Although Honda sought to round off the sharp chassis edges of this car’s predecessor, the fifth-generation Civic Type R nails its track-biased colours to the mast from the word go.

Steering inputs require some heft, there’s surprisingly little lock for a car with pretensions of practicality and, even in its softest setting, the damping remains unapologetically firm at low and medium speeds, to the extent that it will be a deal-breaker for some.

Matt Saunders Autocar

Matt Saunders

Road test editor
Weighty, nicely communicative steering gives plenty of information about grip levels through the corners

But not for us. It’s that trade-off of low-speed comfort for high-speed composure again. Flick the toggle switch on the transmission tunnel to Sport – forget about using +R mode on the road and save it for the track, where this chassis excels – and the Type R has just enough pliancy to diligently knead its tyres into the road surface while nipping in the bud anything approaching meaningful body roll.

The impression it conveys is one of resolute poise with calculated wheel control, although this comes at the price of suppleness.

Indeed, the suspension is a touch over-sprung for committed driving along typical British B-roads and this can make it a challenge for the driver to establish a rhythm at speed, despite the directness of the well-calibrated variable-ratio steering and the general infallibility of the front axle. Comfort mode, conversely, feels a little under-damped when up against the Civic’s 1400kg kerb weight and huge grip levels. There’s a sweet spot to be found here, which we hope the facelift would address.

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Elsewhere, the chassis is remarkably resistant to pitch under heavy braking and, despite its substantial physical dimensions, this Type R never feels anything but enjoyably lithe and in possession of a low centre of gravity.

Its agility is heightened by the tightly wound limited-slip differential, although you’ll need to remain calculated in your inputs to get to the best out of it.

With such potency under the bonnet, the car understeers if you’re careless with the power, assuming the traction control has been disabled.

It was with irritating precision that the arrival of light drizzle coincided with the Civic’s first foray onto the ‘dry’ handling circuit at MIRA.

It meant the Honda — successor to the VW Golf GTI Clubsport S’s King of the Nürburgring title — had no chance to match the impressive lap time laid down at this facility by its rival, although we suspect it would have done so had conditions been kinder.

It’s a suspicion partially grounded in the direction-changing capabilities of this car’s chassis.

It is capable of jinking into corners with a crisp ferocity that can take your breath away. Smooth, circuit-worthy tarmac also allows the mechanical limited-slip differential in the front axle to work to greatest effect, the car’s nose tracking from apex to exit kerb under all but the most insensitive use of the throttle.

Track-day regulars will enjoy this car, particularly as the brakes absorbed the abuse with surprising ease.

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