“It’s very easy to drive,” says Tiago Monteiro, nonchalantly, as the Type R swivels neatly into a fast chicane. “You don’t have to provoke it to oversteer, the weight balance and the responses are really good. That’s why I think that it’s here, through this chicane, where you can feel the biggest improvement over the last Type R.”
This echoes words from Ko Yamamoto, technical advisor for Honda Motor Europe, who spoke to Autocar about the new Civic Type R at this passenger ride event at Italy’s Tazio Nuvolari circuit: “It’s the improvement in chassis rigidity and the handling performance – and also the updates to the steering and suspension – that are the biggest gain over the previous Type R. It’s more engaging and more confident.”
That’s not to say that there isn’t big news regards the powertrain, too. This new Civic Type R majors on saving weight and adding rigidity, and is also set to be the most powerful Type R ever courtesy of the uprated 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which gets revised turbo geometry, improved cooling and more exhaust back pressure to improve responsiveness.
It certainly seems to have worked, as I watch the digital rev bar climb once again towards its 7000rpm redline, complete with blinking red gearshift lights and a subtly synthesised engine noise (an enhanced audio recording of the car’s own mechanical exhaust note) that rasps around the cabin. Power arrives in a constant, linear swell; almost naturally aspirated in the way it builds, and only starting to trail off as it pushes into the very last throes of its rev range. A brief but smooth stab of the brake pedal, a snick of the stubby metal gearshift (now complete with a shorter, swifter throw), a fun, massively grippy turn-in to another tight right, and the Type R is once again fired into the heat-hazed horizon.
It feels seriously rapid, this thing, but not in the way that the four-wheel drive super-hatches – your AMGs et al - do. There’s no detonation of scrabbling tyres and turbo intake, there’s not any sign of the sort of scrappy, endearing fightiness that other punchy front-drivers like the Ford Focus ST often deliver in really heavy corner exits. In the Type R, everything feels delicate and adjustable yet purposeful.