If the looks haven’t persuaded you, be in no doubt that this is a car that's seriously intent on the pursuit of speed. Even though the engine isn’t quite a match for the BMW M140i’s 3.0-litre unit, the Civic Type R feels nothing short of rapid when accelerating through the gears and is noticeably faster than rivals such as the Hyundai i30N and Renault Mégane RS.
The Civic’s engine just loves to rev, zinging round to 7000rpm with a well-oiled smoothness. Plus, there’s plenty of useful grunt in the mid-range (it’ll pull handsomely from 50-60mph in sixth) and there’s real pleasure to be had from flicking from gear to gear using the super-slick manual ’box.
True, if the road is wet and you gun the accelerator away from the traffic lights or out of tight hairpin bends, the front-wheel-drive Civic will struggle to put its power down as effectively as the four-wheel-drive Volkswagen Golf R. Nevertheless, its limited-slip differential does an impressive job of distributing power to whichever wheel can cope with it best, dragging you out of turns with impressive speed and stability, especially compared with the softer-edged Golf.
Despite its suggestive triple-exit exhaust, the Civic does sound a wee bit clinical, with the whoosh you hear when you accelerate slightly reminiscent of a Boeing 747 during take-off; you’re left in no doubt that lots of power is being produced, but it doesn’t really tickle the soul.
Instead, the biggest thrills in the Civic come from the way it tackles corners. It feels incredible poised, with loads of grip, while the steering is impossible to fault for accuracy. The only slight niggle is that it’s rather heavy when you’ve got the car in Sport or +R mode, but the weighting in Comfort is spot on.
Comfort mode is also ideal for most UK roads, allowing the suspension to smooth out lumps and ruts as effectively as many regular hatchbacks, while still keeping body lean well controlled. Meanwhile, flicking to Sport makes the car feel even more tied down and doesn’t ruin the ride, even though you do feel a little more impact from undulations.
Only the +R mode is too firm for all but the smoothest Tarmac, making it best left for attacking Silverstone on a track day – something that’s well worth experiencing in such a rewarding and well-balanced car.
At speed, the Civic feels utterly planted – suggesting that Honda’s claims of genuine downforce are true – and, when you need to shed that momentum, the brakes play their part; the middle pedal comes with a confidence-inspiring firmness to match its effectiveness. Mind you, there are quieter motorway cruisers; the engine never fully shuts up and there’s plenty of tyre roar.