Revelling in Type R exhilaration
It’s the first time that this has ever happened on test – a fellow selling goods at the traffic lights took out a rag and bent over to buff the H gong on this thing’s nose, so delighted he was with Type R’s Star Wars appeal!
Although I secretly still prefer the old car’s stance, the new Type R really looks the part – muscular and testosterone-charged at 165mm longer and 36mm lower than before, its flatter stance is emphasised by short overhangs and a muscular stance.
Besides that wild look and slightly improved performance, the newcomer also majors on comfort courtesy of revised suspension that relieves the bone-jarring stiffness old to impart a more pliant ride, even with racy +R mode selected. Never mind my wide arse now fits in the seat, which wasn’t quite the case in the old car that seemed to favour dwarves over front row forwards. Now more different kinds of us humans can fully revel in that Type R exhilaration.
The 1996cc turbo VTEC four-banger employs direct injection to deliver 228kW at 6500rpm backed up by 400Nm between 2500 and 4500rpm and while those figures appear identical to the previous car, this new one benefits a few refinements. They say its black box software is tweaked and a single-mass flywheel employed to improve throttle response, while that triple-exhaust drums out a racier tone too.
Featuring impressive 114 kW per litre and 168 kW/ton statistics, our VBox reported a two-tenths quicker 5.68-second 0-100km/h dash, while Honda promises it’ll pull 272km/h. Finger it to +R mode, take it onto a proper mountain pass and you find yourself in driving heaven.
Type R feels like a properly sorted race car down to that bouncy-bounce as it tests the bump stops to pivot your head over those road ripples under hard acceleration and braking. Turn-in is supreme and it even tries hard to put all its power down.
So, is this the epitome of hot hatches? Not quite – you can feel its mass; sense the systems at play taming the torque steer and turbo lag bothers it in the strangest places – trivial little responses to fixes engineered in to solve the conundrum of too much power put down through the front wheels.
See, you cannot really compare this car to super hatches that once made considerably less power but weighed a hell of a lot less to return similar performance. To match that finesse out of a lardy 1.35-tonner, you need 228kW, which is a touch too much for the front wheels to muster alone and thus our little conundrums.
Type R also boasts an Eco driving mode to soften its racy settings to a quieter, smoother ride, but don’t be fooled by that ‘eco’ bit – if this car has one real failing, it’s how often we had to pull up to a petrol pump. That’s however something I’d be happy to live with because the compromise certainly is worth it.
All told, this Honda Civic Type R is still an exceptional piece of kit – in fact it’s quite possibly the best hot hatch of its era. And deservedly so too…
ROAD TEST: Honda Civic Type R
ENGINE: 1996cc DOHC 16V turbo petrol I4
POWER: 228kW @ 6500rpm
TORQUE: 400Nm @ 2500-4500rpm
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed manual FWD
SPECIFIC POWER: 116kW per litre
POWER TO WEIGHT: 168kW per ton
0-60km/h: 3.02 sec
0-100km/h: 5.68 sec
0-160km/h: 12.53 sec
400m: 13.8sec @ 168km/h
80-120km/h: 3.32 sec
120-160km/h: 4.76 sec
CONSUMPTION: 8.4 l/100km
TANK: 55 litres
WARRANTY: 5 years/200 000km
SERVICE PLAN: 5 years/90 000km
LIST PRICE: R635 500