Honda has its sights firmly set on claiming hot hatch supremacy with the introduction of the new Civic Type-R. Is it worthy?
Never bring a knife to a gun fight. This adage certainly applied to the previous iteration of the (naturally aspirated) Civic Type-R, which, although it looked purposeful, was outgunned by turbocharged rivals such as the Volkswagen Golf GTI and Ford Focus ST. That’s not to say that the Type-R was a disappointment, quite the opposite actually, but it did lack that edge and as a result, it found itself eating rubber on the periphery of the hot hatch circle.
Thankfully, those days are gone and Honda has developed a new, more powerful turbocharged weapon that picks a fight with almost every hot hatch on the road, including the insanely capable (but-soon-to-be-discontinued) Renault Megane RS 275 Trophy. The tables have certainly turned, but does the new Civic Type-R offer enough clout without demanding too many compromises from its owner? We spent a week with the Civic Type-R to find some answers.
Also See: Honda Civic Type-R (2016) First Drive
The exterior appearance of the Civic Type-R leaves nothing to the imagination: it is built for speed. The large rear spoiler and diffuser provide extra downforce while at the front, the sculpted grille and bumper enhance aerodynamic performance. A by-product of all this aerodynamic paraphernalia is a vehicle that looks decisively hardcore and, as a consequence, its styling may polarise opinion. But that’s okay, because the Civic Type-R is a performance machine above all else.
And, it’s not for the faint-hearted.
To match its overt boy racer looks, the Type-R packs a mighty punch with its newly developed 2.0-litre turbocharged VTEC engine. Enthusiasts are in for a treat with 228 kW and 400 Nm powering the front wheels through a short-throw 6-speed manual transmission. The rev-happy Type-R hits the red line at 7 000 rpm with peak power attained at 6 500 rpm. Maximum torque comes on tap from only 2 500 rpm.
Using a mono-scroll turbocharger in conjunction with VTEC technology, the Civic Type-R is capable of achieving 100 kph from standstill in 5.7 seconds with a significant top speed of 270 kph. Honda claims a fuel consumption figure of 7.5 L/100km. Figures above 10 L/100km are more realistic in everyday driving.
How does it drive?
On start-up, the Civic Type-R delivers a distinct thrum from its four-pipe exhaust system, reminding you of the power that lurks beneath the bonnet. The Civic Type-R can be driven sedately with effort, but it soon becomes evident that the car is wired for spirited driving. The line between a leisurely drive and face-melting drive is a fine one and even moderate inputs from the driver results in rapid acceleration. With all that power constantly within your grasp, the car demands to be driven. To meet this end, Honda has once again delivered a superb transmission for the Type-R. With its short shift action, the driver can initiate quick gear changes under hard acceleration and the transmission is suitably matched to extract maximum performance from the engine.
The Civic Type-R offers more than enough power for the average motorist driving in the city. Overtaking and nipping through traffic is easily achieved and sufficient power is always available to the driver, regardless of what gear you find yourself in. Stopping power is initiated with large 350 mm high-performance Brembo brakes and the Civic Type-R rides on 19-inch alloy wheels shod with Type-R-specific Continental SportContact 6 tyres for maximum grip. The downfall of this setup is that the turning circle is significantly widened making manoeuvring in narrow spaces more difficult.
Ride and handling
With much of the emphasis placed on performance, we expected the Civic Type-R be heavily compromised in terms ride comfort. We were surprised, however, to find that the car offered reasonable levels of comfort and the suspension wasn’t as stiff as we initially thought. This development can be attributed to the new Adaptive Damper System fitted to the Type-R that enhances stability and suppleness of the ride.
Although a degree of torque steer is evident during hard driving, the Type-R is fitted with dual-axis strut front suspension that reduces torque steer significantly and helps the vehicle to dive into corners at speed, while inspiring utter confidence in its driver. The Honda's limited-slip differential certainly does its part... High speed cornering is something the Type-R does brilliantly and not only is the steering direct and precise, but the hot hatchbank grips the road so prodigiously that drivers will be inspired to push the their limits further with each turn behind the wheel. The Type-R handles beautifully and only the very best drivers will be able to unlock and exploit its true capability. The Type-R is therefore less of a city slicker and more of a high-performance track weapon.
For enthusiasts, the +R mode button is an exciting addition to the new Civic Type-R. With the +R mode activated, the illumination of the instrument dials changes from white to glowing red and the Type-R perks up for maximum performance. The engine becomes noticeably more responsive and the torque-mapping is altered to allow for more grunt at lower engine speeds. The steering also becomes somewhat heavier and the suspension firms up in anticipation. A host of track tools such a G-force meter and lap and sprint timers are available to the driver as well.
The downside to all of this magic is that in +R mode, the Civic Type-R becomes considerably less comfortable to drive as the suspension is simply too stiff and driving becomes more physical and tiring. For the average daily commute, +R mode makes no sense at all but for track sessions, it’s right on point.
Another standout feature on the Civic Type-R are the seats. The high-backed bucket seats are more comfortable than one might expect and the generous side bolstering ensures optimum comfort when the Honda's pushing on through the bends.
Thankfully, the Type-R balances its performance characteristics by offering a solid dose of practicality. Most performance cars don’t cater well for rear seat passengers, but the Type-R is different. Rear passengers have loads of legroom and the rear seats are comfortable too. Furthermore, the luggage space is generous at 475-litres and increases to 1 190-litres with the 60 /40 rear split seats folded down. That’s quite impressive for a performance-biased hot hatch.
In terms of safety, the Civic Type-R comes well equipped with ABS with EBD, traction control, stability control and a total of six airbags fitted as standard. Front and rear park distance control and arear-view camera is also fitted. USB and auxiliary ports and an HDMI input are also fitted for convenience.
Honda Civic Type-R price in South Africa
The Honda Civic Type-R is priced from R586 400 and is sold with a 5-year/200 000 km warranty, a 5-year / 90 000 km service plan and a 3-year AA Roadside Assistance package. Service intervals are set at 15 000 km.
The Honda Civic Type-R is a phenomenal piece of machinery and hardcore enthusiasts will appreciate what Honda has created here. It’s a thrilling and involving car to drive and although it offers decent levels of practicality and space, the Type-R is just too specialised for the average daily commute. It’s far better suited for days on the track, where it will provide endless hours of thrills. The reality is that, for the price, the Type-R doesn’t make much sense and buyers can get there performance kicks from more balanced products such as the Volkswagen Golf R, BMW M135i and Renault Megane RS Trophy 275. Is the Honda Civic Type-R a sensible buy? Maybe not, unless you have something to prove. Do we like the Type-R, however? Absolutely.
Test Team Opinion
"The Honda Civic Type R is one of the most ferocious performance hatchbacks on sale today. It's a far cry from its predecessor and is the first Type R to use a turbocharged engine. Performance is exhilarating, the suspension is rock hard and the whole package is incredibly entertaining. It'll need the safety of a racetrack to fully show off its talents and it delivers thrills like no other. I'd wish for a more meaningful engine note and a softer suspension, but this isn't really meant for comfort. A proper hands-on driving machine". – David Taylor
We Like: Excellent performance and handling, sporty interior, aggressive styling
We Don’t Like: Compromised ride quality, price
Also Look At: Volkswagen Golf R, BMW M135i, Renault Megane RS Trophy 275
Honda Civic Type-R Specs