First drive: Honda Civic Type S 1.4 SE

* Styling makeover kept to minimum * The interesting stuff is under the bonnet * New Champion White version introduced...

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What Car? Staff
01 December 2008

First drive: Honda Civic Type S 1.4 SE

If it aint broke, dont fix it. Honda says over half of those who buy a Civic do so because of the cars looks, so its no surprise that the small hatchs mid-life makeover barely touches the surface. On the five-door models, theres a new light cluster at the back and new grille at the front, and thats about your lot.

Under the bonnet

The interesting stuff is underneath the bonnet. First up is a new 1.4-litre i-VTEC petrol engine thats more powerful, yet cleaner and more economical than the 1.4 unit it replaces. It provides welcome extra oomph, but you still have to change down a gear if want to get anywhere in a hurry.

At first, the 1.4 engine will be available only with Hondas revised i-Shift automated manual transmission a six-speed manual will follow later. On the upside, fuel economy and CO2 emissions improve slightly with the i-Shift, but on the three-door model we drove, the gearbox constricted the engine and seemed at its best only when engine revs were high. A traditional auto gearbox is available with the 1.8-litre petrol engine, as is a GT pack that comes with sat-nav, bluetooth connectivity and parking sensors.


Three-door Type S models now look even more like their Type R hot hatch siblings, thanks to a body-coloured bodykit and new front grille. As before, different suspension settings give it a sportier feel than the five-door.

Champion White

If you prefer your thrills to be white-hot however, Honda has introduced a Championship White version of its Type R hot hatch. For 20,140 you get a white Type R with 198bhp, 18-inch white alloy wheels, a smoke chrome finish on the badges, door handles, filler cap and lower front grille, but again the main difference is in the nuts and bolts underneath, because this Type R has a limited-slip differential to help transfer all that power to the road.

In the cabin

Inside, every Civic is as spacious and versatile as ever, thanks to vast rear legroom, a clever folding rear seat and a huge boot. The fussy space-age dash remains a love-it-or-hate-it affair and Honda has done nothing to remedy the poor rear visibility caused by the two-part screen and absence of a windscreen wiper.

We say:

Subtle changes dont make an average car a good one

Honda Civic Type S (3-door) 1.4 SE i-ShiftPrice from: 15,250
Power: 99bhp
0-62mph: 15sec
Top Speed: 110mph
Economy: 49.6mpg
CO2g/km/tax: 132g/km/15%

Honda Civic 5-door 1.4 SE manual Price from: 14,750
Power: 99bhp
0-62mph: 13sec
Top Speed: 110mph
Economy: 47.9mpg
CO2g/km/tax: 135g/km/15%
Insurance Group 4
Airbags: 6
Doors 3/5
Colours: 7
Likely discount: Take off 6% from the list price and push on from there