Expectations and fears in equal measure surround Honda’s first VTEC turbo motor in a hot hatch. That’s largely due to Honda’s track record of producing outstandingly rev-happy engines, even if their relative dearth of mid-range torque created nearly as many critics as it did fans. Honda claims to have kept the same character with this all-new blown unit, but can that really be possible when forced induction is used?
On paper the results look very encouraging. With 306bhp the new Type R immediately goes straight to the top of the front-wheel drive hot hatch class, and even outstrips the potent all-wheel drive Golf R (which produces 297bhp). It also develops 295lb ft of torque from 2,500-4,500rpm; a huge increase on the peaky 142lb ft of the previous, naturally aspirated Civic Type R. Despite this impressive performance, the combined fuel consumption figure is listed as 38.7mpg and the CO2 emissions are 170g/km.
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Fundamentally, it’s a relatively conventional unit: a 1,996cc DOHC inline four-cylinder with a single, mono-scroll turbocharger and variable valve timing and lift. The unit features direct fuel injection, cast alloy pistons, forged conrods and what Honda refers to as a lightweight crankshaft. Incoming air is routed through an air-air intercooler, and the compression ratio is a relatively high 9.8:1. Honda is proud of the new car’s 7,000rpm rev limit, which although hardly comparable to the screamers of yore, is the first clue that this engine might indeed be something different from the class norm.
A crisp, direct gearshift has always been integral to the Type R driving experience, and Honda has tried hard to not let the vastly increased torque output of the new car diminish that quality in any way. Honda says the shift stroke of 40mm is the same as the terrific 2002 NSX-R, which certainly bodes well. Indeed, the result is a triumph, the delightful machined alloy gear knob whipping around the gate with speed and precision that shames many a rival. Heel and toe downshifts are only really comfortable during heavy braking, but when it all comes together Honda’s decision to stick with a traditional manual gearbox is fully vindicated.