WATCH: Honda Civic Type R driven HARD
Hondas Civic Type R has gained a worldwide cult following. I would imagine many manufacturers hope and strive for this type of loyalty.
Once sat in the Honda press conference for the official launch of Type-R in South Africa, I was taken aback by the stoic passion the Honda engineers and the technical team delivered the facts of this, the 5th Generation Type R.
62.5/37.5 weight distribution, 228kW, 400nm @2500-4500, 7% lower final gear, and 25% less mass on the flywheel…dreamy. As a car nerd, I sat perched on my chair. I knew the Type R was going to be good but HOW good. The Golf Gti Clubsport has set the benchmark and although the FK2 Type R was faster around some tracks, the Golf just seemed easier to live with. Usually one doesn’t bring comparisons into launch articles but with Type R the comparisons are obvious, and Honda is not playing for second place.
Out on the track, the Type R is predictably good. A blistering tool for going fast. Honda has looked at the older model and made the changes needed to make it better. The throttle pedal is much more responsive than before, and the turbo spools up quick with an immediate shove if you can get on the power soon enough on corner exits without getting corner exit understeer. The electric steering is weighty and firm, with decent levels of feedback and the brakes are phenomenal. I suspect that I may not have scraped the surface of what those four-pot Brembos are capable of.
The only complaint would be that the rear is too planted and understeer is possible. One really has to manhandle the front of the car and “flick” the car to get it to turn in. In my eight-lap stint, I achieved this satisfying turn in just once, and this made me want to drive the Type R even more. Type R rewards a certain type of driving but doesn’t punish too harshly when mistakes are made.
The old formula for going fast in a front wheel drive car is a solid rear axle and lots of rear slip. Type R bucks the trend and has a sophisticated rear suspension that simply stays planted. One really has to turn in quite sharply to get it unstuck and I suspect finding that balance of turning in quickly whilst not getting understeer is where the last few tenths live. That and braking harder than one dares.
The gearbox feels phenomenal with rifle-like changes, ala S2000 and although auto blip is now available and works great, for me there’s nothing quite like getting a heel-and-toe downshift just right as the car squirms under braking. So I turned it off as soon as the instructor would let me.
On the road
This is where most of the changes have happened with Type R. The suspension travel in comfort mode is long enough for big bumps and although it can feel harsh over sudden bumps at speed, slowing down fixes the problem when traversing the school run speedbumps.
Even in the softest setting, a fast sweeper can still be enjoyed without reaching for the sports button. This setup feels like the culmination of years of Honda R&D and the old complaints of the older version have now well and truly been put to rest.
The Type R has, as advertised, become more civilised around town and lives up to its own hype, and the hype of all its predecessors. A niche car, yes, especially with all those big wings and fins, but under the skin, Type R has become more Golf R, whilst still remaining true to Hondas credo of “Ultimate Sports”
Type R costs R627 900 and includes a comprehensive five-year/200 000 km warranty, as well as a five-year/90 000 km service plan and a three-year AA Roadside Assistance plan. Scheduled services are at 10 000 km intervals.