The Civic Type R is phenomenally fast for a small family car, but it’s also easy to live with everyday. 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 a Focus RS emits.
The Civic Type R is phenomenally fast for a small family car, but it’s also easy to live with everyday
Fuel economy of 36.7mpg isn’t brilliant but you can’t really expect the Type R to be with this performance. That said, a Volkswagen Golf R should be a little more frugal.
The Civic Type R looks like a race 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 when the suspension’s in its firmest +R setting.
There’s plenty of grip, too, although, unlike the Focus RS and Golf R, the Honda’s not four-wheel drive. Instead it relies on a limited-slip differential – a clever device that gives you more grip as you accelerate out of corners. You can feel it working as the car claws itself round 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 Focus RS because the Civic easily spins its front wheels when the road get slippery.
The Civic 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 feel 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 +R you get Sport and Comfort drive select modes. Sport is firm enough for fast road driving without jarring you and your passengers over bumps. In town, though, you’ll want to choose Comfort which makes the Honda surprisingly comfortable, even on cobbled streets.
It’s even relatively quiet 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. 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. 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. Despite all this, the Honda only scored four stars when it was crash tested by safety body Euro NCAP.