We get behind the wheel of the hotly anticipated Honda Civic Type R and see if it lives up to its legendary badge
What is it?
This is the new Honda Civic Type R – and my word does it have a lot to live up to. It used to be that when a new Civic was built, the Type R team couldn't get started until the car was finished. Now though, this new model has changed the game completely, with the standard car and hot version being built in tandem.
The last Civic Type R was made in low numbers with a reputation for being rapid and unforgiving. For this version, Honda wanted it to be slightly easier, 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 lot more tech too, including a clever engine cooling system, improved aerodynamics and upgraded suspension.
Honda plans for the Type R to be more mainstream and sell in bugger numbers. 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. The UK is expected to get just shy of 1,500 first-year units – about one-third of Europe's allocation.
What's under the bonnet?
You get the same 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol unit from the old car but the power has been boosted by 10bhp to 316bhp. There's also a new and improved cooling system, to help the engine work more efficiently.
The 0-60mph time is just 5.5 seconds and the top speed of 169mph is impressive. We managed 164 on a rare straight and deserted section of German autobahn before a camper van abruptly halted proceedings, so that figure is almost certainly attainable under the right circumstances.
What's the spec like?
The Type R starts at £30,995, with the high-spec GT trim costing £2,000 extra. This puts it on a par 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.
For some extra kit you'll need to opt for the pricier GT-spec model. This includes dual-zone climate control, a wireless charging pad, LED front fog lights and more.
The Volkswagen Golf R is a very close match to the Civic Type R with a similar power output and impressive drivability and practicality. However, it lacks the soul of the Honda and if you tick the options list, can cost a lot more too. The Focus RS is a brilliant car as well and feels just as track focused as the Honda. The interior is solidly made, but a tad underwhelming, while the Honda's interior is a very pleasant place to be and feels very sporty thanks to the supportive front seats and lashings of soft-touch materials and Alcantara.
What's it like to drive?
Put simply the new Civic Type R is better in every single possible way than the outgoing model. To say it has come on leaps and a bound is an understatement. It feels 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 and feels like it would be a lot easier to live with on a daily basis.
Flick the drive mode selector to this sportiest setting and throttle response is improved, the steering becomes heavier – although a little too heavy at slower speeds. 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 feels phenomenal thanks in part 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.
AOL Cars Verdict
The new Honda Civic Type R is seriously impressive. The Japanese manufacturer has really moved the game on with its latest hot model and has built a car more than worthy of celebrating the Type R badge's 25th anniversary.
That it has lost some of its freneticism as a result will be disappointing to some, but the upside is that the go-faster Civic is quicker and more approachable than ever before. It's a seriously impressive bit of kit that's sure to appeal to track-day drivers and B-road blasters in equal measure.