Honda Civic Type R review – a true great and sure-fire future icon
The Civic Type R is one of the most alluring performance cars on sale regardless of price
The Honda Civic Type R has consistently punched above its weight since the current generation arrived in 2017, outdoing its key rivals again and again. So when time came to give it a subtle update, Honda took the sensible route keeping a light touch, while introducing a few new derivatives along the way.
Yet while it would have been nice to see more of a change aesthetically, those who are put off by the spaceship styling are missing out, because it’s quite simply the finest hot hatchback to come to market since the VW Golf GTI Clubsport S and Renault Sport Mégane R26.R.
The astonishing thing is that for the driver, and indeed passengers, it’s nearly without compromise. The Golf and Mégane were intense. No back seats, trackday-spec rubber, reduced sound deadening, caged and fitted with plastic windows in the case of the Renault, but the Civic has none of the same compromises – a big boot, spacious rear seats, and a stunning primary and secondary ride, despite the 30-section tyres that we’ll come back to later.
In short, the Civic Type R doesn’t feel like a hot hatchback, but a superbly engineered sports car that just happens to be front-wheel drive. As a leader of front-drive performance car development in the ’90s with models such as the DC2 Integra Type R and Prelude, it’s remarkably fitting that Honda fill this niche in 2019.
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Don’t lament the turbocharged engine, bloated proportions or flakey interior if you’re a VTEC diehard either, just enjoy the Type R’s uncanny ability to constantly surprise, delight and amaze
Honda Civic Type R: in detail
- Engine, gearbox and technical highlights > The 2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder is both incredibly linear and yet still happy to rev. Gearbox is beyond brilliant.
- Performance and 0-62mph time > Acceleration times are about as fast as manual front-wheel drive cars get at 5.7sec, top speed a ridiculous 169mph.
- Ride and Handling > The Civic Type R makes full use of its stiffer, lower chassis and multi-link rear suspension.
- MPG and running costs > The new WLTP 33.2mpg combined figure is achievable in normal driving, but like any turbo car the Civic can be thirsty when pushed.
- Interior and tech > Longer, wider and of much better quality, the new Type R benefits from the same ergonomic and technological upgrades as the standard Civic
- Design > Unlikely to be lost in a car park, the Civic Type R is one of those mad designs that either will or won’t work for you
Prices, specs and rivals
Starting at £34,415 for the well-equipped entry-level model, all the Type R’s performance paraphernalia comes standard including 20-inch wheels, Alcantara bucket seats, LED headlights and that arresting body kit. Drop another £2000 on the GT pack and you’ll get dual-zone climate control, front and rear parking sensors, satnav and blind spot monitoring – desirable, but not essential additions in other words.
As part of its 2020 update, the Honda introduced two further variants which sat on either side of the scale in terms of focus, with the Sport Line removing the wing, but adding more sound deadening and a smaller set of 19-inch wheels and Michelin PS4 rubber. At £35,400, it sits between the two established models, but comes with all the added kit of the GT model inside.
At the other end was the Limited Edition, and we say ‘was’ because all 20 units destined for the UK were snapped up before it even reached the dealership. As well as the fab yellow paintwork and forged wheel design, also came less interior deadening and an even more intense and distilled Type R experience. It’s a sure-fire future classic, yet at £39,995 felt like a sure-fire bargain considering its rarity.
As with many Japanese cars, the options list is short, with only various exterior carbonfibre components threatening to rid you of yet more hard-earned cash at the dealer.
Yet while the price has indeed gone up, so too has its rivals with the new Hyundai i30 N Performance starting at just under £34k and Golf GTI Clubsport sitting costing from just under £38,000 basic, and rising to more like £42,000 once fitted with appropriate wheels and dampers which should really be standard.
The Renault Mégane RS is currently the most closely matched in terms of power, performance and capability, and its new two-model line up at £32,990 and £36,990 for the RS300 and Trophy sit closest to the Honda in terms of price. Its 297bhp power figure is also down on the Civic, and it lacks adaptive dampers too. The latest Volkswagen Golf R is an odd case, lacking the polish and poise of its predecessor. It does, however, maintain a potent combination of desirability and strong residuals, but where the old car was an easy car to recommend, there’s now just too many chinks in its armour to be any more than merely average. The VW group’s other offerings, in the form of the Cupra Leon and Audi S3 Sportback, could also be considered at £35,125 and £36,805 respectively.