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Let's get this straight from the start. Some people see driving simply as a means of getting from A to B as comfortably as possible, others see driving as a means of getting from A to B with as much kit in the car as possible, yet more folks see driving as a chore to be tolerated and finally there's those to whom driving is a pleasure in itself. The Honda Civic Type-R is not a car for comfort. It is not a car for lugging huge loads (although it is actually rather spacious) and it's not someting you would want to drive with a heavy heart. Oh no. The Civic Type-R is an out-and-out drivers car, designed to tweak every last ounce of enjoyment from even the most mundane of runs down to the corner shop.
The R is for Racing and the Civic Type-R is the latest in the distinguished Type-R line, following in the wake of the now legendary Integra Type-R and the Accord Type-R. But is it any good?
The first thing that strikes you about the car is the stubby, agressive stance. From the side, poised on 7-spoke 17" alloy wheels with very low-profile tyres, it looks almost like a sprinter on the blocks. The bullish image is helped along by a generous sprinkling of styling cues around the bodywork. Aerodynamic skirts around the side of the car tie in with the wind-swept front spioler and the pointed 'wing' at the back of the car. The twin-pipe exhaust hints at a slightly sportier performance than your standard Civic. But it is from the front of the car that you get the full picture. With a steeply raked bonnet and a purposeful looking mesh radiator grille, the Type-R logo looks right at home, slightly offset from the Honda badge. It may only be available in four colours (red, pearl-black, metallic silver or titanium grey) but they all complement the lines of the car perfectly. A great deal of attention has been paid to detail. Everything on the outside of the car is colour-coded. Wing Mirrors, door handles, bumpers, the works. And little touches like the stubby aerial at the back of the roof, the absence of a key-hole on the passenger-side door all add up to provide a car with bags of image. The bodywork itself is well put together. Seams are un-noticeable, panels feel sturdy. The doors shut with a reassuring THUD.
The styling is carried inside, as you would expect. The cabin is dominated by the silver cerntral console which houses the stereo, air-con dials and all the usual gubbins. What is slightly less than usual is the aluminium gear-knob that issues forth from a rubber boot in the middle of the centre console. With the gates clearly marked in red on the knob, the shift action is amazingly smooth and very short-throw. The fact that there is hardly any distance between the steering wheel and the gear lever means that gear-changes are a very slick affair indeed. Moving on to the steering wheel, it's reach but not rake adjustable and a reasonably small size too. One niggle is that at any position other than the top of it's reach adjustment, the steering wheel completely obscures the top half of the speedo, which might sound a good excuse for exceeding the limit, but you'll only try it the once. The instrument cluster itself is presented in a neat group of 3 ivory-coloured dials. All the usuals are there, Handbrake warning, battery, oil etc. The tachomoeter shows a red-line at 8,000 rpm, and the speedo
Pictures of Honda Civic Type R
Rear 3/4s view
is marked out all the way to 160mph. Just a few more clues, should you need them, that this is no ordinary Civic.
Moving back from the dashboard we reach the seats. Wonderfully sculpted and trimmed in alcantara it's almost as if they envelope you. The unadjustable head-support is firm and probably suited to taller people, although my (5ft nothing) wife doesn't find them uncomfortable. Entry to the back seats requires tipping the passenger seat forward (as it's a 3-dorr hatchback). Why only the passenger seat? Because the drivers seat doesn't slide when tipped so a particularly tall driver won't leave much space for getting in the back. That said, once sat in the back of the car the cloth seats are equally comfortable with a generous helping of leg-room for the two seatbelted passengers. Yup, you only get two in the back folks, there is no middle lap-belt like you would find in the other Civics. But it does leave you with bags of room. The available space is helped by the complete lack of a transmission tunnel 'hump' running down the middle of the car.
