Honda Civic Type-R
HONDA GAINS TYPE APPROVAL
In the latest Civic Type-R, Honda has produced yet another showstopper. Andy Enright reports
We’ve become accustomed to some pretty uncompromising stuff from Honda and the second generation Civic Type-R is the latest in a long line of performance sector class leaders. As well as its predecessor, the latest car follows in the footsteps of well loved Accord and Integra Type-R variants, the S2000, the NSX and at the wheel of one, enthusiasts might even hark right back to the original 1963 Honda S cars, the S360 and S500. All have one thing in common: a mile-high rev limit with an engine note that’s the closest you’ll come to a racing car on the road.
Like its predecessor, this Type R is powered by Honda’s naturally-aspirated, high-revving 2.0-litre DOHC i-VTEC engine but the unit has been significantly reworked to improve responsiveness using a new balancer shaft and drive-by-wire throttle control. VTEC variable valve timing and VTC variable inlet camshaft technology continue to underpin the engine structure. Further development of the Type R unit means more useable torque, as the switch to high-lift, long duration valve timing (the cam change) now takes place at a lower 5,200rpm, and continues all the way to 8,000rpm. So that screaming, high rpm VTEC range is broader and more accessible.
To mark the entry to this ‘power band’ a clever i-VTEC indicator just to the right of the digital speedometer is illuminated once the revs rise above 5,200rpm. Maximum power is now 201PS, reached at 8,000rpm (the old car managed 200PS at 7,400rpm) and this Type-R should feel more responsive generally, while improved aerodynamics ensure that it cuts through the air more cleanly. Slightly lower gearing compensates for a small increase in kerb weight. Sixty from rest occupies just 6.6 seconds on the way to 146mph.
"The latest Type-R is unashamedly extreme"
That puts this Honda in pole position to combat the big hitters in the GTi hot hatch sector, principally the Renaultsport Clio 197, Vauxhall’s Astra VXR and Ford’s Focus ST. Against these rivals, the Honda offers better build quality, a stronger product image and likely lower depreciation. Plus it’s one of the few hot hatches that you wouldn’t bat an eyelid flogging round a circuit for a weekend’s trackday fun.
The suspension is based on the Civic Type-S, already fine-tuned for sharper chassis dynamics, and the Type R takes those modifications to the next level. Like the Type S, its rear track is 20mm wider than that of the 5-door model, but otherwise damper, bush and spring characteristics are all unique to Type R. Broad 225/40 ZR18 tyres provide added grip, while a 15mm reduction in ride height further reduces body roll. Firmer steering, a quicker ratio and stiffer steering box mountings all provide pin-sharp responses to steering wheel input, while the fuel tank’s central location beneath the cabin floor helps to lower the centre of gravity and reduces the body’s inertia moment.
The Type R also builds on the Civic’s body structure – one of the stiffest in the C-sector – and that rigidity plays a key role in the responsive chassis dynamics. Extra strengthening has been introduced into the floor cross member just ahead of the central fuel tank, around the upper front suspension mountings, while the lower cross member (just ahead of the engine bay) provides greater rigidity. The overall result is a more predictable chassis, with levels of responsiveness and stability that are some of the best in class. At the same time, the damper settings deliver enhanced ride comfort, so the Type R is easier to use in all conditions and on all surfaces.
The styling is another major plus. Seven-spoke 18-inch alloy wheels are fitted as standard and – helped by the car’s low ride height – these tuck neatly under the body coloured arches. The deep front spoiler incorporates a larger air intake to channel air to the induction system, as well as triangular foglamps. There’s no missing the distinct body-coloured tailgate rear spoiler, which follows the kick-up line from the rear quarter windows, and provides added down-force. It helps if you like mesh because there’s a whole lot of it. Black mesh inserts sit in the front grille and the triangular cutouts where the fog lights would normally sit. The rear end also features mesh in the underbumper section.
The profile of the car looks similar to the five-door and it’s only after a second glance that you realise that the razor-thin rear door shutline and concealed handle are absent. If there’s a body shape that better integrates three and five door body styles than this latest Civic, I’ve yet to see it. Inside, it’s all about the driving experience. Front seats are racing-style buckets with large black Alcantara bolsters and red stitching, red fabric seat cushions and backs. The seat bench in the back repeats the same colour combination.
The effective Dual Zone, two tier dash – common to other Civic models – also features but with red illuminated dials set off by gun-metal effect switch panels on either side of the central display. The driver grips a black, leather-covered steering wheel with red stitching and central ‘H’ logo, while the gear shift knob with aluminium-finish has a black boot with red stitching. And, to make each Type R even more exclusive, a plaque engraved with the car’s unique serial number is placed just ahead of the gear lever.
Also available is a fully-equipped GT version, with additional features such as cruise control, dual zone air conditioning, fog lights, automatic lights and wipers and curtain SRS bags. A voice-activated, state-of-the-art navigation system is offered as an option.
Overall? Well, this Type-R is a worthy successor to the original – and that’s saying something. It’s a car you must consider if you’re shopping for the ultimate hot hatch. Many will see this car as being exactly that.