For two such remarkably different approaches to building a hot hatch, it’s remarkable how close a call this is going to have to be. Both of these cars are incredibly exciting to drive in their own way, both look fantastic, and each makes its own case for practicality and usability.
In the Honda, your head will be won over by the vast boot, the lower running costs, the impressive reliability and the two very usable rear seats. Meanwhile, the frantic, nervy nature of this car bestowed upon it by the rabid engine and writhing steering will undoubtedly set your heart racing, but don’t think the Honda hasn’t got true talent, either; it’s a deeply satisfying car to drive fast. If you want a car that never stops exciting you, you won’t be disappointed.
The problem for the Honda comes when you do want it to calm down a little bit, because it rarely does. On long trips that engine drone becomes irritating, and the ride never settles in quite the same way as the BMW’s does. The interior’s all at sixes and sevens, too, and the touch-screen infotainment is light years behind most other cars’.
Which is why the BMW M135i noses ahead in this test. True, its steering doesn’t quite involve you as much as the Honda’s, and it’ll be pricier to service and tax, if perhaps not to fuel. But frankly, there’s little else not to like here.
In almost every other way, the M135i either matches or betters the Honda’s sense of fun, whether it’s in the playful, malleable chassis or the thrusting, torque-laden engine. Yet it backs that up with a more mature attitude to day-to-day life; that is to say, the smarter interior, the greater versatility, and that more relaxed character when you’re not driving like there’s a venomous insect crawling up your shirt. It seems, therefore, that by a small margin, the menacing whisper is preferrable to the banzai scream.
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1st – BMW M135i
For Sports car performance; playful handling; supple ride; value
Against Overly light steering; higher running costs
Verdict Outrageously fast and fun, yet uncompromised in daily use
2nd – Honda Civic
For Grippy handling; decent steering; good driving position; excellent reliability
Against Trickier to live with; so-so interior quality; dreadful infotainment
Verdict A weapon on road and track, but not as rounded as the BMW
Specifications: BMW M135i
Engine size 3.0-litre petrol
List price when new £31,730
Price today £19,000
Torque 332lb ft
Top speed 155mph
Fuel economy 35.3mpg (Official average)
CO2 emissions 188g/km
Specifications: Honda Civic Type R
Engine size 2.0-litre petrol
List price when new £29,995
Price today £19,500
Torque 295lb ft
Top speed 167mph
Fuel economy 38.7mpg (Official average)
CO2 emissions 170g/km
Price today is based on a 2015 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing
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