worked it out. Forwards visibility is reasonable but pretty shocking in the other direction.
The dashboard is over-complicated and the cabin isn't as well trimmed as some rivals
The suspension is so firm that you'll be putting the pin-sharp handling to the test at all times to avoid potholes
Leather is used for the dash-top, steering wheel and those parts of the seats that aren’t Alcantara. That and the glossy trim inserts add a touch of class, but many of the plastic panels elsewhere in the cabin look a bit below the standard you might expect from a £30k car. The BMW M135i and VW Golf R are way ahead in terms of cabin quality.
Although the Civic is a four-seater (carrying a fifth would be illegal), the space available is very much biased in favour of those in the front and, strangely, of your luggage.
Headroom in the rear is quite limited. On the positive side you can split-fold the rear seats to complement that huge boot.
Unfortunately the Type R hasn’t inherited the regular Civic’s useful variable-height boot floor: all you get is a rather impractical open well.
The Civic Type R does have a good roster of standard equipment though, with DAB, USB input, Bluetooth handsfree and audio streaming, cruise control, automatic emergency braking and rear parking sensors.
Adding sat-nav will require you to stump up a considerable sum of money for the GT model, but you will get auto lights and wipers, lane-departure and blind spot warnings, and adaptive cruise control as part of that GT package.
Rubber-churning speed will eat at your running costs
Tyre abusing could become expensive
Well, if you drive it like you stole it you’ll burn through tyres at quite a rate.
Real-world average fuel consumption is comparable to rivals and reasonable at 31.8mpg, with a company car tax-friendly CO2 rating.
The group 33 insurance rating is lower than most of the Type R’s performance equals, but its depreciation is likely to be slightly higher.
Fixed-price servicing deals can cover the car for up to five years, with excellent PCP finance deals starting at around £299 per month.
The last bit of good news? It’s a Honda, a marque with a fine reliability reputation. Indeed, Honda beat all opposition in What Car?’s 2015 used car reliability survey.
Would we have one as an everyday car?
In short, no. But that's not saying we haven't got a soft spot for this rampaging road car.
Of all the compromises you'd have to live with it's the wincingly jarring ride quality that's a step too far for us and would almost certainly be the primary complaint from your passengers.
But Honda should be saluted for giving us the Type R in this pure, unashamed hot hatch form.
While other rivals have watered down their offerings to make them more appealing as all-purpose motors, the Civic Type R is one of the most extreme example of the term 'hot hatchback' you're going to get from a dealer today, especially in these modern times of emissions regulations and pedestrian safety styling requirements.
Quad exhausts and an F1-style rear diffuser - this is a no-holds-barred hot hatchback
This fourth generation Civic Type R will only be built for two years, so it could become collectible in the future
If you're someone who likes their wheel arches flared, spoilers massive and exhaust outlets expansive, this is the car for you.
And it could well be a sound investment, because not many - by mass-production standards - will be made.
That's because the tenth generation Civic is under construction in Swindon as we speak, and a fifth-gen Type R version will arrive in 2017. That means the life cycle of this model will be just two years.
With it's no-holds-barred approach, it could be one of the last unmitigated hot hatches ever made - that would be a fairly conclusive formula to guarantee rising values in the future.
HONDA CIVIC TYPE R: FACTS & FIGURES
Price: £30,000 (Type R GT: £32,300)
Engine: 1,996cc 4-cyl turbo
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Power (bhp): 306@6,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 295@2,500-4,500rpm
0-62mph: 5.7 seconds
Top speed: 167mph
Weight: 1,382kg (Honda figure with a full tank)
MPG: 38.7mpg (claimed)
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