Further back still and we find ourselves in the boot, which reveals that the rear seats are standard 60/40 split-fold. Of generous proportions, the 'blurb' reckons that the boot is around 300litres, icreasing to 600 with the rear seats folded down. I can vouch for this being ample room for multiple bags of garden waste, cardboard, old furniture etc. on multiple runs down to the tip. easily as much as I used to get in my old 306. Access to the space-save spare wheel is through the boot, so while it will require you to unload the car to change the wheel, it does mean that the wheel is not easily 'nickable' On the subject of the spare wheel, it's probably worth mentioning that, should you get a puncutre in a front tyre, you are in for a spot of bother. So big are the front brakes that the space-saver spare simply will not fit. No siree-bob. If you get a puncture in the front you have to take off a back wheel, replace it with the spare and then swap the newly displaced back wheel with the punctured front. Just one more incentive to make sure you watch how mych tread is left on your front tyres!
Overall, build quality is excellent. The plastics used are firm, cloth is comfortable, stitching is good and the overall finish is tidy. It certainly isn't an Audi when it comes to the interior, there's no real luxury. Everything serves a purpose and there's very little extras but what they have given you is well built.
18 months and 23,000 miles of driving have That said, started to take their toll on the interior. The silver console has revealed itself as being spray-painted, there are small bubbles appearing on the top part where it catches the most sun. The Silver inserts on the inside door-pulls are also beginning to wear and scratch on the drivers-side. But these are minor niggles and should be expected (although maybe not quite so soon).
So that's what it looks like, but this is a drivers car... So how does it drive!?!?!
Turning the engine over the dash springs to life. The rev-counter hovers around 1,000 and the safety checks gradually turn off the few remaining warning lights. Heading off down my bumpy side-road, the first thing I noticed was how VERY firm the ride is. A combination of very low-profile tyres and a highly tuned suspension means that you get to feel every single contour of the road. This is fed back through the Electronic Power Steering reasonably well although the chassis probably provides more information than you realise. So firm is the suspension and so taut the handling, you can almost tell what shape a manhole cover is as you drive over it.
Changing up through the gears is a simple task, even easier than I had imagined. The freely revving engine draws you on, encourages the gear changes. And that's only at reasonably low revs. When moving, the gear change is ultra-smooth and before you know it you have passed 30mph, a mere blip on the speedo, not even worthy of a number. Here again is a minor gripe. The performance of the car is such that marking the speedo in increments of 20 is not the most license friendly way of doing things. That said, it does make sure I keep an eye on my speed.
The brakes are immensely powerful. The pedal is incredibly firm and you could be forgiven for wondering if there is any power-assist or ABS fitted! After a few stops you're soon used to them though and begin to realise just how good the brakes are. The feedback is good too, it's a refined kind of a feedback but you always know when your dangerously close to locking up. As I do with all cars, I found an empty stretch of wet road I tried to get the ABS to kick in, to prove to myself that it was fitted (and working!) and also to find out when it kicked in. The results are extremely pleasing, Only under what I would consider to be ludicrous conditions (stomping on the break while cornering at speed on a damp road if you must know) could I get the ABS to act up. For the rest of the time, the car just stopped. There's no simpler way to put it. Hardly surprising then, that this car has one of the fastest 60-0 times in it's class. Just watch out for the muppet behind you, as chances are they won't be able to stop anywhere near as quickly. This exemplary performance under braking is probably due in the significant part to the whizzy Electronic Brake Distribution, which balances braking force across the four corners of the car to ensure maximum stopping power without loosing grip.
Pottering around in rush-hour traffic is surprisingly tolerable. The clutch is a little heavy but the Electronic Power Steering makes light work of nipping in and out of gaps. The compact size of the car is also pretty well suited, with wing-mirrors not sticking out too far. The rear of the car is not far short of vertical either, so there's no real worries when reversing. In fact my only gripe in this respect is that the bonnet drops away so steeply that you can't see it from the drivers seat, which does mean that pulling up to a wall/car/tree/whatever in front of the car takes a bit of getting used to.
Out, then, and on to the open roads. The engine has received little mention so far and that's because, around town, it's nothing special. Bimbling along at 3,000rpm and this could be just about any other 2litre engine. It's a bit more revvy than the others but in terms of performance, it's nothing special. The only thing you notice in traffic is the sensitivity of the throttle, but it is hardly a problem. Once out of traffic though things change all together. Push the engine beyond 5,000 revs and it takes on a whole new personality. This is where the Intelligent VTEC kicks in and starts to tinker with the workings.
