My flatmate and I had just seen Superbad, and got the urge to lunge from the cinema car park in Crawley to the shared house of another chum in his first week at Falmouth University. That’s about 300 miles in an EP3 (second-gen Type R), which could be driven either economically at a clock-watching 65mph or at a tank-squandering howl at higher speeds. I think we had to refuel it twice, which at least afforded us both respite from the scarlet seats.
It’s not the kind of experience that necessarily has you volunteering for round two, especially when your sunny-side-up partner in crime has been replaced by a short-tempered partner in life and the destination has changed from Cornwall in late summer to Snowdonia in the spring. But I needn’t have worried: the contrast between the trolley jack Type R of yesteryear and the current FK2 could hardly be more stark.
For a start, the engine makes good on Honda’s age-old VTEC claim of supplying low-end serenity to go with its top-end agitation. True, the EP3 was also docile with not many revs on the clock, but its innate shortage of early torque made it about as amenable on part-throttle as a three-legged Shire horse. The turbocharged FK2 can, if you wish, be driven very briskly without ever exploring the final 2000rpm of its whinnying potential. Do so and its thoroughly conventional four-pot whine is almost as anonymous as the one coming from a Honda Jazz.
Predictably, it also makes the Type R far more pleasant on the motorway — and much more economical. With a 250-mile journey under its belt, the Honda still had about a third of a tank sloshing about — surely about as much as you could reasonably expect from a 306bhp hot hatch.
The real boon, though, is the comparative comfort offered. Looking back, the EP3 probably wasn’t indecently sprung for the time, but its descendant is so obviously more rigid in the shell that its (adaptive) damper response is made to feel 10 times as considerate — and without giving up a hint of body control, either.
Throw in the bigger boot, comfier seats and a decade’s worth of advance in infotainment and it’s hardly a surprise that four hours passed without a murmur from the passenger. In fact, the only niggle was an arbitrary one bubbling up inside yours truly. Sure, the EP3 was loud and wearying and highly strung — but it had character by the kilo. This version is fundamentally better rounded yet also just a little bit short on that special sauce which makes a car worthy of affectionate recall nine years later.
Previous Honda Civic Type R long term test reports