Test drive: Honda Civic Type R

Max power: 198 (bhp)
Torque: 142 (lb/ft)
Acceleration: 6.6 (secs)
Max speed: 146 (mph)
Transmission: FWD, 6 gears

I should probably start this review with a confession. My current daily driver is a Honda S2000. As such, I’m already pretty in love with the feeling of VTEC; in my terms it’s like a bit of extra ‘boost’/manicness above a certain rev count, normally 5500rpm. I also like their reliability and general build quality. As a result, I was really intrigued to see what their famous Type R was like.

I went along to Chester Honda to drive a ’58 plate Type R which had around 14,000 miles, so it should be nicely run in. I had around an hour with the car and took in to around some fast country lanes around Cheshire.

First thoughts

When the new style Civic first came out it got some pretty mixed reaction especially to it’s styling. These days though I think it’s become accepted and now, I even think the type r’s looks are quite tame compared to some of the wilder hot hatches like the Focus ST. It does command some great presence though, especially in it’s trademark Milano Red.

As soon as you look into the cabin, that feeling continues with the red sports seats, sporty steering wheel with the proud red Honda badge at it’s centre. As you sit in the seat and turn they key the speedometer lights up and looks great – bright, nice lettering and really cleanly laid out. As you drive away there’s an immediate sense of readiness with this car – as if it’s ready to play.

Performance and handling

Civic type r engineOnto what this blog is all about, what’s the performance. Well the headline stats above give you the numbers: pretty decent amount of power for the size and some torque to go along with it. Being a Honda VTEC engine it does need to be sitting towarss the top end of it’s rev range to really get the most out of it. From around 5000rpm onwards you’re really feeling it surge and it can pick up speed pretty quickly. If you just use it at the lower end of the range however, it doesn’t feel like a quick car. It feels very usable and normal – probably much like a normal Civic.

Keep it up in those higher echelons though and it really does entertain. Being front wheel drive, it does sometimes feel quite squirmy when under hard acceleration, especially if you’re doing any steering wheel adjustments or pulling out a bend. This is probably one of the things that, while entertaining, does put me off the Civic. Coming from a rear wheel drive S2000, the dynamics of the type r feel very different and a little childish in comparison. So much front end action makes it feel a bit like a puppy dog that just wants to be haring around everywhere it can. On the one hand, this makes for a very entertaining car, on the other, it can be a bit of handful and lack composure under that hard acceleration.

Having said all this though, it does handle very well. Coming from a 2 seater, light, low to the ground roadster, it actually compared very well. There wasn’t a large amount of body roll, the steering felt very directive and the wheel felt good in my hands. Even on a particular corner where I carried far too much speed going in, under too much braking, it handled wheel and actually was very composed. The ride has been described as others as crashy and a little firm. Coming from an S2000 I don’t think it’s bad at all. It’s not an executive cruiser of course.  It needs this firmness to give the handling the composure and lack of roll it has. It’s a surprising car – one that I believe you’d love more and more and discover further as ownership wears on. Learn how to appreciate the squirmyness, use the high end power and push it that little bit further.

Interior

Civic Type R interiorThe interior is also a bit of a dichotomy. The seats, wheel and speedometer are great. Supportive and snug, nice to touch and good looking. The speedometer is is bright and cool looking. The only slight gripe is that the speed is on a different screen to the the speedometer and so you find yourself flicking between the two – I do anyway because I judge things by both revs and the speed.

The shifter is pretty good, if positioned slightly oddly, at least for me. When pushing into first and third gear, my arm has to be at full extension, which is slightly uncomfortable. This is with the seat being in the perfect place for the pedals and the wheel. Overall I couldn’t quite get completely comfortable. The shift isn’t quite as short and bolt like as my S2000, but still satisfying.

The space is good both front, rear and in the boot, making it quite a practical sports hatch. There’s only one major gripe I had with the interior and that was that the doors and some parts of the dash were a bit scratched up on the cheaper plastic materials. I was assured this would be sorted and wasn’t a major issue however I get the feeling with everyday use it would reoccur. The only other thing is that the dashboard away from the wheel (i.e. stereo, vents etc) was very uninspiring and quite plasticy.

Final thoughts

The Civic Type R was a great car to drive. It’s a combination of comfort, performance and practicality which is what makes it so popular with certain people looking for the compromise it offers. It’s not a great sportscar, it’s not the most comfortable car and it’s not the most practical. What it is though is one of the best combinations of all three I’ve driven.

If I needed a car for all these things, the Civic Type R would be high up the list.

About Rob

I'm an average petrolhead - I love cars and get as much driving experiences as I can out in the world from test drives to track days.