Japan’s firebrand Civic could be the ultimate front-drive track day weapon

Our Verdict

Honda Civic Type-R
Honda's new Civic Type R is powered by a 306bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged four cylinder engine

Probably the most capable front-wheel-drive car in production today, with only limited edition specials getting close

What is it?

A faster, sharper, more hardcore Honda Civic Type-R, made in Japan, for the Japanese. So why is Autocar reviewing it? Because importer Ian Litchfield is selling them in the UK. And if you want a real, uncompromised, spine-tingling Civic Type-R, this one is worth serious consideration.

First things first – why do we need this car? Well, for all its visual and aural sensationalism, the UK Civic Type-R has left more than a few die-hard hot hatch aficionados unsatisfied. As a development strategy, adding one solitary horsepower, offsetting that power upgrade with a helping of extra weight, and opting for a torsion beam rear axle over independent springs hasn’t gone down too well, and there’s a real appetite among those who loved the last ‘CTR’ for something a bit sharper.

The options for those “Hondamentalists” have until now been severely limited. They run like this. Option a) go to JAS Motorsport, the firm that runs Honda’s works racing and rallying teams, and buy a Group R3 competition car, or b) wait for the boys at Swindon to pull their fingers out and offer us the much-mooted, full fat, Type-RR.

Well, allow Autocar to formerly introduce you to option c), the shark-nosed bitumen-botherer pictured above.

What’s it like?

This car’s specification alone is a work worthy of some considerable awe; if you own a new British Type-R, you might not want to read it. This is a four-door, so it’s inherently stiffer than the hatch; half as stiff again, come to mention it, than the highly rated Integra Type-R. But it’s also light; 1250kg, says Honda, making it 83kg lighter than the Brit Type-R we weighed six months ago.

At each corner there is an independently suspended, lightweight, 18in white alloy wheel and a mighty Brembo brake. Feeding drive to the front wheels is a helical limited-slip differential. And under the bonnet is a version of Honda’s 2.0-litre i-VTEC four-pot engine, with a throttle body, intake manifold and induction system you won’t find on the Brit version, pumping out 222bhp at 8000rpm. Or so Honda says; the first one Litchfield got in his workshop was actually knocking out 238bhp at 8600rpm.

Everything about the Japanese CTR is that bit louder, richer, more focused and more vivid than its British cousin – even the brighter red fabric of the seats. Press the starter button, blip the throttle, and the VTEC engine’s buzz and chatter filters almost undiminished into the cabin; there’s no sound deadening insulation here.

Slot the gear lever into first, potter out onto the road, and get ready for shock number two; this Type-R is even more stiffly sprung than ours. On aggressive track day rubber, it rides with almost zero compliance, and has a brutal disdain for troughs and bumps in the road.

But when you summon the courage to really drive it, you’ll find nothing – not acceleration, stopping power, traction, steering precision or body control – wanting. It might be a front-driver, but this car has the capacity to scrabble around and out of corners with incredible speed and surefootedness, yet it has none of the alarming snap-oversteer characteristics of the old Integra.

It steers more precisely and fluently than the Brit Type-R too, thanks to hydraulic rather than electric power assistance, and actually has a more pronounced, old-school VTEC on-cam kick.

Should I buy one?

If you’re an old-school Honda Type-R enthusiast – ie if you mourned the company’s decision not to sell the NSX-R here, if you miss the Integra Type-R as much as we do, and if that’s why the Swindon-built Civic Type-R just isn’t enough for you – then definitely.

Know that you’ll be buying a car built to spend its life beyond 6000rpm though, preferably on a track, and that will feel stiff, unyielding, noisy and pretty uncomfortable on the road, 90 per cent of the time.

And know that you’ll have to pay for it. Honda Japan would charge you the equivalent of £11,561 for this car; once Litchfield ships it to the UK, pays the import duty and does the work to make it UK road legal, that figure rises to £22,995. That’s more than £5k over a Brit Type-R, and £3k more than Renault’s awesome Megane R26.

