A phone rings in Honda’s Bracknell press office. Nothing unusual. Just a journalist, asking if they can borrow a car for an upcoming group test.
With almost any other car, from Honda or another maker, this kind of request would automatically trigger an internal discussion to weigh the risks against the rewards. Because in the end, somebody has to lose these very public contests, and if you reckon that somebody might be you, maybe it’s better not to play (though we would rather you did).
Not this time, though. This time there’s no need for debate. There isn’t even so much as an ‘against who?’, out of curiosity. “Of course you can have one. When do you want it?”
It’s the kind of wild insouciance that emerges when your car subjugates an entire class to its own sky-high standards over the course of several years. It’s a luxury few press offices will ever know, but since its arrival in 2015, the FK8 Civic Type R has lost precisely zero group tests in Autocar, so for Honda the confidence is justified. Machines that fall into a similar bracket include the Porsche 911 GT3 and the last generation or two of the Ford Fiesta ST. Maybe the Tesla Model S in the pre-Taycan era, but that’s probably it. And because it sits in a class so rich in talent and brimming with rivals, the Honda’s achievement is arguably the most impressive of them all.
Now, that unblemished record is not something we expect to end today. Not least because this isn’t any old Civic Type R but one of just 20 UK examples of the 47kg-lighter Limited Edition, which costs £39,000 and is the most finely honed FK8 there will ever be (and yes, Sunlight Yellow is the only available colour). For this triple test, therefore, the big questions are, first, of the recent BMW 128ti and the box-fresh Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport 45, which comes closest to matching the Honda’s level of driving appeal? And second, does that car get close enough to make it a sweeter overall option, all things considered? Because despite its solid practicality and superb ergonomics, the Type R does sit very much at the committed end of the hot hatch spectrum, both in looks and in feel behind the wheel. And that won’t be for all.