Honda Civic Type R GT long-term test – time for new tyres

It’s been a month since our last update and in that time the carwow Honda Civic Type R long term test car has been busy running errands for the editorial team and starring in a couple of videos for our YouTube channel.

First of all we pitted it against its hot hatch rivals – the Focus RS and Golf R – in a drag race comparison video. OK, the Type R was never going to beat either of its four-wheel-drive rivals off the line, but nevertheless its strong engine and aerodynamic shape helped it catch up and pass the Golf R – although the Focus was a distant blue blur by the time the three cars crossed the quarter-mile finish marker. You can thank the Ford’s rear-drive-biased 4×4 system and a healthy 40hp power advantage for that.

A few weeks later the Type R lined up for another drag race in front of the cameras – this time for a reverse sprint as the first in a series of summer-themed sporting events, with cars and asthmatic journalists in place of ripped athletes. Launching a car in reverse isn’t a particularly pleasant experience, but the Type R dashed off the line easily with a quick sidestep of the clutch pedal at about 4,000rpm. Decent traction helped it come take the gold medal in the event, trouncing the likes of the BMW M2, Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT-8 and flyweight Caterham 620S – despite the latter weighing less than half as much as our long-termer.

It’s perhaps not surprising that such abuse has finished off the original front tyres on the Civic, so with just 5,200 miles on the clock we replaced them with identical Continental Sportcontact 6 items, which set us back £340, including mobile fitting. Our friends over at CarThrottle have gone for stickier Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres on their Type R – they have even more grip (not something the Civic lacks on the Continentals) but make the ride even firmer. Most of our miles are done on the road so we’ve stuck with the Contis – after all, the Civic isn’t the quietest or most comfortable of long-distance as it is.

The new hoops were fitted by mobile tyre fitters etyres, whose service was prompt – they had the tyres sourced and on the car outside carwow Head of Content Tim’s house less than 24 hours after ordering.

The Type R has also proved its practicality this month – Tim took it down to Devon for a weekend of camping for a friend’s wedding. The giant boot easily swallowed a weekend’s worth of camping gear and even provided a handy place to hang a suit carrier while getting ready. The only flaw we found is that it’s tricky to sit in the driver’s seat with your legs outside of the car while changing shoes – those giant bolsters which are so helpful in fast cornering don’t facilitate speedy footwear changes…

Honda Civic Type R long term test (updated July 2016)

A new week with the Honda Civic Type R has seen it hit the rough stuff at the Goodwood Festival of Speed and its first repair. Despite these distractions, the Type R still impresses first and foremost with its incredible power, limpet-like grip and true race car feel.

When not testing the reaches of its performance, however, our Civic is often called into action as a camera car for shoots for our carwow YouTube channel. This entails driving around with the boot wedged open which, on one particular day, didn’t agree with our car. Once the camera gear was packed away, it became obvious the bootlid could no longer hold itself up but sagged slowly down like Michael Gove’s leadership prospects.

Close inspection revealed a small amount of fluid leaking from one of the struts that holds the bootlid up. This called for a trip to Honda Chiswick – apparently Europe’s biggest Honda dealer featuring marine tech, motorbike and lawnmowers along with the usual range of cars. Their service was flawless and they had the new part fitted in just half-an-hour along with cleaning the car. The on-site cafe with complimentary hot drink was also gladly received.

Now in one piece again, our Civic was tasked with being part of the carwow fleet travelling down to Goodwood Festival of Speed in Chichester, Sussex. A sizeable contingent from the company would be camping at the festival so plenty of liquids, food and outdoor gear needed to be transported to the festival. While there, its impressive interior space made light work of carrying our burly employees to and from the local pub.

The small issue we found was that Goodwood’s plentiful parking was among vast rolling fields of grass and mud – now churned to the consistency of especially watery porridge thanks to Britain’s inclement summer. This didn’t agree much with the Civic’s 295lb ft of torque making wheelspin a constant force to be reckoned with as we tried to escape Goodwood’s grassy confines.

Honda Civic Type R long term test (updated June 2016)

One of these cars is 30% mud. Guess which?

Since its arrival at carwow, the Honda Civic Type R has been treated like a true workhorse. It’s been used for several video shoots, airport runs and even drag races against its closest rivals – keep an eye on the carwow YouTube channel for more on that soon.

