I’VE been waiting for this car to arrive for a long time.
Ever since the funky Civic arrived at the tail end of 2005 there has been much talk about a hot hatch version.
Honda has teased us with a prototype which did the rounds of motor shows last year – and whetted our appetite with the cooking Type S models – but now, finally, we’ve got the whole nine yards of performance Civic.
And it has definitely been worth the wait because the Type R is brilliant. It has the performance and handling to run with the best, despite being down on power compared with some of its rivals.
In an age when hot hatchbacks such as the Ford Focus ST, SEAT Leon Cupra and Vauxhall Astra VXR offer anything up to 240bhp, Honda has decided not to enter the power race, instead concentrating on keeping weight down to offer similar pace.
The Type R offers 201bhp from the same 2.0-litre engine as before, although with some clever reworking of the engine’s electric brain to make the power band more accessible.
This was one of the key criticisms of the old car – it was great when the engine was spinning high up in the rev range, but it was hard work keeping the engine on the boil. Now, thanks to the remapping of the engine the mid-range power is far more accessible lower down the rev range and makes the new Type R much easier to drive quickly.
But it’s not just easier to drive quickly – because of the way the power is delivered the Type R is now far more of an attractive proposition for covering miles in, thus making it more appealing on company car choice lists.
When it goes on sale in March there will be two versions – the basic model at £17,600 and the GT which costs £1,000 more but adds cruise control, dual-zone climate control and automatic headlights.
Honda expects 80% of the 5,000 Type Rs it expects to sell in the UK annually to be the more expensive GT trim. Of that 5,000, around 10% will be bought with company money.
That limited volume has helped secure a class-leading residual value forecast, with CAP estimating the GT model will retain 50% of its cost new after three years and 60,000 miles, compared with 41% for a Golf GTI.
With that sort of safety net in place, contract hire rates are bound to be competitive and Honda should have no trouble selling its fleet allocation.
Externally the Type R is marked out from lesser Civics by the red ‘H’ badge on the front grille and bespoke 18-inch alloy wheels.
It shares the same three-door bodystyle which was first seen on the Type S models launched last year and a pair of stainless steel-trimmed triangular exhaust pipes at the back.
Unlike the old version, the external treatment of the new Type R doesn’t stray too far from the Type S models, but at least more of an effort has been made inside to set this model apart.
The same two-tier dashbard carries over from the five-door, although there are red illuminated dial and a red ‘H’ on the steering wheel boss. Elsewhere, there are enveloping, deeply-bolstered sports front seats and an aluminium gearknob.
Honda will also offer a lightweight version of the British-built car in the UK, although take-up is expected to be very low.
This version does away with the rear parcel shelf, stereo system and speakers to save 20kg from the already impressively low kerb weight.
Judging by how good the car is with the extra equipment, especially in GT spec, this lightweight model will be something of an irrelevance.
Behind the wheel
ON paper, the Type R’s ‘mere’ 201bhp doesn’t sound promising when you look at the mega outputs of its hot hatch rivals.
But a quick drive soon dispels any concerns – the Type R flies thanks to its low weight (170kg less than a Focus ST) and the fact that the power is much more accessible.
The VTEC system, which controls the valves to boost performance, now comes on stream at around 5,400rpm and provides a manic stream of top end power all the way up to the 8,000rpm red line, all the while accompanied by a metallic, shrieking soundtrack.
The engine is also more flexible, despite having slightly less torque than the old model. With the mid-range power now available at a much lower level, the Type R will pull from low revs in third gear.
This extra flexibility is welcome and makes the Type R a more realistic everyday proposition.
Thanks to its light weight the Type R feel on its toes the whole time with sharp reactions to steering and throttle inputs, as well as a ride which isn’t as unbearably stiff as the previous generation.
Coupled with direct and feelsome steering and a superb close-ratio gearbox, the Type R is the complete hot hatch package.
THE new Type R is just as entertaining as the old model, but less hard work to drive quickly. With strong build quality and a fantastic residual value prediction, the Type R is sure to find favour among young user-choosers. Honda is on to a winner with its hot Civic.
Model: Type R
Max power (bhp/rpm): 201/7,800
Max torque (lb-ft/rpm): 142/5,600
Max speed (mph): 146
0-62mph (secs): 6.6
Fuel consumption (mpg): 31.0
CO2 emissions (g/km): 215
On sale: March 1
Prices (OTR): £17,600–£18,600