We’re among the first to drive the all-new Honda Civic Type R, finally here a full five years after the last one was phased out. Has it been worth the wait?
Honda Civic Type R: Overview
The Honda Civic Type R was last sold in 2010. Five years later, the all-new one joins a crowded marketplace. Volkswagen’s Golf GTI continues to thrive, the RenaultSport Megane and SEAT Leon Cupra have been busy fighting one another for the Nurburgring crown and Ford’s been readying both a facelifted Focus ST and a snarling new Mustang-engined RS.
Honda’s answer is, in classic Type R style, striking. The new five-door hatch has 310hp, can do 167mph and accelerate from 0-62mph in just 5.7 seconds. Every single rival, immediately beaten. It’s also snatched Nurburgring FWD lap record honours from an aghast Renault and SEAT and, more controversially, risked leaving Type R traditionalists aghast by enhancing the VTEC engine with a turbo for the first time.
The fact it looks so incredibly fearsome has partly helped ally the fears. This is, in an instant, the most aggressive and specialised hot hatch on sale, with kudos coming from the fact the bodykit’s not just for show, either: it’s the first hot hatch to generate negative lift at speed, both front and rear.
As for the £29,995 list price – or the £32,295 price of the GT pack model 1 in 2 buyers will go for – it initially seems higher than rivals but, adjusted for specification and, vitally, considering the Type R’s performance advantage, it’s actually pretty sharp. There’s even a finance deal that lets you buy it for £300 a month.
Still, questions remain though. How on earth can a front-wheel drive car (no, Honda’s not given it four-wheel drive) cope with 310hp of turbo-boosted power? And can a Type R with a turbo possibly wear the legendary red badge proudly?
The answers, Honda Type R fans, will please you…
Honda Civic Type R: On the road
Only the first few hundred yards of your first drive will have you fearing the Civic Type R is too extreme: at low speed, the ride is undeniably stiff and sensitive to potholes, smashing and crashing severely at times. Let the suspension do its work, rather than just the shallow-profile 19-inch tyres, and things improve considerably.
Honda has completely redesigned the suspension of the Civic Type R. It has torque steer-quelling dual axis front suspension, a twice-as-stiff rear twist beam and high-tech ADS adaptive dampers as standard. Those dampers make it surprisingly supple, compliant and controlled at speed, but can be firmed up 30% at the press of an R+ button: this feels good.
What feels even better is booting the accelerator hard and feeling the full force of 310hp. Not because it’s explosive, but because the front wheels defy odds by digging in, finding traction and delivering all that power to the road, rather than spinning it away in a smokey, torque-steer-laden mess. The bite of the Civic’s front end is little short of astounding that Honda’s been able to make it do this. Rivals could learn plenty.
Perhaps the characteristics of the engine help. We told chief engineer Hisayuki Yagi that we felt it was VTEC first, with added turbo power, rather than the other way around. He beamed: the smile said it all. You still have to rev it like a VTEC, still get the biggest bang as you near the 7,000rpm redline: only this time, there is some semblance of torquey pull lower down – oh, and the small matter of an extra 110hp over the previous VTEC engine that didn’t have a turbo.
Be in no doubt, the Civic Type R has attitude. It responds with immediacy, is lively and electric, rewards you immensely for driving it with manic vigour. It’s just that this time, there’s a welcome layer of usability, flexibility and rolling comfort on top. Buyers are going to find this very appealing indeed.
What it can’t match, though, is the ultimate precision of the class-leading Renaultsport Megane Trophy (and it’s near-perfect £38k cousin, the 1-of-15 Trophy-R). If you’re after the last edge of fingertip precision from the steering, detail-flooding feedback from the front end and solid confidence to use the brakes very, very hard indeed, you should still go for the otherwise aged and dated Megane. For the rest of us, the Civic’s likely to plain electrify.
Ford Focus RS development team, were you expecting this?
Honda Civic Type R: On the inside
The interior of the regular Civic has been richened with Type R specifics, but it’s still the weak area of the car. Impeccably assembled, it’s still too plasticky in appearance, with a downmarket appearance to the trim that’s more budget city car rather than Audi-like Volkswagen.
The Type R bits are a complete success though. The chunky, flat-bottom steering wheel is lovely, classic titanium-topped gearlever beautiful and even the dials have been given a polished appearance. Alcantara trim has neat red stitching, red seat belts are retro-tastic and we love the bespoke electronic dials that appear when you press the red R+ button.
The best bit are the seats. They are exceptional, some of the best seats you’ll find in any car. Be careful when you first get in, because the deeply bucketed bolsters are hard and hip-hugging, but the focused grasp they hold you in is a treat. They look brilliant and endow the Civic Type R with further Porsche 911 GT3 RS vibes.
It’s practical, too. The 498-litre boot is disarmingly large – like, really large, particularly in depth – and the rear cabin is awash with space as well. All Type R are well equipped – choose the GT for sat nav, tech goodies and a better stereo – and, overall, it’s a supremely practical family-focused hot hatch that just happens to also do 167mph and 0-62mph in 5.7 seconds.
Honda Civic Type R: Running costs
Honda claim 38.7mpg and 170g/km CO2 for the Civic Type R which, considering its stonking performance, seems pretty fair. It’s considerably more fuel efficient than the 2010-spec Type R, despite its 110 extra horses, if not a match for the 47.1mpg Golf (220hp) or Ford Focus ST (250hp).
The £29,995 list price is sweetened by that £299 a month PCP finance deal; it requires a 30% deposit but that’s still striking accessibility for the hot hatch of the moment. Honda says upgrading to the GT pack will only cost £10 a month more.
We only expect positive news for depreciation too. Honda’s currently quoting a five-month delivery time, and that’s before any reviews of the car were published: when they are, the firm expects this to grow further as demand builds. It can only help strengthen used values further.
Honda Civic Type R: Verdict
Honda has delivered better than we ever expected with the Civic Type R. On paper, it shouldn’t work; in practice, it does so with considerable ability and real charisma.
STATISTICS: 2015 Honda Civic Type R
Power: 310hp at 6,500rpm
Torque: 295lb ft at 2,500rpm
0-62mph: 5.7 seconds
Top speed: 167mph
Combined fuel economy: 38.7mpg
RIVALS: 2015 Honda Civic Type R
Alfa Romeo Giulietta QV
Ford Focus RS
Renaultsport Megane 275 Trophy-R
SEAT Leon Cupra
Volkswagen Golf GTI
Vauxhall Astra VXR