Honda says there has never been a Type R quite like the subject of this road test: the fifth-generation Civic Type R, which might be a little more helpfully classified as the performance version of the 10th-generation Civic hatchback.
Introduced to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the original Japanese-market NSX Type R, Honda's customary red-badged go-faster hatchback has turned up only a couple of years after the previous one. It has a broadly similar front-wheel-drive mechanical make-up to the previous version and a closely related engine – all of which might suggest, on paper at least, that it hasn’t changed a great deal.
In fact, the differences between this car and the 2015 Type R are many and varied, among them an all-new platform and chassis, new suspension and steering technology, a revised transmission and a completely different interior.
Unlike any of its predecessors, this Type R is a truly global car. It has also been designed and developed from the ground up as a performance machine instead of being adapted from an existing model.
This, it could be argued, is the first fully realised Honda Type R there has been; in theory, a car ready to present stiffer competition to its VW Golf GTI, Audi RS3, Skoda Octavia vRS, Seat Leon Cupra and N-suffixed i30 competition than any of its predecessors have.
This hot Civic has already risen to prominence this year for two reasons: firstly, for setting a Nordschleife lap record for front-wheel-drive production cars; and secondly, for scooping our Best Affordable Driver’s Car title, seeing off the likes of the Volkswagen Golf R, Ford Focus RS and Audi RS3 Sportback.
Now comes its final test: the close scrutiny of the Autocar road test timing gear and the associated road and track mileage needed to inform our ultimate verdict.
Prepare to find out, then, if what’s arguably this year’s most improved performance car has the makings of an all-time great.
The Honda Civic Type R line-up at a glance
While the vanilla Civic can be had in both five- and four-door bodystyles, the Type R is five-door only. There's one engine and transmission combination: a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder (with VTEC) mated to a six-speed manual gearbox.