We’ve only just waved goodbye to our 1.0-litre Honda Civic SR, which proved itself to be an honest, reliable and refined companion for reviews editor Rich Ingram. But the model we’re most excited about in the range is currently our favourite hot hatch: the Civic Type R.
We know from our road tests that it’s taken on some very talented cars and seen off each one, so what is it really like to live with? To find out, we’re going to be running our reigning class champ on the fleet for the next six months.
• Best hot hatches on sale 2018
As it’s built here in Britain, I took the opportunity to go to Honda’s factory in Swindon, Wilts, to pick up the keys. Speccing a Type R couldn’t be simpler; there’s only one engine, one gearbox option and some pretty divisive styling whether you like it or not. Our car is finished in Honda’s rather dramatic Rallye Red, which is offset by a striking set of 20-inch black alloy wheels.
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Of course, the styling won’t be to all tastes; my parents’ immediate response when I took it back home to Newcastle was: “What in the world is that?” Personally, however, I think the Type R is a welcome antidote to the increasingly modest and conservative styling of many new cars. And all of those spoilers and scoops serve a purpose, too: helping feed air to the engine, cool the brakes and manipulate airflow around the car to create downforce in pursuit of performance.
The only option Honda offers on the Type R is a GT pack. It adds £2,000 to the price – or £20 per month – but brings a whole load of worthwhile equipment. This includes dual-zone climate control, front and rear parking sensors, an 11-speaker sound system and wireless charging. There’s also a raft of safety tech such as blind spot and rear cross traffic monitoring. The GT pack is fitted to our car and Honda predicts around 80 per cent of buyers will choose it.
You certainly won’t be wanting for kit inside a GT. Adaptive cruise control, Bluetooth, sat-nav, Apple CarPlay, bucket seats and a reversing camera all come as standard, making the Type R easier to live with.
That’s a target the engineers at Honda have clearly been tasked with, too. Despite the Type R’s monstrous performance, the most striking thing about it on the road is how comfortable and forgiving it is to drive. It’s now based on a lighter and stiffer platform, but Honda has also fitted a multi-link rear suspension set-up and added more sophisticated adaptive dampers. And you can tell; it’s incredibly compliant for such a focused hot hatch.
To live with, initially, it would seem the Type R is completely at odds with how it looks. Despite its racy and brash exterior it is surprisingly comfortable – even around London’s pitted streets in the new ‘comfort’ mode. As before, the gearbox has a beautiful mechanical action and the engine’s glut of performance (316bhp and 400Nm of torque) makes progress effortless and addictive.
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Image 9 of 18
There have also been some big improvements in the small things – stuff you notice after weeks of driving. There’s now a rear wiper, which makes driving on the motorway much safer on a rainy winter day, and the steering wheel no longer obstructs the dials.
Early gripes? Well, like the normal Civic, the new Type R features a second-rate infotainment system, with messy graphics and an unresponsive screen that makes using it frustrating. And another annoyance is not being able to connect to the car’s Bluetooth while you’re moving, even as a passenger.
*Insurance quote from AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old living in Banbury, Oxon, with three penalty points.