Honda Civic Type R review – ride and handling

The Civic Type R makes full use of its stiffer, lower chassis and multi-link rear suspension.

Evo rating
Price
from £31,725
  • Balance; powertrain; brakes; driver engagement – it does it all
  • Some will never be able to get past its looks

While this car might be all about handling, it takes just a few hundred metres to feel the massive improvement in ride comfort compared to before. In this regard, the Type R is now no more difficult to live with than any other hot hatch, particularly when put in the Comfort setting, which allows the dampers a surprising amount of stroke to deal with poor surfaces.

Sport is also well judged, but combined with much crisper throttle response, while even the +R mode is now perfectly useable on the road if you’re in the right mood. Sometimes – just for a moment – you find yourself forgetting entirely you’re driving something that looks quite so dramatic, it really is that much more refined in every respect.

When you find the right road, and really go for it, the Type R’s character crystallizes into something viciously hard-edged. The steering is very precise, and the variable ratio now means steering is mainly via your wrists, rather than armfuls of lock. It’s not dripping with feel, but neither does it ever register as being a hindrance to establishing a good rapport with the car. It is now far more poised, and it is more stable, and ruthlessly fast across the ground, summoning tremendous levels of grip, turning in with real keenness and begging the driver to push harder.

And those 20-inch wheels? Well, aside from their relative delicacy over rough roads and kerbs, the ride remains incredibly well calibrated, supple yet taut (to fall into that motoring journalism cliche), an impressive example of Honda’s final calibration capability. This is even more impressive when you find there is barely enough sidewall on those 30-section tyres to brand them. That such a small amount of rubber can contain the Civic’s huge lateral load without total deformation is utter witchcraft (though fail to avoid potholes at your peril).

It does all of this yet combines it with the traditional thrills of manual cog shifting and busy footwork, because the best bits of the Type R are when you’re revving the blazes out of it, feeling the front diff working with the front suspension, rather than despite it, to distribute the torque and steering inputs in one suave movement. Rarely, if ever before, has a front-wheel-drive car felt so assured, so incredibly polished when handling so much power.

It’ll oversteer on turn-in if provoked with the brakes, but its default setting is grip, grip and more grip. It’s a big car – every time you climb out to look at it, particularly in profile, it seems more like a sports saloon than a ‘hot hatch’ – and occasionally feels it, trading a smaller hatch’s hyperactive agility for a more grown-up effectiveness, but that shouldn’t be read that the experience is in any way dull. It’s a 169mph riot.

The new variants only expand on the Civic’s stunning driving experience, with the Sport Line doing precisely what it says on the tin by softening off the experience ever so slightly, but never relinquishing the Type R’s underlying capability. Yet it’s the Limited Edition that really blew us away. It’s drop in weight, both in the body and in it’s bespoke forged wheels, only enhance the Type R experience. It’s as focused, as sharp and as engaging as any Porsche 911 GT3, but because you can experience it at speeds lower than those necessary for bigger and more serious driver’s cars is perhaps even more engaging more of the time. 

The Limited Edition is a sure-fire future classic, and one we are not at all surprised was over subscribed before even hitting the ground. If you see one, snap it up otherwise we will…

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