he new Honda Civic Type R handles like a sweet dream, writes Thomas Falkiner
OMG! Look at all those silly wings and scoops and ducts and things. Is Honda trying to target high-school kids with this thing? Hilarious!
From some angles — or most angles actually — the new Honda Civic Type-R screams “Boy Racer”. Compared to the competition it is anything but subtle and those seeking to blend in with everyday traffic should look elsewhere. But here’s the thing: as juvenile delinquent as those exterior styling cues might be, the price tag is anything but.
At nearly R650k the new Type-R is only going to be within financial reach of people with more mature wallets. So is a 38-year-old with requisite monetary clout really going to take this Civic over a Golf R or Audi S3? I’ll bet you my record and VHS collection not many would.
So going on styling alone, you wouldn’t buy one if somebody gave you the money?
Oh, I absolutely would. If I had the cash, the Type-R is most certainly the one I would pick. It stands out and makes a statement. Like Johnny Knoxville in Jackass 3D, this Honda does not seem to take itself too seriously and I like that.
You spent a lot of time whingeing about how uncomfortable the last Civic Type-R was. Is this better?
The previous and extremely short-lived Type-R was biblically hard. Especially when you had it in +R mode and those shocks suddenly filled with what felt like reinforced concrete. Seriously, if you hit a speed bump at anything over 40km/h in that thing your spinal cord would come spearing out the top of your skull. This time around things are different. The new Type-R may be firm but I never found it harsh, thanks to its much-improved adaptive dampers. While +R mode is probably still best enjoyed around a racetrack, Sport and Comfort are ideal for real-world roads.
Honda has done a fabulous job in terms of upping ride refinement and for the first time the Type-R is a credible everyday car. The same can be said for the seats. In years gone by those bright red sports seats would give your rump a proper pummeling. These, however, are not only extremely comfortable and well cushioned but also very supportive. Top marks.
Okay, enough small talk already. Is it fast?
Figures of 228kW and 400Nm might not look all that impressive on paper but when you consider that they only have to push around a kerb weight of 1 356kg, well, it’s clear that this Honda packs a wallop. And does it ever. Keep the throttle pinned, chase down that 7 000rpm redline and the amount of speed this car piles on is ridiculous.
Want context? I drove my mate’s Cayman GTS and when I spilled back into the Honda it felt noticeably more urgent, especially below 4 500rpm. At this dizzy altitude I’d hazard a guess that on most roads the Type-R would leave the naturally aspirated GTS wheezing in its wake — though maybe just not off the line. This is because Honda has built this weird protection system into the engine that doesn’t allow you to rev it past 3 500rpm when the car is stationary.
This means you can’t spool up the turbo, which means you bog down when trying to make a snappy launch. So there’s no way you’ll get close to the claimed 0-100km/h sprint time of 5.8-seconds. Nope, in reality you’re looking somewhere in the realm of about 6.5 seconds. The Civic Type-R is strong through the gears once moving, but if you enjoy a good drag race then you’ll be disappointed — especially if you take on a VW Golf R or Ford Focus RS.
Both those cars are all-wheel-drive. Doesn’t the Type-R miss it?
Not at all. In fact, I would have to concede that this Type-R is quite possibly one of the sweetest handling front-wheel-drive cars. Besides being endowed with a massive amount of mechanical grip, it has this physics-bending ability to resist understeer that will amaze you. Simply turn the steering wheel; adhere the accelerator to the firewall and this Civic will follow your chosen line like a Tokyo bullet train scorching down the track. Indeed, with a skilled pilot at the helm, this machine has the potential to rival or even beat some much dearer automotive exotica.
What also blew my mind was the eerie absence of torque steer. Even on choppy surfaces the Type-R transfers its power to the tarmac without arm-wrestling antics – quite a feat for a hot-hatch. Topped with a deliciously crisp six-speed manual gearbox (that automatically blips the throttle on downshifts) plus some insanely strong Brembo brakes, this is a driver’s car par excellence and proof that Honda has at long last returned to the top of its game. – Thomas Falkiner
Fast Facts: 2018 Honda Civic Type-R
Engine: 1996cc four-cylinder turbo
Power: 228kW at 6 500rpm
Torque: 400Nm at 2 500rpm
Transmission: six-speed manual
0-100km/h: 5.8-seconds (claimed)
Top speed: 272km/h (claimed)
Fuel: 12.2l/100km (achieved)
CO2: 200g/km (claimed)
Price: From R635 500