Honda Civic Type R review
The Honda Civic Type R marries racing-car performance with just enough practicality that you can live with it every day. Those outrageous looks will definitely divide opinion, though.
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The Honda Civic Type R takes the rather humdrum Civic hatchback and gives it warp-speed performance and a space-age suit to match.
Even by hot-hatch standards, the Honda Civic Type R takes outrageous styling to a whole new level. If there was a magazine out there that distilled the affections of boy-racers into a few glossy pages, the VW Golf R would be its agony aunt and the Civic Type R would sit squarely on page three.
Don’t go thinking it’s all show and no go, however – underneath the Honda Civic’s wild wing and vent-covered skin sits a 2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine that pumps out 320hp. That’s enough to blast this otherwise family-friendly five-door hatch from 0-60mph in less than 5.8 seconds.
That’s all the more impressive when you consider the Honda Civic Type R sends its power to the front wheels rather than through a grippy four-wheel-drive system like the ones you’ll find nestling underneath a VW Golf R or Mercedes AMG A35. As a result, it isn’t quite as fast in a straight line as those cars, but the lighter, more agile Honda would make mincemeat of them on a race track.
That’s not to say you’ll need your own personal Silverstone to enjoy driving the Honda Civic Type R. It’s a real hoot to throw around on a twisty back road thanks to its precise steering, joyous manual gearbox and unflappable suspension — just be prepared for a bit of a handful if the road is anything but dry.
The Honda Civic Type R isn’t a car that’ll slink under anyone’s radar, but if you’re looking for a sports car disguised as a practical family hatchback, it’s one of the best in the business.
The latter is also one of the reasons why the Honda Civic Type R is so easy to live with. Unlike the old Type R, which felt about as comfortable as treading on a three-pin plug, this new car is perfectly capable of soaking up a few potholes around town – especially if you switch it out of R+ mode and put it in Comfort.
Even then, the Civic Type R feels a darn sight sportier than the standard Civic. This is partly thanks to its raucous exhaust and bright red sports seats that hold you tighter than a kid gripping the end of a Christmas cracker. You also get plenty of red highlights and some carbon-fibre-effect trims smattered across the dashboard and doors – just in case you forget you’re driving a 320hp hot hatch.
The Honda Civic Type R’s 7-inch touchscreen gives you less to feel smug about though – it’s nowhere near as easy to use as the systems in VW Golf R or Mercedes AMG A35. The Civic isn’t quite as good at carrying three adults in the back either, but at least its big boot trumps the load bays you get in most alternatives by some margin.
So, the Honda Civic Type R isn’t just a hard-charging hot hatch that’ll tear around a race track at the weekend, it’s also practical and – unlike the old Civic Type R – comfortable enough to live with every day.
The Honda Civic Type R’s driving position is fantastic and the sports seats really comfortable, but things aren’t quite so good in the more cramped rear seats
The Honda Civic Type R’s front seats are even more comfortable than the ones in the normal Civic. They clamp your body in place during hard cornering and sit low in the cabin for a hunkered down, sporty feel. The downside is that if you’re big-boned, you may feel they hug you a little too firmly to be comfortable on long journeys.
It’s easy to find your perfect driving position thanks to the standard height-adjustable driver’s seat and a steering wheel that adjusts up and down as well as in and out.
It’s reasonably spacious in the back, but anyone over six-feet-tall will find their head brushing against the roof thanks to the sloping roofline. The relatively small windows make you feel hemmed in too, but at least there’s plenty of knee room.
There isn’t a great deal of space to carry three adults side-by-side, either. The Honda’s thin body leaves a third person in the middle seat feeling wedged in and they’ll have to share the two other passengers’ footwells because of the tall hump in the middle of the floor.
The Honda Civic Type R’s rather small rear door openings mean it isn’t particularly easy to lift in a child seat. The Isofix anchor points for securing a child seat are slightly hidden behind the seat padding, too.
