This time, it still is fast in that patch of Germany – it’s the current holder of the ’Ring’s front-drive production car record, after all – and it’s still great to drive in the right conditions. It steers really keenly, has great body control, is very fast and seriously rewarding. But it’s also habitable and usable in the wrong conditions.
That the Type R was in the product plan from the start of development has made the Civic a better racing car. Before the start of the BTCC season, I took our Civic up to Team Dynamics, which runs Honda’s touring car campaign, where they were putting together a racing car using the road car’s body-in-white as a basis.
The floor is flat along most of the underside – in the old car, the fuel tank was under the front seats – which allows the driver’s seat to be mounted lower and also means the under-body aero effect is better. And the wings and scoops that find their way onto the road car, giving it an ‘interesting’ appearance, are also used on the race car, which gives impressive aero performance.
From a road car perspective, and on the M4 or a back road rather than a race track, I suspect the only notable benefit of the flat floor is that low driving position. It’s dead easy to get comfortable in the Civic and stay that way, with its body-hugging seats and widely adjustable wheel matching the car’s intent nicely.
As does the metal-topped gearlever, which is the coolest outside of an Ariel Atom or Caterham 7. Not cool frequently enough, mind you: freezing cold or red hot are its preferred states. I love it, but having climbed into the car in both -5deg C and 30deg C temperatures, it makes you suffer for your art. No wonder most car makers moved to wood or plastic as soon as they could.
Still, it’s not a fault, it’s a feature. As is, apparently, some brake squeal. Distinctly “not a malfunction”, says the Civic’s owner’s manual.
And that’s it, from a hard-work perspective. This hot hatch, which you might think demanded quite a lot from its owner on account of a) being front-wheel drive, b) having 316bhp and c) being really fast on a race track, is actually very easy to squeeze into your life, even if most of your driving is away from back roads.
The ride is compliant. As standard, and perhaps to be expected, the Civic defaults to Sport on its drive modes when you start it up. But that’s where I like it. Comfort brings some softness, which can be nice, but also lightness to the steering and lower throttle response, so it feels neutered. There’s an R mode too, which feels too harsh for British roads. If I could, I’d sometimes have switched the dampers to soft but left the rest in Sport, but you don’t get that option. Pity, it would presumably only mean amending some software.