The only thing it hasn’t done is visit a car wash. Er, sorry about that Honda! On the plus side, the Type R’s Polished Metal Metallic paint hides the dirt really quite well – despite being caked in more filth than your average Soho literature boutique. To prove the point, our lead image above shows it parked next to a valet-fresh Honda HR-V painted in an almost-identical colour. You almost wouldn’t guess the one on the left has been through the muddiest car park in the world…

It’s not just the colour that’s impressed us lately, either. A few weeks ago we had the chance to drive another grey Honda Civic Type R – albeit one from 2005. Honda was brave enough to let journalists thrash its heritage fleet EP3 Type R around the alpine route at Millbrook Proving Ground – that’s where they filmed James Bond’s DBS rollover scene from Casino Royale.

A spin in an EP3 Civic Type R shows how much things have moved on in 10 years

Initial impressions of the old EP3 weren’t fantastic. The past 10 years haven’t been kind to the old ‘breadvan’ – for a start, it feels like a rattly tin can compared to the chunky, solidly built new model. Secondly, the EP3 skits over mid-corner bumps while the turbocharged FK2 Type R just glues itself to the tarmac and thunders around corners like a touring car. OK, enthusiasts might argue that the older car’s lively body movements make it more engaging but, on the road, we’d much rather have the ‘suction-cupped to the road’ feeling than the ‘oh my god, that’s a cow, why am I in a field’ feeling that the old car’s lift-off oversteer sometimes gives you.

The Type R lapped up camping at Goodwood

Still, there’s no doubting the fact the old car’s non-turbocharged 2.0-litre, 197hp engine rips to the redline with an urge the new turbocharged unit can only dream of. And the old one sounds more exciting because of it – as the VTEC variable valve timing kicks in at 5,800rpm, the tacho needle positively surges to the rev limiter at 8,250rpm and you feel like you’re in a real race car. The modern turbocharged Civic Type R just drones away, but has way more oomph from early on in the rev range. This makes it a far more relaxing car to drive on the road than the old one, and you don’t have to change down gear as often to thrash out an overtake.

But we see why you’d be tempted to pick up an old EP3 for about £2,000 and enjoy wringing its neck on track days. Now, there’s an idea…

The Type R certainly outdoes the competition in terms of race-car looks…

Updated 2 June 2016

Our first week with the Honda Civic Type R was mainly spent marvelling at its incredible speed. It’s appropriate that it looks like a cross between a stealth fighter and Sonic the Hedgehog, because the Type R accelerates with truly cartoonish levels of ferocity.

A good hot hatch, however, should be able to do all the things a regular hatch does, too, as well as scaring you witless. We spent a long weekend – and a few hundred miles – pounding middle-England’s motorway network to see if this insane Civic can also be civil. Our journey culminated at Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground in Leicestershire to face off against its closest rivals – more on that in the coming weeks.

What’s the Civic Type R’s interior space like?

In a word – plentiful. We took three night’s worth of luggage in soft bags and didn’t even begin to test the boot’s limits. A family of four could easily fit a two-week’s worth of luggage back there and, with minimal rear intrusion from the transmission tunnel and Honda’s flip-up ‘magic seats’, the rear footwell offers some handy extra storage.

Can the Type R out drag the mighty Focus RS? All will be revealed… soon.

What’s it like on a long drive?

The Civic Type R is a mixed bag on a longer drive – in some areas, it’s much more impressive than we expected and, in others, it’s as bad as we’d feared. The bad news first – at motorway speeds, there’s an intrusive drone from the engine – you can have a conversation at 70mph, but you’ll find yourself raising your voice more than you would in a Golf GTI.

Where the Civic impresses, however, is in terms of ride quality. Considering how focused it feels on the road, we expected it to ride with the kind of compliance you’d find in a prison mattress. We were surprised to discover, however, that it smooths out bumps better than some sports saloons – provided you keep it out of racy +R mode. Don’t get us wrong – it’s a firm, sporty car – but, while you feel the bumps in the road surface, they never send a harsh jolt through the seats. It, instead, feels well damped in a manner similar to a Porsche 911 we drove recently.

