We tend not to dwell on lap times, but as so much of the Honda Civic’s development was track-based (and given that its front-drive Nürburgring lap record was the subsequent fixation of Honda’s marketing department), the car’s performance at MIRA is illuminating in more ways than one.
On a dry day, the Type R posted a 1min 16.1sec lap of the Dunlop handling course. That’s impressive, given that the undoubtedly quicker and all-wheel-drive Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG managed only 1min 16.4sec when tested.
However, hauled along for comparison, our long-term Renault Mégane Trophy (endowed with optional Öhlins dampers) managed 1min 15.7sec, while a trawl through the archives revealed that Seat’s Leon 280 Cupra (a previous owner of the Nürburgring front-drive record) set an even brisker 1min 15.4sec.
The upshot is less a victory for Spain and more a reminder that the margins between the current generation of hot hatches are as fine as a gossamer thread. More important still, although the Type R didn’t actually deliver a lap record at MIRA, it felt as though it was doing so.
Extravagantly purposeful and very precise, the car excels in both outright grip and a tangible sense of track-fostered composure. Its single-mindedness feels familiar. The previous-gen Type R Mugen was cut from a similar cloth, with the car’s relative ease of use barely concealing a chassis of touring car-like stiffness and intent.
The concession made to comfort is more sophisticated this time, however, with superior wheel control being a trait of its adaptive dampers. Even with them, bumps are less absorbed at a corner than chewed over by an entire axle, although usually not to the outright irritation of occupants.