What is it?
A faster, sharper, more hardcore Honda Civic Type-R, made in Japan, for the Japanese. So why is Autocar reviewing it? Because importer Ian Litchfield is selling them in the UK. And if you want a real, uncompromised, spine-tingling Civic Type-R, this one is worth serious consideration.
First things first – why do we need this car? Well, for all its visual and aural sensationalism, the UK Civic Type-R has left more than a few die-hard hot hatch aficionados unsatisfied. As a development strategy, adding one solitary horsepower, offsetting that power upgrade with a helping of extra weight, and opting for a torsion beam rear axle over independent springs hasn’t gone down too well, and there’s a real appetite among those who loved the last ‘CTR’ for something a bit sharper.
The options for those “Hondamentalists” have until now been severely limited. They run like this. Option a) go to JAS Motorsport, the firm that runs Honda’s works racing and rallying teams, and buy a Group R3 competition car, or b) wait for the boys at Swindon to pull their fingers out and offer us the much-mooted, full fat, Type-RR.
Well, allow Autocar to formerly introduce you to option c), the shark-nosed bitumen-botherer pictured above.
What’s it like?
This car’s specification alone is a work worthy of some considerable awe; if you own a new British Type-R, you might not want to read it. This is a four-door, so it’s inherently stiffer than the hatch; half as stiff again, come to mention it, than the highly rated Integra Type-R. But it’s also light; 1250kg, says Honda, making it 83kg lighter than the Brit Type-R we weighed six months ago.
At each corner there is an independently suspended, lightweight, 18in white alloy wheel and a mighty Brembo brake. Feeding drive to the front wheels is a helical limited-slip differential. And under the bonnet is a version of Honda’s 2.0-litre i-VTEC four-pot engine, with a throttle body, intake manifold and induction system you won’t find on the Brit version, pumping out 222bhp at 8000rpm. Or so Honda says; the first one Litchfield got in his workshop was actually knocking out 238bhp at 8600rpm.
Everything about the Japanese CTR is that bit louder, richer, more focused and more vivid than its British cousin – even the brighter red fabric of the seats. Press the starter button, blip the throttle, and the VTEC engine’s buzz and chatter filters almost undiminished into the cabin; there’s no sound deadening insulation here.
Slot the gear lever into first, potter out onto the road, and get ready for shock number two; this Type-R is even more stiffly sprung than ours. On aggressive track day rubber, it rides with almost zero compliance, and has a brutal disdain for troughs and bumps in the road.
But when you summon the courage to really drive it, you’ll find nothing – not acceleration, stopping power, traction, steering precision or body control – wanting. It might be a front-driver, but this car has the capacity to scrabble around and out of corners with incredible speed and surefootedness, yet it has none of the alarming snap-oversteer characteristics of the old Integra.
It steers more precisely and fluently than the Brit Type-R too, thanks to hydraulic rather than electric power assistance, and actually has a more pronounced, old-school VTEC on-cam kick.