Much like the unfortunate Dr. David Banner, when pushed, this engine metamorphoses from a mild-mannered research scientist to a hulking green, gamma-ray blasted brute of a beast. As the revs continue to rise, so does the output of the engine. Smoothly increasing until, at 7,400 rpm, it's putting out a whopping 200 break horses and the engine is truly screaming, sounding not too unlike a formula one car. This is where the short-shift, close-ratio gearbox comes in to play. The gears are close enough that you never drop out of the power band and can accelerate swiftly up through the gears at an almost frightening rate and on to a claimed top speed of 146mph (although I didn't even attempt to prove this). !st takes you up to 25(ish), 2nd on to 55, 3rd up to 70, 4th sees you rapidly on to 90 and the rest is theoretical. ;-) All the while, the EPS is adapting to the speed, firming up to provide a very confident feel to the steering and with the confidence provided by the excellent brakes and the feedback from the chassis, the driver always feels totally in control. Even in the wet, power is applied smoothly and in a controlled fashion with only the heaviest right foot resulting in wheel-spin (provided you have a decent, grippy set of front rubber).
It's not just in a straight line that the car excels either. The geometry of the car is excellent, a wheel at every corner. The wide wheels and low tyres, combined with the excellent chassis and the EPS give you a car that will go wherever you point it. Understeer is very hard to find and the back-end behaves itself way beyond expectations, only some seriously unruly driving will force the Civic Type-R to loose it's composure through a corner. I have heard claims that the suspension is so firm that, on a bumpy road you could be bounced off-line... it's not something that I have encountered but it is believable. Cornering feels like the car is on rails, the only difference being that a train could never take a corner so tight, so quickly.
All in all, the car is amazing. So amazing that, after a 2-day test-drive, I placed an order. It made my Peugeot 306 GTi-6 look like a family saloon, both in terms of engine performance and handling.
Five stars it is then, althogh not without some reservations. If I had to find fault then I would complain about the level of road noise coming into the cabin. The huge wheels provide an emormous amount of grip but they aren't half noisy. The EPS is another slight niggle, it can sometimes feel a little too 'floaty' although never dangerously so. I ordered the in-boot CD changer. It broke after 10 months and has yet to be repaired (more out of my laziness than poor dealer service). I also had an initial problem with the alarm being hper-sensitive. A quick return to the dealers and a new circuit-board later and the problem was solved, free of charge. There's also the problem with the interior paint, but again a trip to the dealers will rectify this. The external paint has proven to be a little thin as well, chips are easy to come by and it picks up light scratches (from bushes etc) with ease. If you are sensitive about this kind of thing, go for the silver, all the others show up scratches like you wouldn't believe.
[Originally posted on DooYoo.co.uk (by me) back in 2003. Recently updated during the port to Ciao.]
I have a type R and i adore it !
I have never used first gear - its useless as second takes you off ,like a dream.
The steering is floaty as you say and quite oftem it tramlines but you get used to that.
I always get stares being a wee girly in such a top car, it made me feel uncomfortable at first but now im just plain proud as fek !!!!
I cant stand the new type R. Theres no distinguoshing between the type R and the usual civic. Whereas with ours you take one look at that badge and its a clear as a whistle !!
I love the gearstick being where it is and would hate to revert to the usual gearstick. It maximises space on the floor behind the fron seats as the usual bump in the floor is not there. Very handy for us women who like to shop - more space in the car equals more shopping to buy and fit in !!!!Your review was great and its no wonder we love this car so muc as when you read your review it doesnt half sound fantastic !!!!
linkz0rz 08.08.2007 21:58
Excellent review, tons of information, great car! Try out the new Civic Type-R. It - in my opinion - isn't as fu nto drive as the this older model car you have reviewed. It feels and looks more modern, but that slight medieval brash feeling is missing in it for some reason. Great stuff though, nice one! Worthy of an E!