Honda’s new Civic Type R has seemed a long time coming. But having shown concept and prototype versions at motorshows for several years, Honda has finally delivered its competitor to the Renault Mégane RS and Volkswagen Golf R.
To take them on, Honda has given the Civic some 306bhp, calling the car “the most extreme Type R to date”.
What is the 2015 Honda Civic Type R like to drive?
This is the first Type R to get a turbocharged engine. In the past, Type Rs have had high-revving naturally aspirated engines, but because Honda wanted so much power from the Civic, there was little other choice. As a result, this engine makes its 306bhp peak power at 6500rpm and peak torque of 295lb ft from 2500rpm. Those revs are low by fast Honda standards, implying that you won’t have to work the engine so hard.
The Civic is, unlike the Golf R, front-wheel drive rather than for-wheel drive. That 306bhp is a huge amount of power for the front wheels to handle, so Honda has fitted torque steer-reducing front suspension, meant to limit the amount of tug on the steering wheel when accelerating. Ford and Vauxhall have used a similar system in the past. Renault still does.
The rear suspension is less novel, but there are dampers whose firmness can be put into two states. The first is for the road, the second – which comes if you push a ‘+R’ button on the dashboard – is meant mostly for race tracks. It also sharpens the throttle response, stiffens the steering weight, makes the dials turn red and reduces the intrusion of the electronic stability programme.
It’s not a button you’ll find yourself pressing on the road too often, because in its standard state the Civic Type R is firmly suspended enough. It is, though, pretty easy to drive. The control weights are solid, the gearbox – a six-speed manual only, with no automatic option – is fairly slick and the engine response is quite docile.
There’s quite a lot of lag from the turbo at lower revs, which means power doesn’t always arrive just at the moment you asked it to, but there’s no denying how fast this car is if you keep asking for power. Its 0-62mph time is 5.7sec. If you do ask for lots of power, though, the engine on our test car became quite boomy at higher revs.
The handling is relatively crisp and quite secure, but the Civic’s big trick is that it has lots of grip in the middle of a corner and good traction, helped by a standard limited-slip differential.
It’ll take a back to back test in the UK to know for sure, but to us it felt like the Civic’s steering was less corrupted under power than that of the Mégane RS. However, it also has less feel, and the handling is less incisive. We also think it’ll prove to be a a less polished drive than a Volkswagen Golf R.
What is the 2015 Honda Civic Type R like inside?
Inside, it has more about it to worry the Renault. Naturally there’s lots of black and red, because they seem to be the sporting colours. So there’s a red stripe to note the steering wheel’s top position and red stitching around the stubby, aluminium-topped gearlever. No faulting the (red) seats, either, which are deeply supportive and contribute to a pleasing driving position.
There’s a central rev counter on the split dial package, although the chunky steering wheel too easily obscures the speedometer for some drivers. But generally comfort and ergonomics have the measure of the Mégane RS, if not the Volkswagen Golf R or BMW M135i.
Ditto the functionality of the information and entertainment systems: BMW’s iDrive is hard to beat here, and the same theme is continued when it comes to perceived quality of interior materials. We don’t doubt that a Honda’s interior is as solidly constructed as any other manufacturer’s, but the Civic doesn’t quite feel as solid as a Golf or 1 Series inside.
It does score on practicality, though. The Civic Type R comes with a five-door body only, has good rear accommodation and a 498-litre boot.
Should I buy one?
It’s competitive on price with both its Volkswagen and Renualt rivals. You can get a Mégane RS for less but after options things are closer, while Honda has worked hard to make a Civic Type R available on a PCP for £300 a month with a £3000 deposit.
At that money, you might not be getting the most fun hatchback to drive, but you’ll be getting a practical yet outlandish and extremely capable one.
What Car? says…
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Volkswagen Golf R