This, we were promised, is the year Honda hits back.

The year in which the NSX, Civic Type R and return to Formula 1 competition are set to remind us about the firm’s engineering prowess and supreme capability for producing affordable, thrilling cars, while the HR-V compact SUV proves that Honda can do practicality and efficiency as well as anyone.

After a stuttering start to the F1 campaign, you might have been forgiven for wondering if Honda’s recent wilderness years, during which it has appeared short on decent products and inspiration, had dulled its edge.

Happily, this week’s first drive of the thrilling new Civic Type R proves that this is far from the case.

There’s more to come before we can declare a wholesale return to form, such as the arrival of the new NSX this summer. Nor should we overlook Honda’s troubles elsewhere, not least the ongoing global airbag recall controversy.

But if the Type R is anything to go by, all the signs are there that Honda’s engineers still have the know-how to do something truly special, and that can only bode well for their future and our driving pleasure.

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