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Honda Civic Type R: new vs old compared

The new Honda Civic Type R is a practical hatchback that offers awesome performance and precise handling. But how does it compare to its predecessor?

Words ByWhat Car? team

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New and old Honda Civic Type R

From its in-your-face looks to its eat-you-alive performance, the Honda Civic Type R has always been the Rottweiler of the hot hatch world, barking with aggression even standing still, eating red meat for breakfast and going from nothing to DEFCON 1 in the blink of an eye.

The new version largely sticks to that template, and even uses the same turbocharged 2.0-litre engine as its predecessor – albeit tuned to produce 316bhp rather than 306bhp. But that’s no handicap: the engine was one of the high points of the old Type R.

Instead, the biggest negatives were its rock-hard suspension and overly track-focused driving manners. So, have those shortcomings been addressed? To find out, we’re comparing the new and old car side-by-side.

Honda Civic Type R new vs old – styling

You don't have to be a Type R fanatic to spot the family resemblance. Angry face? Check. Gaping air vents? Yep. Oversized rear wing? Of course. Neither car is for shy and retiring types.

That said, the new Type R's hot hatch jewellery is better integrated, looking like it was designed at the same time as the rest of the Civic range, rather than stuck on later as an afterthought. And it's a longer, lower and wider car, which makes it look even sportier.


Honda Civic Type R new vs old – engines and driving

While the old Type R was a teeth-rattler, the new one isn't. Indeed, when you put the suspension in Comfort mode it's relatively soothing at all speeds, not only compared with its predecessor, but also the Ford Focus RS. True, the Volkswagen Golf R still rounds off road scars better, but it’s no longer a matter of chalk and cheese.

You can also ratchet things up in the new Type R by switching to Sport or the stiffest +R setting, although the latter is really only for track days.

We drove the car on road and track, and either demonstrates that the new Type R is at least as much fun as its predecessor. On the way into a corner, the firm brake pedal is reassuring and, more importantly, effective at scrubbing off speed. And even in Comfort mode, body control is sublime, so the car doesn't lean discernibly and it's now less likely to get forced off-line by spiky mid-corner bumps.

The steering is still quick off-centre, too, without feeling nervous, so you can tip the car in to turns and feel the front tyres reacting keenly. Meanwhile, the feedback streaming up through the steering wheel is pivotal in letting you gauge the amount of exploitable grip left.

Finally, there's the engine. If 316bhp sounds puny next to the 345bhp the Focus RS musters, believe us, the Civic Type R won’t leave you wanting. Get past the momentary lag before the turbo kicks in and there’s competitive thrust, allied to a free-revving character that most its rival can’t match.

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