There’s a new Honda Civic Type-R going on sale in 2015. There are many aspects of its spec sheet that stand out – a 167mph top speed or the fact it sends over three hundred horses through the front wheels – but the most attention-grabbing is the word ‘turbocharger’.
It’s the first Type-R Honda to use such a device, and as such is already causing consternation amongst die-hard fans. A proper Honda, they’ll say, has a high-revving naturally-aspirated engine.
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Much like the EP3-generation Honda Civic Type-R. For less than a tenth the price of a brand new Civic-R, you can put Honda’s breadvan-like hot hatch on your driveway. But should you?
For more information, read our full Civic Type-R buying guide here.
Central to the Civic Type-R – any Type-R, one might argue – is its engine. In the Civic’s case the power unit is a 1998cc, four-cylinder i-VTEC petrol unit designated K20A2.
The official power output is 197bhp at 7400rpm and a modest 142lb ft of torque at a lofty 5900rpm. Neither sounds particularly potent by modern standards – it was just a few years before Renault offered a Clio with a similar output and it has less than half the torque of the all-new Civic-R.
But it’s the manner in which this power is delivered that matters. The engine sounds almost bland at idle, but the revs flare quickly with every prod of the throttle. Honda’s VTEC system engages around 6000rpm, at which point the note hardens and thrust increases all the way to the 8050rpm limiter.
All the while, you slice through the gearbox ratios with a shift we called ‘sensational’ in evo 066 – slick and direct, its titanium knob is mounted just a hand-span away from the steering wheel.
If there’s one area evo has criticised the Type-R for in the past, it’s the chassis. Not all aspects of it, but one in particular grates – the lack of steering feel. ‘Numb to the point of anaesthesia’ was how we rated it in evo 066, compounded by a stiff ride and in early cars, a potentially snappy cornering attitude exacerbated on wet roads.
There are some improvements you can make, however. One is a limited-slip differential to tame VTEC-induced torque steer. The other is to scan owners’ forums for recommended suspension setups – these cars are very popular and well-supported on the aftermarket as a result. And people are really passionate about their cars – so don't be afraid to ask for advice.
The bare figures illustrate the effectiveness of Honda’s powertrain. 0-62mph takes 6.6 seconds – just 0.9sec slower than the latest car despite having two thirds the power – and top speed is 146mph.
It requires plenty of driver effort to get there of course – swiftly-sliced gearchanges and maximum use of the revs – but the rewards are there for the taking.
Braking performance is strong too. Despite wearing 17in wheels that seem tiny by the standards of modern hatches (of course, the Civic is itself relatively compact and light by modern standards at 1204kg) but hide 300mm front and 260mm discs behind their spokes.