Honda Civic Type R Review
VTEC has always been Honda’s crown jewel, akin to how Audi is synonymous with its Quattro. The first iteration of VTEC engines arrived in 1989, featuring the signature power hike and willingness to scream its head off as the revs climb. Later came the i-VTEC in 2001 that saw the VTEC’s quirk replaced by a more linear power delivery, much to the disappointment of Honda enthusiasts.
In 2015 we welcome the arrival of yet another innovation on this signature nameplate with the VTEC Turbo. The new generation of engines will see the marriage of VTEC and turbocharging, with engine capacities of 1.0, 1.5, and 2.0 litres. How does this new engine perform? One of the first cars to receive the new engine, in the hopped up and extremely high state of tune, is the new Civic Type R. We snagged the first one in Singapore for a test drive. Let’s find out.
The egg-shaped hatchback body is distinctively different from the Civic sedan we are used to seeing, being based on the Euro-spec Civic and built in the United Kingdom too. It is also worth mentioning that there will be no JDM Civic Type R this time round, as this FK2R model will be a “global” model albeit with US market out of the picture.
The Civic Type R is a treat to look at – it’s unashamedly loud and brash. The body sees numerous modifications that distinguishes it from lesser counterparts, the aggressive flared wheel arches and wheel arch extensions, the look-at-me vents on the front fenders, and the gigantic wing at the back just to name a few. The car was developed from the ground up on the standard Civic’s body, and the plethora of differences show the efforts of Honda’s engineers in improving the standard car.
Up front, the daytime running lights and sharp front-end styling gives an aggressive stance. The contrasting coloured bumper lip and skirts are an excellent touch, setting off against the car’s metallic blue paint brilliantly and complementing each other just like how Oreo biscuits go with its creamy filling perfectly.
The side mirrors and front door handles are finished in gloss black just like the contrast skirting. The fender vents and air ducts hidden behind the front flared wheel arches appear to have genuine cooling purposes too. The wheel arch extensions also hide the widened axle tracks. The quad pipes look silly, but they sound fruity and burble like how one would expect a mythical beast in fantasy stories to.
The rims are large 19-inch items painted in gloss black with a red lip, and wrapped in low profile ContiSportContact 6 tyres. Behind the front wheels reside the massive 350mm Brembo 4-pot brakes that work very well, we’ll go into that later.
While the car comes with a plethora of racer-boy go-faster parts like the large rear wing, diffuser, front splitter, and a panelled underbody, they are there for function and less so for form. According to Honda, they generate a fair amount of downforce to negate aerodynamic lift.
Stepping into the interior, one will definitely notice the large high-backed sports seats. Strap yourself in and you’ll immediately notice the masses of support they provide and are relatively comfortable compared to aftermarket sports seats, but you’ll still realise you’re seated rather high up thanks to the fuel tank sitting below your seat. The driving position is spot on, the pedals are well spaced apart and seem to be perfect for heel toe.
Much of the Civic’s interior is carried over from the lesser model, with most of the differences done for form than for function. The gear knob will be familiar to Type R owners, and enthusiasts will be glad to know that the letters like P, and D won’t be available on the Type R’s shift knob.
The Type R features a two-tier instrument binnacle similar to previous Civic’s. The lower tier has three-pod dials, the centre pod for RPM, flanked by an oil temperature gauge and fuel gauge on either side. Next to these dials are the starter button, and the “+R” button. We’re sure you can guess what it does, but we will go into that later.
The upper tier instruments feature other instruments, such as the speedometer and the digital meters, displaying 0-100km/h time, a G-sensor, and other interesting data, accessible from a steering wheel button.
On the dash, there’s a separate touchscreen for infotainment purposes, a conventional two-zone climate control, and a plaque with a build number to remind you that the car is special.
Despite the large front seats, rear accommodation is decently spacious too. The red seatbelts are a good touch, as are the red stitching on the door cards. The boot is surprisingly commodious, and the rear seats fold flat to create 1404 litres of load room, very practical indeed.
The cabin is a pleasant place to be in, and being in the driver’s seat you can really feel that the car isn’t just another shopping trolley, it’s something far better.
The engineering that has gone into the new Type R is what makes it special. The body has been completely reworked from the ground up, very little mechanical components are shared with the standard car. Honda’s engineers have worked very hard to achieve the goal of building one of the best fast hot hatches you can buy, and it shows.
The bodyshell is 18% stiffer thanks to better bracket designs and use of adhesives, and the suspension
Thanks to the newly developed 2-litre Earth Dreams K20C1 i-VTEC Turbo engine, the engine pushes out 306bhp (@ 6500rpm) and more than double the torque figures of its predecessors, at 295lb ft (@ 2500rpm). To muster so much power and torque, Honda has had to throw out most of the technology used and start engineering this new Type R from scratch.
Honda has developed a new suspension set up called the Dual Axis, mated to a mechanical limited slip differential at the front. Around the back, a torsion beam set up that is different from the standard model. Magnetorheological adaptive dampers and stiffened bushings aim to improve the drive too. In fact, the rear suspension is 177% stiffer than the stock car, and Honda engineers deemed the rear anti-roll bar not a necessity. Despite all that stiffness here and hardened up there, the ride is decently comfortable on local roads. It’s firm, but never uncomfortable.
The six-speed gearbox is a huge joy. It is slick, precise, and very tight. It even has its own oil cooler to boot just in case you like to push it. At 1378kg, the Civic Type R is not a heavy car. Push it and you can feel that it’s fast, very fast. It’s especially quick past 3000rpm when the turbo spools to full chat. Give it the beans and it will consume the lower gears in the blink of an eye as the rev needle inches towards the 7000rpm red line, and get you to 100km/h from rest in just 5.5 seconds.
Hit the “+R” button on the dash and the car perks up. The Electronic Stability Control fades into the background, the torque map changes, the magnetorheological dampers firm up, and the steering tightens. The dials glow red instead of white too. Very fierce, and very exciting.
Driving the Type R, you can feel that the car was designed with just a singular intent – to be fast. It feels like a track-focused car, the perky engine, stiff chassis, sticky tyres, and oodles of grip, evoke a feeling of déjà vu from similar experiences from cars like the Lotus Exige S. While it’s not a difficult car to drive, it is a car that requires you to be on your toes, it demands your attention behind the wheel.
The new Civic Type R is more a Megane RS 275 than a Golf GTI in nature. It’s decidedly aggressive, and built with intent to be fast. The Type R is an easy car to fall in love with. It’s a car that demands pushes from the driver to go faster, to always be driving with high revs as that’s where the engine is the happiest. Yet it doesn’t punish if you are inept at driving skilfully, but just want a car that’s a joy to drive around and has a third pedal.
The new Honda Civic Type R may well be the leader of the pack for hot hatches, but one thing is for sure, the car is a cult classic in the making.
Car review sponsored by: Maximus Automobile Pte Ltd
Credits: Oneshift Editorial Team