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Engine options, speed, acceleration and refinement

Owners of previous-generation Type Rs are chirpily realistic about – and not a little affectionate towards – the performance of the old naturally aspirated 2.0-litre VTEC motor.

They will merrily persevere with the engine’s docile, almost exasperating low-rev idleness in return for the churning fast-forward fury supplied by a change in camshaft profile at higher speeds. Unexpectedly, the vestiges of that character – the dawdler and the deranged – have not been entirely expunged in the latest iteration of the four-cylinder unit, despite the addition of a turbocharger.

Forced induction is largely responsible for the substantial increase in peak torque (295lb ft versus just 143lb ft in this Type R’s predecessor), although it doesn’t arrive with anything like the smooth swell of a comparable Ford or Volkswagen unit.

Where a Volkswagen Golf R delivers 280lb ft from 1800rpm, the Civic dithers until 2500rpm (at which point the previous model already made 90% of its twist) and doesn’t feel as though it’s under way until closer to 3000rpm.

Combined with a dose of old-fashioned turbo lag, the engine’s impersonation of its forebear in a high gear and at low crank speeds is uncanny enough for you to begin working the snappy manual gearshift in a state of near déjà vu.

Fortunately, the hunt for a better ratio is one that’s worth pursuing. The motor doesn’t respire through its mid-range with quite the venom of the Renault Mégane RS 275 Trophy’s engine, but the arrival of the torque signals a snowballing build-up of speed significant enough to have the reinforced Civic tensing up on its haunches, followed, a split second later, by the unmistakable needle lunge of the VTEC effect.

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The physical impact and duration of this final-rev thrust is inevitably lessened (peak output is achieved at 6500rpm and limited by 7000rpm) compared with its bipolar ancestors, but it remains a far more compelling prospect to rev out than most of its rivals and, at a verified 5.5sec to 60mph, is about as accelerative as front-driven cars get.

Which, save for the lack of endearing rasp or rort that comes with it, scarcely leaves much for a new buyer to complain about.