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How Special Is The Honda Civic Type R?

You need to experience it behind the wheel
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Allow me to start with a disclaimer: I didn’t fall for the Civic Type R as much as I did the Lancer Evolution or the WRX STI, or at least I refused to, just to spare myself from falling for a car meant for the Japanese and the UK markets.

Until now, that is. Honda’s hot hatch is now produced for the world, giving car enthusiasts elsewhere one more reason to rejoice. There have been a few surprises that have hit our market in the past couple of years, and one of them is the Civic Type R.

I have no basis as to how the previous models drove, so I’m going straight to how this one does. The turbocharged engine is wonderful. It delivers 306hp at 6,500rpm and 400Nm at 2,500-4,000rpm. There’s so much torque on the low end and the rev band is linear all the way to the 7,000rpm redline. One thing I really love is the auto blip. It sets the tone of what the Type R is about. The downside? I expected more noise from the exhaust, considering it looks so menacing with three pipes.

The steering is light. With the different settings—Comfort, Sport, and +R—it does become slightly heavier. Sport is the default setting, sending a message this car wants to play.

That’s matched to a six-speed manual ‘box. The shifts are fantastic—short and crisp—while the clutch lies between light and firm; on point when you want to push and easy to live with around town. Honda has a knack of getting the transmission right, and somehow the Type R’s brings the last CR-Z to mind.

The suspension, meanwhile, is comfortable. When you’re not pushing and just driving around town, it feels like your good ol’ trusty Civic. When you hit a bump quite hard, however, you’ll feel it because of those 20-inchers on 245/30 tires.

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There’s a sense of skittishness on the front initially when you put the power down hard when you’re in Sport or +R. But as you go along, the sense that the Type R is front-wheel drive will disappear. That’s because the double-pivot front suspension and the helical diff help control torque steer. It has changed how front-wheel-drive hot hatches behave. The Type R has so much grip, it boosts your confidence. It’s so enjoyable on curves and corners. On the straights, too, of course.

Everyone’s going nuts about this car, and rightfully so. Fair to say, it’s the hot hatch of the moment. Plus there’s no denying its cult status. Put it all together—the power delivery, the lovely clutch, the fantastic shift, and all that traction—and the driving experience is just wow! How I wish I had the chance to try it out on a track.

But I have mixed feelings about the car. Performance is one thing, appearance another. The Type R is far from timeless. It has too much of a boy-racer thing going on that caters to the younger crowd. There’s just so much fake mesh as well as fake carbon fiber (which looks better in plain black). I’ll admit I didn’t like it at the start, probably even hated it. But as the days went by, I kind of understood why it looks the way it does, especially after driving it. Uncompromising, no doubt, and it’s meant to make statement. During my time with it, I went out late each night just to drive it. It really is about that. But it’s still polarizing. No violent reactions with the interior—the red buckets reflect the R’s character and you sit low. The cabin is functional, too, just like a ‘normal’ Civic.

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All things considered, it’s a Honda, which means reliability is not a question and the value will hold. Just look at the Civic SiR—the price is constant and still on the wish list of car nuts. So imagine what the Type R will command in the future. For a 300hp machine, the price tag is a fraction compared to other performance cars. Good luck with the queue, though.

Credit where it’s due. Honda has brought back the Type R, and we finally have it.

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