When Honda’s new Civic Type R burbles into UK showrooms later in 2015, it’ll easily be the most exciting performance model Honda has released in almost a decade.
However, VW and SEAT have been making hot hatches regularly over the past eight years, whereas Honda’s last fast Civic arrived in 2007, and hasn’t been on sale since 2010. So, is Honda’s hardcore Type R brand still going to be relevant in 2015?
We’ve spent a bank holiday weekend with the last of the 2010 Civic Type Rs to probe further, and to see what the revived Type R brand will have to do to win over buyers in 2015.
Puts the R in ‘Grrr’
Slip into one of the 2010 Civic Type R’s race-style seats and you’re gripped firmly around the love handles and given the sort of crushing handshake that prepares you for what’s to come – a very hardcore, sporty car. It always feels angry, even if you’re just sat in it with the engine off.
On the move, it quickly becomes clear that this previous-generation Civic Type R (known as FN2 by Type R aficionados) feels utterly uncompromised, with pin sharp handling. Turn the chunky steering wheel and the nose of the car darts in that direction really quickly, and there’s none of the soft rolling into corners you get from normal hatchbacks. Those seats cuddle you tightly for a reason – the Type R wants you to go fast.
However, the ride quality and comfort over bumps are definitely from the mid-noughties. Back then, many manufacturers thought that to make a car handle like a sports car it required a rock-hard ride.
You won’t even have to seek out a bumpy road in the 2010 Type R to find out how hard it rides, because even smooth-looking sections of recently laid road send jiggles and ripples to the cabin. If you have a tired passenger trying to sleep on a motorway journey next to you, you may well have to seek relationship counselling at the first petrol stop.
It’s engineered with speed in mind
Wake up fresh the next day and head out onto twisty country roads, however, and the rock-hard ride makes sense, because few cars will make you grin so much as you power hard out of corners. But for just getting from A to B, the 2010 Civic Type R can be a royal pain in the spine – you have to be in ‘hooligan mode’ to really enjoy it.
The Golf R and its more modern suspension proves that you can have rapid cornering ability without needing to carry spare vertebrae in the glovebox, and we hope the upcoming Civic Type R’s more modern setup should be a little more comfortable. The new car will have a switchable ‘Type R’ mode which will stiffen the chassis for track and fast road driving so, hopefully, owners won’t be stuck with a rock-hard ‘standard’ setting when you just want to cruise.
The engine needs to be thrashed – it’s a hardcore shock for modern drivers
The old Civic Type R engine doesn’t make a huge amount of power until the engine is screaming – and it’ll rev to a motorbike-like 8,200rpm. It sounds like a racecar, but it also means there’s little low-down torque and you have to be a few gears lower to get any real increase in speed – the opposite of modern turbocharged cars which accelerate hard from low revs.
Enthusiasts love the old Honda’s non-turbocharged, wailing engine (as will your local petrol station – we barely scratched 30mpg on a steady motorway cruise), but it was killed off because it couldn’t meet strict Euro V regulations introduced in 2010, and that’s why we’ve not had a Civic Type R in five years.
There’s a thrill to be had from wringing its neck – but, again, it’s not ideal in the real world. You’ll come up to a roundabout in third gear doing 50mph, your passenger’s sleepy head bobbling up and down with every tiny bump in the road surface, and to accelerate hard off the roundabout you’ll want to shift down to second gear. The problem is, it makes lots of high-revving engine noise so you’ll have to suffer the rest of the journey on the receiving end of the woken-by-a-Type-R death stare.
Do the same in a modern turbocharged hot hatch and you won’t end up sleeping on the sofa – they’re far more refined and make less of a fuss about going fast. The 2015 Civic Type R will have a turbocharged engine which will – hopefully – take less thrashing to go fast. We’ll report back on its ability to keep couples together as soon as we’ve driven it. Read our side-by-side comparison of the old and new Civic Type Rs for more details on what to expect.
A Type R interior is a thing of beauty
We’ve already mentioned the wonderful seats, but there’s a lot to love about Honda’s Type R interior. The 2010 Civic Type R gets a satisfying red starter button, an angry red rev counter and a spaceship-like speedo screen set far away, just under the windscreen.
There’s a satisfying sportscar-like metal gear knob which is higher up the dashboard than most cars – useful given the amount of gearchanges you’ll need to do with that engine. And there’s tonnes of useful space in a deep boot which has a low load lip – it’s a terrific car for moving lots of luggage around, but make sure you don’t transport anything too fragile – the Type R may spit it back out in shattered fragments.
It seems a dull thing to point out, but the new Type R will be based on the current Civic, which has one of the biggest hatchback boots on the market. If Honda can make the 2015 Civic Type R more useable for everyday driving than the old model – while retaining a hardcore side to its personality – then we think it’ll be a winner.
What will Type R mean in 2015?
A bit more comfort, less hassle and more everyday speed. If Honda can bring those elements together, there’s no doubt that the Type R brand will be welcomed with open arms by UK buyers.
The only reservation we have – and it’s only a little one – is, despite the new Civic Type R’s new-found power and refinement, it might not appeal to the same audience the old car did. Fans of the old Civic Type R might rather the new car was noisier, less refined and more stiff – more racing car-like in other words. Honda will have to balance this expectation with making an all-rounder that appeals to a whole new audience.