Review: Honda Civic
- Credit: Archant
So often seen wearing a green tinge nowadays, Honda had recalled its red-blooded racing instincts with the latest Civic Type.
Five years is a long time without a ‘halo car,’ a model that suffuses your whole line-up with showroom appeal and aspirational ownership. But that’s how long Honda denied itself the high performance cult status of the Civic Type-R.
Maybe the Japanese marque feared its own schizophrenia or customer confusion, having become better known lately for greener technologies seen on its petrol-electric hybrids or in trials of hydrogen-powered cars.
Denial is tough, however, so Honda’s legendary Civic Type-R hot hatch beast returned last year, badder than ever after embracing turbocharging to deliver a staggering 306bhp, 0-62mph in 5.7 seconds, plus class-leading top speed of 167mph.
Previously, the Type-R championed high-revving naturally-aspirated engines, but Honda relented this time in the interests of greater power flexibility across the range and – with that green conscience creeping in again – better fuel economy, although the latter is debatable if you exploit the Type-R’s power.
Billed as a ‘race car for the road’, it is the most extreme and high-performing Honda to ever wear the ‘Red H’ badge, and there’s no mistaking the Type-R’s intent.
Vents and sprouts aplenty aid the already slippery Civic shape, and it wears highly visible red Brembo brake callipers, plus a classic red and black hot hatch interior with eye-catching, body-gripping sports seats.
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Honda has also done clever things with the suspension to make the most of all that power and, importantly, transfer it to the road without silly levels of torque steer transmitting to the driver’s hands under acceleration.
There’s a +R button too that beefs up the suspension, steering and throttle response and, just so you know, the dashboard panel then glows red rather than white. Yet switching back to white/normal mode shows how the Type-R can be a useable everyday hatch; recognition that the modern hot hatch driver must be older and better able to buy, run and insure such cars.
In return, these drivers want more comfort for the 90 per cent of driving time when they cannot cut loose with such prodigious performance and handling.
Thus the latest Type-R (from £30,000) comes laden with kit and a well-made interior, including dual-zone climate control and Honda’s Connect infotainment and sat nav set-up – although the last is off the industry pace.
In further recognition of such sobriety, Honda has also broken with tradition by making the Type-R ?ve-door this time – understandable when Swindon UK is the brand’s global centre for ?ve-door Civic production – but hidden rear-door handles make it look like a coupe hatch anyway.
It’s even quite practical, with decent room in the back and Honda’s lift-up ‘magic seats’ for extra loading options or underseat stowage.
The engine is at the heart of the car’s appeal, however, revving as smoothly and readily as a Type-R should, but with extra punch throughout from the turbocharger.
The 2.0-litre’s noise can be tiresome on the motorway, but remember that the Type-R is not designed for long-distance cruising, even if comfortable enough doing so.
Instead, its forte is a twisty, clear road when the slick six-speed ‘box can be twitched from gear to gear, ably supported by lovely direct steering and tenacious grip.
The Beast left us for a while, but it’s back – and it’s still definitely hungry.
Honda Civic Type-R
Prices from: £30,000
Model featured: 2.0 VTEC Turbo Type-R
Power: 310bhp and 0-62mph in 5.7 seconds
Engine: 1,996 turbocharged petrol
Fuel consumption: 38.7mpg combined cycle
Road tax: £210/year (£300 year one)
Best rival: SEAT Leon Cupra