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Honda Civic Type R (FL5) review – ride and handling

Set up with an unerring focus that shines brightest on roads of a smoother disposition

Evo rating
Price
from £46,995
  • Astonishing capability, engagement and quality – it’s the GT4 RS of hot hatchbacks
  • Finds its limits when the roads get rough

From the moment you get behind the Civic Type R’s thin-rimmed, perfectly sized Alcantara-wrapped wheel you feel completely connected to the car. Both it and the weighted aluminium gearknob are wonderfully tactile, instantly instilling confidence that Honda’s absolutely got the basics right. This is backed up by the perfect driving position, low and ensconced, but with even better visibility than in the FK8 due to a more upright windscreen.

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There's a freeness and energy about the CTR that's immediately inspiring, and consistent across all the major controls. Clutch and brake pedals are firm and silky, the steering perfectly weighted, laser-accurate and so nicely judged in terms of response that you nail your first apex without having to think about it.

> Honda Civic Type R (FK8) review

The drivetrain has an expensive feel, at once sharp and smooth. There's plenty of low-down response, which builds quickly but progressively so that even in slippery conditions you can play the throttle to j-u-s-t have the front wheels breaking traction but not running away with wheelspin.

On the track there's plenty of opportunity to feel for and ultimately breach the limits of grip, revealing a progressive stability and consistency that gives lots of confidence. It'll slide its tail beautifully, too, if you give it the right nudge of lock and lift off as you turn in. The brakes have great feel, strong stopping power and rarely if ever fall into ABS, which is very impressive given the wet conditions at Estoril.

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Things are a little more revealing on British back roads. Typically, there's less scope for such extremes, but the CTR remains playful at less than lunatic speeds. That measured steering response is welcome, as is the progressive throttle response. It's also great to have such adjustability for the car's dynamics, the new Individual mode allowing you to mix and match all the chassis and powertrain settings.

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But the Civic is stiff, even in its most yielding Comfort damper setting. Start to introduce complex, sharp-edged bumps in the road and the suspension starts to run out of travel when the previous car was able to magically generate compliancy out of thin air. There’s so much lateral stability and resilience to the body that it doesn’t give an inch when fluidity is required to keep the tyres in contact with the road.

The extra sidewall of the smaller 19-inch tyres don’t seem to help in greasy conditions, as you can feel that the car’s slipping wide before having the chance for the car to roll onto its side walls that in the best performance cars blur the line between grip and slip.

It feels a little less happy with damper conditions than before, too easily locking the front differential under acceleration and skating across the road surface. Bone-dry road conditions and the extra adhesion it would promote might unlock this last vestige of pliancy we still feel is somewhere in the new FL5, but in greasy conditions it drives more like a supertouring car than traditional hot hatchback.

Other criticisms? Well, it's a large car by hatchback standards. That extra track width and wheelbase might improve road-holding and straight-line stability, but it also means the CTR is a family-sized five-door. It doesn't feel cumbersome (quite the opposite, in fact), but on tight and twisty roads you notice there's less room to play with.

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