If you’re planning on travelling far in your Civic Type R, however, we suggest you make use of the cruise control – activated via a button confusingly marked ‘Main’. Without it, the engine’s vast reserves of power can see you creep over the speed limit without any sensation of doing so. On the other hand, the Type R’s profound disdain for going slowly means overtakes can be completed with just the slightest flex of your big toe.

Easily mistaken for a regular Civic? An emphatic NO!

Updated 24 May 2016

It’s been a week since carwow took delivery of its first long-termer – a Honda Civic Type R GT. On the face of it, it’s a car that seamlessly combines everyday practicality with ruthless speed – keep reading to find out how our first seven days with the car shaped up.

What specification did you go for?

Colour choice was our main concern and, having spent a week in a Type R finished in Brilliant Sporty Blue Metallic, we felt something a little more subtle was in order. It came down to a toss up between Honda’s Championship White or Polished Metal Metallic – one Twitter poll later and the latter was the colour that came out on top.

It may be a subtler shade, but the £525 (what we’ll call gunmetal) finish only serves to highlight the car’s numerous flashes of sporty red exterior trim. And – with the Type R’s stretched wheel arches, ground-scraping front splitter and huge whale-tail rear spoiler – ‘subtle’, in this case, is a relative term.

Profiles don’t come much more imposing

Requiring less deliberation was the decision to go for a Type R GT – rather than the basic model. Honda expects it to be by far and away the bestseller and it’s easy to see why. An extra £2,300 buys you a whole raft of features including auto lights and wipers, a seven-inch touchscreen with Garmin sat-nav, auto dipping headlights and a frantically beeping (and quite infuriating) forward-collision warning system.

It’s fast, right?

Yes – quite unnervingly so! We’ve yet to stretch the Civic’s legs fully but, in the week we’ve had it, the Type R’s proven itself to be just as rapid as its 0-62mph time of 5.7 seconds and top speed of 167mph would suggest.

Straight-line ‘whack’ is only half the story, and it’s the other side of things that we have yet to fully explore. As yet only an enthusiastically tackled motorway slip road has given a hint as to just how quick the Type R fires round bends – it simply grips in the dry, pushing your body hard into the heavily bolstered sports seats.

Not many cars can stick to the Type R’s rear bumper…

We have a few things planned to test its performance to the full – stay tuned to the carwow YouTube channel for the first of those.

A seamless mixture of power and practicality then?

Well, yes and no. On paper, the Type R should be just as practical as any other Civic – it has one of the biggest boots in class and, with the seats down, a bicycle will fit in with no problems. There’s also plenty of space for four people, although rear-seat passengers have their forward view restricted by the huge front sports seats – assuming they don’t have their eyes welded shut by the sheer speed of the thing.

It’s only when you live with a car for a few days that issues start to appear and the Civic Type R isn’t immune to this theory. It’s far more focused than the likes of GTIs built by Volkswagen and Peugeot, and that shows a short time into ownership. For one, it positively hates speed humps – you need to creep slowly to avoid scraping the underside of the front bumper and, on one particular occasion, we had to give up parking on a drive for fear it would quite literally beach itself on the steeply inclined pavement.

The Type R is a practical beast – like a hot hatch should be

Sleeping policemen aren’t the only traffic-calming measure the Type R enjoys a fractured relationship with – width restrictions present another problem. At 1,878mm wide, the Type R is 108mm portlier than the regular car thanks to stretched wheel arches and a wider track that can’t be seen from the driver’s seat. In other words, you have to take real care not to kerb the car’s fantastic 19-inch alloy wheels. Something that, sadly, we couldn’t avoid when met by an Aston Martin blasting round a blind corner in the middle of the road on day one of ownership.

Our final complaint is the steering. On the open road it’s quite brilliant – quick and accurate in a way that lets it cut through country roads with laser-like precision but, in town, it’s a different matter. There, single-sweep manoeuvres turn into three (or more) point turns to the point that you’ll be dreaming of a tighter turning circle, and having nightmares of the day you and the Civic come into contact with a multi-storey carpark…

We’ll have fortnightly reports on our time with the Honda Civic Type R GT – stay tuned for our next instalment! 

Honda Civic Type R

Fast hatchback has big power, a big boot and gives big smiles
£30,000 - £32,300
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