All four of the Honda Civic Type R’s door pockets are big enough to hold a one-litre bottle of water and the glovebox is a decent size, too. The centre console comes with a pair of cupholders and there’s a larger cubby behind the gearstick that’s perfect for your phone with ties to stop cables getting tangled up.
There’s another cubby under the front centre armrest but you can’t get the clever cinema-style rear seats like in the old Type R to let you carry tall luggage in the back.
The Honda Civic Type R has 420 litres of bootspace, so it’s bigger than the load bays you get in the 343-litre Volkswagen Golf R and the 260-litre Ford Focus RS.
The Honda can deal with tasks like carrying a baby’s buggy or a set of golf clubs just fine, and it has enough space to carry a few suitcases, but if it’s outright practicality you’re after, the Skoda Octavia vRS leads the field with its whopping 590-litre boot.
Features are a bit thin on the ground, but you do get a 12V power socket and a roll-out parcel shelf that winds up like a tape measure when you remove it. You can flip the back seats down in a two-way (60:40) split if you need to carry very large luggage, at which point the Honda Civic Type R’s boot grows to 786 litres.
The boot floor is completely flat so it’s a doddle to push very heavy boxes right up behind the front seats and there’s enough space to comfortably carry a bike without removing either of its wheels.
The Civic Type R is phenomenally fast for a small family car, but it’s also easy to live with every day. However, four-wheel drive alternatives are less demanding to drive quickly
The Honda Civic Type R has a 320hp, turbocharged, four-cylinder engine that can rocket it from 0-62mph in 5.8 seconds and on to a top speed of 169mph. A Volkswagen Golf R is quicker on paper – it’ll do 0-62mph in 4.6 thanks to its four-wheel drive, launch control and quick-shifting automatic gearbox – but in the real world, the Honda feels every bit as fast.
That said, you’ll wish the Honda sounded a little more musical. Its exhausts make a business-like drone, but you don’t get the characterful crack and pops that the old Ford Focus RS emits.
Fuel economy of 36.7mpg isn’t brilliant, but you wouldn’t expect a rapid hot-hatch to be particularly cheap to run. If fuel economy is a concern, the VW Golf R is a little less thirsty.
The Honda Civic Type R looks like a racing car and it drives like one too. The heavy steering makes it feel unshakable in corners and it’s quick – you can dart into bends spurred on by the fact that there’s very little lean, especially when the suspension is in its firmest R+ setting.
There’s plenty of grip, too – despite the fact the Honda Civic Type R doesn’t come with a sure-footed four-wheel-drive system like the Focus RS and Golf R. Instead, it relies on a limited-slip differential – a clever device that gives you more grip as you accelerate out of corners — to contain its power. You can feel it working as the car claws itself around corners at a speed that’s hard to believe.
It’s every bit as engaging to drive as its four-wheel-drive alternatives, but on a wet road you’ll struggle to keep up with the Golf R or AMG 35 because the Civic easily spins its front wheels when the road is anything but bone-dry.
The Civic Type R is only available with a manual gearbox – so it can’t compete with super-quick shifts of an automatic Golf R – but the Honda’s gear shift feels tight and short, and just adds to the race-car feel.
The good news is that the Civic feels super sporty while still being a perfectly usable everyday proposition. On top of the hardcore R+ mode, you get Sport and Comfort drive setups. Sport is firm enough for fast road driving without jarring you and your passengers over bumps but in town, you’ll want to choose Comfort which makes the Honda surprisingly pliant.
It’s reasonably comfortable on the motorway, although the Type R’s huge 20-inch tyres produce more road noise than you get in a humble entry-level Civic and the boy racer engine tends to drone. Adaptive cruise control – which can match the speed of the car in front before returning to a preselected cruising speed when the way is clear – comes fitted as standard, plus you get lane assist that can gently guide the car in lane and automatic emergency braking to help prevent avoidable collisions.
GT models add a blind-spot warning system that alerts you to approaching cars that aren’t in view and a cross-traffic monitor that’ll do the same when you’re reversing out of bay parking spaces.
The Honda Civic Type R’s low-set driving position feels sporty, but the infotainment system isn’t particularly easy to use