For those who don’t class themselves as die-hard Type-R fans, there’s really only one way to find out if you can live with the Japanese CTR. Go to see Ian Litchfield; borrow one; find a second-gear corner; nail it all the way around; marvel as the car just grips and grips, howling all the way beyond 8000rpm; then turn around and drive it through the traffic, over the manhole covers, and back to the showroom.

If the smile on your face is still there when you arrive, Ian will show you where to sign.

Join the debate

Comments
6

16 March 2008

Evo magazine rated this FD2 JDM Civic type R above a Lamborghini Superleggera in their Car of the Year competition. I would really like to see Chris Harris video test this JDM CTR against the rest of the leading hot-hatch models....Megane, Focus, Mini, MPS3 etc.....on track and real roads. Honda has been making the best FWD chassis/platforms (Civic type R, Integra type R, Accord type R) for many years now and deserves to be recognized for thier contribution to affordable performance motoring.

12 November 2008

If price is not an issue, how well does the Japanese CTR stack up against the R26? How well does the Mugen RR stack up against the R26R?

12 November 2008

[quote rusty1030]

If price is not an issue, how well does the Japanese CTR stack up against the R26? How well does the Mugen RR stack up against the R26R?

[/quote]

Completely different animals.

The Civic is a lot rawer, noisier and immediate than the R26R. Things like throttle response are crisper down to the lack of a turbo and the Type R is genuinely track style hard core.

The R26R on the other hand is - dare I say it - softer and more civilised, even if it is not by a huge margin.

Between the two though, the R26R will be better drive on UK roads due to the suspension set up. Certainly the Type R can be a little too compromised on the average bumpy B road and the Megane would probably show it a clean set of heels.

On the track however, the Honda is pure touring car and much more satisfying than the Renault.

Really it just comes down to what sort of a person you are and what you want from a car. Personally, the Civic for me every time.

 

 

It's all about the twisties........

6 January 2009

How about a test between Type R vs R26 vs Golf GTI? I noticed u sated Civic's max spped is 150mph. Aren't Japanese performance cars are restricted to only 180km/h? Does Autocar ever carry out this tests? If u do, where can i read it cos i'm planning to buy 1 of them!

14 January 2009

[quote judah777]

Evo magazine rated this FD2 JDM Civic type R above a Lamborghini Superleggera in their Car of the Year competition. I would really like to see Chris Harris video test this JDM CTR against the rest of the leading hot-hatch models....Megane, Focus, Mini, MPS3 etc.....on track and real roads. Honda has been making the best FWD chassis/platforms (Civic type R, Integra type R, Accord type R) for many years now and deserves to be recognized for thier contribution to affordable performance motoring.

[/quote]

I agree entirely with your quote!

It would be great to see the FD2 ctr thrown in against the likes of the cars mentioned including the golf gti & scirroco. I read purchase most car magazines and am now sick of seeing this honda FD2 overlooked due to its JDM tag. They can still be bought from a selection of dealers so do us a big favour Autocar ' Please hold a group test with this car included' its a must!

20 May 2010

I personally prefer a honda civic hatchback which is ok for the pocket and is also much easier maintenance.

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Car review
    23 September 2016
    Aston kicks off its ‘second century plan’ with an all-new turbo V12 grand tourer
  • Ford Ka+ 1.2 Ti-VCT 85
    First Drive
    22 September 2016
    A rounded, refined and well-sorted bargain supermini – once you’re used to the confusing role redefinition imposed on the once-cheeky Ka
  •  Maserati Ghibli Diesel
    First Drive
    22 September 2016
    Maserati releases another range of updates for its range best seller, the Ghibli. We've driven the diesel version, but there's little improvement on before
  • Tipo Front
    First Drive
    21 September 2016
    New Fiat Tipo offers impressive space and practicality for a reasonable price. We try the 1.6 diesel on the demanding roads of North Wales
  • Seat Ateca 1.4 TSI 150
    First Drive
    20 September 2016
    The Seat Ateca 1.4 TSI 150 makes perfect sense: it's spacious, tidy to drive for an SUV and cheap to run