A brilliant hot hatch is every single way.
When it was launched in 1990, Honda’s supercar, the NSX, had 270bhp, later 290bhp. It was, and still is, lauded as a fantastic high performance car. So it puts it into perspective, then, that Honda’s latest Civic Type-R has 305bhp under the bonnet.
The Type-R badge is a legend in itself and the new hot Civic is, unsurprisingly, the highest-performing engine in the 22-year history of the moniker. It also means that, pound-for-pound, the Civic Type-R’s performance is unmatched in front-wheel-drive hot hatch circles. It’s good for 62mph in just 5.7 seconds and its top end is an eye-watering 167mph.
Honda calls it a race car for the road and it’s not wrong. First of all, it looks mean as hell, like it’s got beef with the world. It takes that anger out on asphalt in a serious fashion. It absolutely flies, with its 2.0-litre turbocharged engine growling and roaring as it hurls you forwards with serious intention; power is immediate and brutal.
And the handling is something else – it’s like it’s on rails, going wherever you point it was buckets of grip and major purpose. This is down to the fact that the Type-R has a new four-point Adaptive Damper System.
Developed specifically for this car; it enables continuous independent control of each wheel, meaning that grip goes exactly where it’s needed at any given time. The power is transmitted through a fantastically tight gearbox – the racy kind that makes that mechanical sound every time you change gear. It’s an absolute delight.
And then there’s +R mode, which makes things even angrier – the dials on the dashboard go red to signal this, of course. The mode increases chassis and drivetrain response to intensify the driving experience even more. Engine responsiveness is heightened, with the torque map altered to be more aggressive and performance-focused. The steering is even hotter and the damping force of that new adaptive system is increased by 30 per cent for a firmer and more agile handling experience.
On the inside there are some serious bucket seats to hold you in as this beast flings you about and the only slight disappointment, maybe, is that the interior quality doesn’t quite match up to one of its key rivals, the Volkswagen Golf GTI. But it certainly more than matches its rivals – including the Ford Focus RS and the Renaultsport Megane Trophy.
Dial things down and in normal driving the Type-R is perfectly livable.
Sure, the ride is still fairly firm, but you get decent space in the back and a big boot – and we managed to get very close to the claimed 38.7mpg on the motorway cruise.
The Type-R is absolutely everything you could ever want in a hot hatch, simple as that. The difficulty is in choosing between it and its rivals in this £30,000 performance hatch segment.
1. It goes like stink.
2. It’s thoroughly engaging to drive.
3. It’s practical as well.
We don't like:
1. The interior isn’t that inspiring.
2. Nothing else.
3. Nothing else.
Most fun: There’s only one Type-R – and you’ll never get bored of it.
Most sensible: The Type-R returns reasonable figures when you go easy.
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