Honda's legendary hot hatch has been updated for 2018
Pros: Enthralling drive, razor-sharp handling, practicality and comfort
Cons: Styling not for everyone, expensive in high spec, faster rivals
The all-new fifth generation Honda Civic Type R may be the ultimate hot hatch. Although it has the same turbocharged petrol engine as its predecessor, the new Type R has been completely rebuilt from the ground up for 2018. What’s more, last year it became the fastest front wheel drive production car to ever lap the Nürburgring race circuit in Germany, breaking the previous record set by the Volkswagen GTI Clubsport S. But how does the Type R compare against its closest rivals, like the Volkswagen Golf R and Ford Focus RS? We spent a week testing it on Irish roads to find out.
What is it like?
The new Civic Type R is perhaps the most distinctive-looking hot hatch on the market right now, with its sharply-shaped bumpers, huge rear wing, bonnet air inlet and large 20-inch alloy wheels with accompanying Brembo brakes. The Civic Type R looks like a hardcore performance car, and every styling feature serves a purpose to make it increasingly-agile on the move. Vortex Generators on the roof provide extra downforce on the move, and the new triple exhaust provides more power and reduces noise at motorway speeds. Our test car has an optional GT Pack which adds a red-line styling pack and various other features for a sportier finish.
The Type R’s interior is much-improved in terms of build quality and practicality, with a slick new digital driver’s display and touch screen infotainment system. The infotainment system isn’t as impressive as what you will find in the latest Volkswagen Golf R and GTi models however. That said, the Type R’s interior is hugely impressive, with gorgeous body-hugging suede bucket seats, carbon-fibre effect trim and red stitching throughout the cabin. It is incredibly practical by hot hatch standards too, with plenty of room to accommodate four passengers in comfort and a capacious 420 litre boot, but there isn’t a middle seat in the rear which means it only has four seats.
The Civic Type R boasts the same 2.0-litre turbocharged VTEC petrol engine and six-speed manual gearbox as its predecessor, however power has been increased slightly to 320hp, courtesy of the new triple exhaust system. It can cover the sprint from 0-100km/h in 5.8 seconds and go on to a class-best top speed of 272km/h, and while it isn’t as quick off the line as some of its rivals, it offers one of the most intoxicating driving experiences of any hot hatch car on sale right now. The Type R’s six-speed-manual gearbox is sublime, with short throws and precise changes. There is also a new rev match function which automatically blips the throttle during down changes, and it’s a great addition for track-based driving.
Out on the road, the Civic Type R offers enormous grip and precise steering when cornering. Honda claims the new Type R is 38 percent stiffer than its predecessor, and it certainly shows on tight and twisty back roads with some of the best handling credentials in the business. Various driving modes are available via a button beside the gear lever, with +R driving mode offering the sportiest driving experience by weighting the steering, sharpening throttle response and stiffening the suspension. Thanks to a new multi-link rear suspension, the Civic Type R is more refined and comfortable too, which means it is better-suited to daily driving on Irish roads too. It is surprisingly quiet on the move, but we would have expected a raspier note from the exhaust.
Prices for the new Honda Civic Type R start from €51,750, which puts it in similar territory to the new Volkswagen Golf R (€45k) and Ford Focus RS (€53k). As standard, it is lavishly-equipped with Honda’s Sensing safety technology, LED headlights, keyless entry, 20-inch alloys, a limited slip differential, a digital driver’s display, the aforementioned touch screen infotainment system and a host of other features. Our test car has an optional GT Pack at an additional cost of €2,200, which adds satellite navigation, front and rear parking sensors, wireless smartphone charging, ambient cabin lighting, a red-line styling pack and lots of other niceties.
Carzone verdict: 4.5/5
The new Honda Civic Type R is the perfect example of what a great hot hatch should be. It blends intoxicating performance with breath-taking handling and standout styling, yet it is still practical and comfortable enough to cope with daily commuting. A driver’s car through and through, the Type R excites like few other cars can, and dare we say, it is probably our favourite front wheel drive car to date. While the Type R isn’t as quick off the mark as some of its rivals and the infotainment isn’t as impressive, we’ll forgive it for this, as it is offers one of the best driving experiences of any car on the market right now.