Getting hotter: Honda revamps the Civic Type R Hatchback
A new Honda Civic Type R is upon us. Darren Cassey finds out if it can live up to its predecessor's impressive reputation.
This is the new Honda Civic Type R - it has huge shoes to fill and marks a change in tactic by Honda. You see, normally when a new Civic is built, the Type R team can't get started until the car is finished and on dealer forecourts, but this time the standard car and hot version have been built in tandem.
The last Civic Type R was made in pretty low numbers and had a reputation for being rapid and unforgiving. For this version, Honda wanted it to be more approachable, so the ride has been softened off and an extra 'comfort' driving mode introduced alongside the standard 'sport' and performance-focused +R.
There's a whole host of new tech too, such as clever engine cooling, improved aerodynamics and revised suspension. And the fuel tank has been moved so you sit lower in the car than before, which is fantastic news.
Honda wants the Type R to go more mainstream. Seventy-five will be built every day at its Swindon plant, with 13,000 expected to be built for the world market over the next 12 months.
Looks and image
The Civic Type R's styling is sure to divide opinion. The brutal, angular design of the standard car is amplified by the hot version's functional aerodynamics - the front splitter, vortex generators on the roof and that prominent rear wing are certainly eye-catching.
Inside, the dashboard design is fairly uninspiring and doesn't quite have the visual drama of the exterior. The plastics are fairly cheap but durable, while the surprisingly comfortable bucket seats add a welcome touch of sportiness.
Space and practicality
The latest Civic is longer and wider than ever before, and thanks to a repositioned fuel tank, one of the biggest complaints of its predecessor has been addressed - the driving position. Not only do you sit lower in the car, the increased wheelbase improves cabin space and furthers the Type R's case as a practical performance car.
There are plenty of cubbyholes, with the centre console featuring two large, staggered spaces in which to store items. However, the USB and 12V adapter slots are impractically placed low down.
Behind the wheel
Under every objective measure, the new Civic Type R is better than the old one. In fact, it's come on leaps and bounds, feeling much more grown up and serious about the job of going silly-fast.
However, its character has somewhat changed. The old model felt like it was straining at the leash even when pootling around town, but the new one is much more approachable even in the track-focused +R mode and is far less likely to be unsettled by bumps in the road.
Flick the drive mode selector to this sportiest setting and throttle response is improved, the steering becomes heavier - a little too heavy at slow speeds - and the ride firms up. On the road, the standard sport setting is enough, but +R mode transforms the Type R into a hyper-alert hot hatch and it's hard to resist its sense of urgency.
On track it's ludicrously capable thanks also to the 10mm wider and stickier tyres, but it never feels intimidating. This arguably makes it slightly less fun, but there's no doubt it covers ground much more quickly and with little fuss.
Value for money
The going rate for high-performance hot hatches is circa £30,000, and the Civic Type R hits the nail on the head. It starts at £30,995, with the high-spec GT trim costing £2,000 extra. This puts it in direct competition with the Ford Focus RS, which is hugely appealing thanks to a clever rear-biased all-wheel-drive system, subtler styling and 345bhp, though there's slightly less kit as standard.
Most impressive is the Honda Sensing safety system, which comes as standard. Radars, sensors and cameras work together to offer collision avoidance, road departure mitigation and adaptive cruise control to name but a few of its nifty features.
Opt for the pricier GT-spec model and you'll get dual-zone climate control, a wireless charging pad, LED front fog lights and more.
Who would buy one?
The hot hatch demographic is typically quite young, but the Type R in particular will appeal to an even younger audience because of its extrovert styling and general character. The hot hatch has been hugely popular in the UK as a performance car that can be used every day - the old Type R's harsh ride made it hard to justify in that regard, but this latest model could genuinely be used in day-to-day life with very little compromise.