Honda has a reputation for doing things its own way, but with the latest Civic Type-R the Japanese manufacturer has decided to look at the rest of the market and simply do a better job of going quickly, for not much money.
For the first time, a hot Civic will feature a turbocharger. Honda realises people want the torque and mid-range flexibility that turbocharging provides, so an all-new 2.0 litre turbocharged VTEC engine is at the heart of the new Type-R.
Prices and equipment are yet to be confirmed, but with rivals such as the Volkwagen Golf GTI costing upwards of £25,000, it seems likely the range-topping Civic will be in the same area.
What's the Honda Civic Type-R like to drive?
This pre-production car we drove was not as finessed as we’d expect from Honda, but the indications were that the Type-R is set to be a B-road weapon par excellence.
The new engine is very strong indeed; its combination of the turbo power along with Honda’s VTEC variable valve timing system gives the Type R fabulous mid-range shove. Better still, it is docile enough when not being worked hard. The only transmission on offer is a positive-feeling six-speed manual.
Throttle response is good, although the Race mode button on the left-hand side of the binnacle in our test car, sharpened this still more and adjusts the stability control program to allow more control for the driver.
At speed, the Type-R feels secure and sure-footed. Its steering is far weightier, consistent and involving than on less focused models in the range and braking from speed is controlled and fuss-free. Hard acceleration didn’t upset the composure of the front end either, whether from standstill or at speed.
The Type-R rides very firmly indeed, even on the relatively good surfaces of the test track. Blame the stiff suspension and ultra-low-profile tyres on 19-inch rims for that.
It is unfair to judge refinement factors such as wind and tyre noise on a pre-production car, but for the most part, it is the indulgent exhaust note which is the overriding noise, which is something of a badge of honour in this class of car.
What's the Honda Civic Type-R like inside?
As you might expect, the Type-R’s cabin has all the requisite hot hatch touch points covered off. The prominent ‘start’ button, centrally mounted rev-counter, high-backed bucket seats and a chunky leather steering wheel all set a suitably sporty tone.
Material quality is high, but the Civic’s long-standing ergonomic foibles continue to irritate. Getting a good view of the curved upper dash panel which contains the digital speedometer is tricky, rear vision remains obscured by the strange split rear window, while the generous rear spoiler that creates so much external drama limits the view still further. Taller prospective purchasers should spend a while in the showroom, trying to get comfortable before handing over a deposit.
As with the standard car, legroom is good all round and the boot space is enormous.
Should I buy one?
The Civic Type-R is still more than a year away from showrooms, and with scant idea of pricing or even precise performance figures, it is impossible to recommend without reservation. That said, this early prototype gives a strong indication that the first Type-R with turbo power is going to take some catching.
If you planning on taking the plunge on a Renaultsport Megane or a VW Golf GTI in the next 12 months, you may just want to hang fire. This might just be great.