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A convincing hot hatch as it stands: with another year’s development, it has the potential to be outstanding

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

19 November 2013

What is it?

Every engineer working on the dynamics of the new Honda Civic Type R is focused on one target above all others: a Nürburgring lap time of below eight minutes.

If it does so that would make it the fastest production hatch to tackle the Green Hell by at least 8.0sec. Ask if it’s done it already and its chief engineer Suehiro Hasshi will say, “I am not allowed to tell you that, but you can use your imagination.” So it has. This would make this Civic hatchback approximately as fast as the quickest car Honda has ever run around the ‘Ring, the fabled NSX-R.

This Civic is so much more than just another hot hatch heading for an increasingly crowded marketplace. It also marks the return of not only the vaunted Type R nameplate but more significantly still, Honda to the bosom of the enthusiast driver. Years after it quit F1, killed the NSX, the S2000 and the previous Type R, this is the first hands-on evidence anyone has been able to gather to say whether its promise of having rediscovered its mojo is more than mere words.

On paper and even in the flesh it certainly seems so. I’ll say now that approximately 18 months before its market introduction, Honda is playing its cards so close to its chest it’s a surprise even they can see them.

Even so we do know this: the car has a new 2.0-litre, single-turbo four cylinder engine officially claimed to give “over 280PS” which, according to one engineer actually means at least 300bhp as it stands. In terms of pure shove this propels it past the Ford Focus RS, RenaultSport Mégane and Vauxhall Astra VXR and onto a par with the newly announced Golf R.  But Honda’s not stopping there: it knows there’s a 355bhp Mercedes A45 AMG out there and it’s going to get as close to it as its resolutely front-drive only powertrain will permit.

Controlling all of this is a lowered, stiffened, widened chassis, still incorporating the beam axle rear suspension of the standard Civic. Honda insists that once fitted with adaptive dampers it offers sufficient tuning options to deliver acceptable ride quality and world-class handling. It will be matched by Brembo brakes big enough to make a 19in rim a necessity, not a luxury. Fascinatingly given the current trend, the Type R will come with a six-speed manual gearbox and no paddles even as an option. When asked why, Hasshi-san simply says “it is more fun this way”.

What's it like?

A couple of flat-out laps around Honda’s Tochigi test track reveal enough acceleration to keep the traction control light permanently on through first and second on a smooth dry surface. Impressively however there is almost zero torque steer. Inevitably, though, the engine possesses neither the throttle response nor the crisp howl of the old, normally aspirated Type R Civic motor: that’s the price you pay for getting 300bhp from 2.0-litres in a form usable on the public road. Honda says both will improve before launch.

The environment precluded a detailed handling assessment but if its ability to tolerate being flung into a steeply banked curve at 125mph is any guide, the promise is there. The steering is excellent with a conspicuously quick rack, but no nervousness, perfect weighting and decent feel.

For the latest information on the Civic Type R reveal, the official reveal was at Geneva motor show in 2015. 

Should I buy one?

These are early days for the Civic Type R which is the single most encouraging thing about it. It’s a pretty tempting proposition even now and the mission for the next year of development is to increase power and drop weight by using a high proportion of aluminium body panels. On this evidence I’d say the fun, fast Honda is not only back, but with a vengeance.

Honda Civic Type R

0-62mph 5.8sec (estimated); Top speed 160mph (estimated); Economy n/a; CO2 n/a; Kerbweight 1330kg approx; Engine layout 4 cyls, 1995cc approx; Installation transverse, front, front-wheel drive; Power 300bhp at 6500rpm (approx); Torque 295 lb ft from 2000-5500rpm

Join the debate

Comments
21

19 November 2013
I can't believe the 19" needed for brake size. Thats bigger than Honda NGTC size brakes. More stopping power than a touring car is awesome. Though it would never need it if they just made a lighter car. If they made it 100kgs lighter than the previous Type R, that would easily make up for less throttle response.

19 November 2013
Making the front centre section body colour instead of a contrasting black gloss has improved the face. It doesnt look as puffy. Honda UK should have taken this step on the current Civic facelift. Its so stupid to think that making the grille and headlights look like an eagle with spread wings will make it look "strong" (stated by the Civics designer). Nonsense 1st year design school thinking. Type R's across the range please... Type R's that showcase Honda values and technical capabilities to their fullest extent, not cynical marketing models with fancy bodykits nor knock offs of BMW's or Ford ST's. Many thanks.

19 November 2013
It's a bit late in the day to be introducing this Type-R in 18 months time. By this time the current Civic will surely be in its run out phase. Certainly it won't be much use as a "halo" model to stimulate sales of everyday Civics. Unless this car is simply a test bed for the next (10th?) generation Civic which should debut around 2016. Now that would make more sense...

20 November 2013
[quote=LP in Brighton]It's a bit late in the day to be introducing this Type-R in 18 months time. By this time the current Civic will surely be in its run out phase. Certainly it won't be much use as a "halo" model to stimulate sales of everyday Civics. Unless this car is simply a test bed for the next (10th?) generation Civic which should debut around 2016. Now that would make more sense...[/quote] Works for Ford. How late in the day has the Fiesta got the ST and the previous gen Focus the RS.

19 November 2013
Looks ok, just hope the wing doesn't block rear mirror view.

Peter Cavellini.

19 November 2013
The last one I thought was a bit flat but this new one should be very good indeed. If they do manage or have already managed a sub 8 minutes at the ring it is one hell of an accomplishment. As somebody who goes quite often I dont think some people can understand how fast you have to be going to get around in a time like that. This could be my next hot hatch though the potential price could be a worry.

19 November 2013
Why is it so important, these days, to be quick around the Nurburgring? The suspension will have to be so hard that its a nightmare on normal roads, crashing over very twig in the road... Make it a good drivers car, which can be almost taken as read with Honda, but above all make it into a drivers car we can live with from day to day

23 November 2013
i agree entirely with your points, but surely you should have posted in the name of james m.

I don't need to put my name here, it's on the left

 

23 November 2013
[quote=Richard H]Why is it so important, these days, to be quick around the Nurburgring? The suspension will have to be so hard that its a nightmare on normal roads, crashing over very twig in the road... Make it a good drivers car, which can be almost taken as read with Honda, but above all make it into a drivers car we can live with from day to day[/quote] i agree entirely with your points, but surely you should have posted in the name of james m. sorry to double up on the post but i forgot to insert the quote the first time.

I don't need to put my name here, it's on the left

 

19 November 2013
After this 2.0 turbo arrives we'll also get a 1.5 turbo and a 1.0 3-cyl EcoBoost rival for volume sales.


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