Needs to ride better or be more involving. Looks like a Type R-lite, but isn’t

What is it?

The mildly sporting Civic Type S. It’s Type R-lite and, seemingly, good value at £15,250.

If we had a pound for every time a manufacturer said ‘sporty’ at a press launch, moving the Autocar road test office to the Nordschleife would be more than just a fantasy. But this 3dr Civic is a nicely turned out piece of kit.

Overall dimensions are the same as the Civic 5dr, but the front doors are longer, there’s a more pronounced kick to the window line and the bumpers are lower. The rear track was been widened by 20mm and the side skirts, front splitter and 17-inch alloys complement the ensemble rather nicely. I was worried at the launch that the Civic’s looks might date badly – and they still may. But right now, it’s a real looker.

Inside the Type S you’ll find all the trademarks of a semi-sporting hatch: a leather-bound steering wheel and Alcantara seats. The rest of the regular Civic cabin is as intriguing as ever. The two-tier dashboard is offset by beautifully lit dials, an intricate steering wheel, aluminium pedals and a peculiar ball at the base of the gearlever. And it works. Other than the poor rear visibility, the Civic is ergonomically sound and, even in three-door form, spacious.

What's it like?

At first, it’s quite a lot like the five-door Civic to drive. The steering’s light, fast and accurate, but you soon realise that the ride’s more nuggety.

The Type S gets revised spring and damper settings over the 5dr and rides on 225/45 tyres, which give it a worse ride than the regular Civic. And that’s a worry, because it wasn’t great in the first place. The pay-offs are moderately good body control and high grip levels.

The Civic hangs on gamely before dropping into understeer, but the electric power steering still gives no involvement – there’s all too little tactile feedback or intimacy and no incentive to drive it in the way that a hot hatch should be driven.

Still, the driveline is smooth. The Type S comes only with a 1.8-litre petrol or a 2.2-litre diesel. Both drive through slick six-speed gearboxes, and although we usually recommend the diesel option, here we’d go for the petrol. The i-CDTi lacks the quietness that it has in the Accord, and although it generates 138bhp – as much as the petrol engine – it does so more frantically and over a far smaller range. The 1.8-litre, SOHC petrol is a more willing companion, with linear response and a better sound.

Should I buy one?

The basics are there in the Type S, but they’ll need to be better honed for the new Type R if it is to be properly engaging. As it is now, the Type S is moderately enjoyable, but doesn’t ride well enough to be a normal, sensible Civic. If you want sensible, there’s always the basic S model. Everyone else should wait until March for the full-house Type R.

Matt Prior

Matt Prior
Title: Editor-at-large

Matt is Autocar’s lead features writer and presenter, is the main face of Autocar’s YouTube channel, presents the My Week In Cars podcast and has written his weekly column, Tester’s Notes, since 2013.

Matt is an automotive engineer who has been writing and talking about cars since 1997. He joined Autocar in 2005 as deputy road test editor, prior to which he was road test editor and world rally editor for Channel 4’s automotive website, 4Car. 

Into all things engineering and automotive from any era, Matt is as comfortable regularly contributing to sibling titles Move Electric and Classic & Sports Car as he is writing for Autocar. He has a racing licence, and some malfunctioning classic cars and motorbikes. 

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