All or nothing. The Type R Experience
Many cars have merits, and I often have to ask myself If I’m using hyperbole when I say things like: “This is the best so-and-so…” or, “I’ve never experienced anything quite like…” But with Type R, after a few days of pondering my thoughts, it’s become clear: At the very least the Civic type R is a very special car. At best, it’s the most capable hot hatch ever produced.
Type R’s infotainment system is, as my favourite British motoring journalist put it: “Counter-intuitive at best”. I’m not the most tech savvy when it comes to in-car systems, but this one had me confused for quite some time. It took me three days to figure things out, but by then I was navigating through the menus like a pro.
The steering in +R mode feels too heavy and let’s address those looks, shall we? It looks like a lego car where some of the blocks went missing and were replaced with parts from another collection. According to Honda, the frills and spoilers are all functional but I’ve found some clues that would suggest otherwise. Like the rear vents that have no meaningful holes, or the front grill vents that are tiny ducts, disguised as massive intakes. Fuel consumption is a respectable 8.2 when driving with a mod cum of civility, but for the rest of the time expect up to 15l/100. It get’s thirsty when you’re heel and toeing on every downshift.
But We Digress…
But what’s good about the Type R? Pretty much everything else. Let’s start with that gearbox. It’s slick and precise and I dare say, ALMOST as good as the Honda S2000’s award-winning cog swapper. Does it NEED to be manual? No. But I’m glad it is. The clutch action is crisp and predictable and pedal placement is almost spot on. The seating position is perfect and the seats aren’t as bolstered as before and feel much more comfortable day-to-day. Type R is surprisingly good on the commute and incrementally better than the older version in many noticeable ways. Type R’s revs so freely and so fast I just wish it had a heads-up display, although the dash does light up like a Christmas tree when it’s time to shift up.
It’s That @#$*(@ Good!
Driving the 2018 FK8 Type R is a surreal experience. It’s one of the few cars I’ve driven where I feel like I want to find out exactly where the outer most limits are. How hard CAN I brake? How fast will I dare take this corner? This is a real problem when tootling to the Spar. I’ve tried to have fun pushing it at six or seven tenths like is possible in an RS3 or M2. But Type R wills me to push harder and faster. Go through a sweeping right-hander at the limits of mechanical grip? No problem, here’s some downforce. The way the steering loads up and feeds back at the limit, especially in Sport mode is just incredible. Switch to +R mode and the Continental tyres feel like they’re glued to the tar via a magnet. After every attempt at cornering fast, I’m left bewildered by how far Type R still is from the limit.
I’ve driven the Type R hard around the twisty and tight Dezzi Raceway in Port Shepstone, and most agreed around a tight track it would beat anything south of one million rand. But where the Type R seems to really shine is on high-speed sweeps where those wings can finally deliver on all that bombastic promise. As the speed increases, so does the outer limit. It’s a very strange feeling to experience on a road car. Then there’s the handling when the surface isn’t quite as perfect, kinda like that place it holds the record. You know, the Nurburgring. Hit an off-camber corner and the suspension droops perfectly as the tyres reach for more grip, all the while keeping the car perfectly composed with not much yaw either way. There is some torque steer at corner exit, but less than you’d expect from 238kW going to the front axles.
Type R is an apex predator. It wills the driver to drive at 100% at every turn, but, frustratingly, 100% is out of reach on anything but a race track.
If you can get past those looks, and I have, the Type R is the best driving tool you can get for R627 000…and I want one.