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As now seems the norm, I start with a brief moan about the Ciao picture for this category! Whilst putting this particular car “on the books” in August 2007, Ciao have published a picture of the old model here – for which there is also a category! To save any confusion, this category AND the review that I am publishing here in it is for the current model Honda Civic. Please use my own photographs for reference rather than the Ciao published one.
WHAT IS IT?
Bright red, that’s what it is!
……Sorry, just my little joke there.
The Civic Type-R is the sportiest Honda in the range now that production of the S2000 sports car has ceased. Based on the attractive three door Civic, itself a later addition to the already pretty radical looking five door family hatch back, the Type-R has been made over into the archetypal “hot hatch”.
For the non car-aficionados amongst you, a “hot hatch” is a sportified version of a usually mundane hatchback, this is a market defined by the iconic VW Golf GTi, which to this day is one of the Civic’s greatest rivals.
The beauty of a hot hatch is that it should retain much of the practicality of the car upon which it is based. In some respects the Civic is a fine starting point, primarily interior and boot space, in others, visibility in particular, it is not in its’ donor form a very practical car anyway. To my mind at least, the best sporting hatchbacks have always been developed from a good all-rounder, in this respect the Civic starts with rather a handicap.
The previous generation Honda Civic was an altogether different kettle of fish. The very humdrum “breadvan” styling majored on practicality, but when developed into the Type-R became an aspirational enthusiast’s car. Press and owners alike sung its praises; you can even find glowing reviews of the previous model on this very site.
WHICH SPECIFIC MODEL?
The Honda Civic Type-R is actually a very simple range; there are just two standard models – Type-R and Type R GT, plus an all white limited edition called the Championship White…….
…..as Honda are no longer in the Fomula One championship, one can only assume that the Type-R Championship model pays homage to the BTTC, Touring Car Championship where Honda have been successfully campaigning this car.
The subject of this review is the GT, the best equipped version, although either of the other two models are mechanically identical, apart from the limited slip differential fitted to the Championship Type-R.
WILL IT FIT THE GARAGE?
At 4250mm in length the Civic is one of the most compact hatchbacks.
However, at 2046mm wide it feels a tight squeeze driving it into my narrowish garage.
Mercifully the large door mirrors fold in at the touch of a button!
IN WHAT CAPACITY AM I REVIEWING THIS CAR?
I am reviewing this car with my fleet manager’s hat on. Thanks to my invitation to the Millbrook Testing Ground from Fleet News Magazine to their Company Car In Action event, I have been able to compare many cars back to back, using two test tracks that simulate driving conditions that you would be hard pressed to encounter during many thousands of miles of ordinary motoring.
Millbrook is a venue, that having attended for years, I am thoroughly familiar with. It allows direct comparison between various models. Being “closed circuits”, the facilities there also allow you to drive at speeds which would, on public roads, be highly irresponsible. The importance of testing cars in this way is to find out just how a car behaves in extreme conditions i.e. on the limit, for instance in an emergency braking situation on the road, or perhaps a rapid and not anticipated lane changing manoeuvre.
In addition to that, and since my experiencing the Type-R for myself, my brother-in-law has recently purchased an almost new example of this car…….as you are reading this in colour, the (very!) red one photographed here!
“Costs a bomb” would be my glib throwaway line here – maybe not to buy, but the running costs for a car of this size and ability are pretty eye-popping!
Bearing in mind the “fleet” connection here, as a company run car, this is not going to add up financially. Whilst the list price is class competitive enough, the CO2 level at 215 grams per kilogram puts it into a high (31%) BIK tax band. In money terms, it is going to cost a 20% tax payer £97 per month, whilst at 40% that will cost you £194. These figures may have been class competitive three or four years ago. Now they are not; the low list price being more than compensated for by the high CO2 figure.
Not only that, but with road tax also now levied on the CO2 figure you’ll end up paying £210 per year for the tax disc, I pay just £115 on my 150bhp Subaru.
PURCHASE COST 9 / 10
On the face of it, £19,000 is not a lot to pay for a 200bhp sports hatchback. On a £ per performance judgement, if that is your priority, it will come very close to leading the pack.
The GT is no stripped
Pictures of Honda Civic Type R
As it says on the can: Civic Type-R
out lightweight sports car either, it comes as standard with much of the equipment in a top of the range five door Civic, although certain, costly, items – such as the satellite navigation system are options. Perversely Honda have stripped the 2009 model of xenon headlights, a strange economy indeed in a car of this performance potential.
Right now, spring 2009, Honda should be offering some juicy discounts on these cars in order to sell off the huge stockpile built up prior to the ending of Civic production in the Swindon plant a couple of months ago. You may well find a dealer offering a new one for the price of a second hand example.
THE OPTIONS GAME: 7 / 10 or “How much do I need to spend to make it habitable?”
This is an unusually tricky one to score this time. In its “stock” form the Civic Type-R GT comes with all the equipment that you will probably expect in a car of this type. However add all the options, as has been done to my brother-in-law’s ex-garage demonstrator and the cost of this car tops out at £23,330. To that you can add another £372 if you fancy one that is not so very red – it only comes in silver and two shades of black as an alternative.
Some examples of the visible options fitted: the ultra-low profile 19” wheels are £1225, the “Image pack” (black sporty addenda to the bumpers front and rear) £792, whilst the sat-nav and integrated telephone is a combined £1375 “option pack”.
DEPRECIATION 6 / 10 – Always the biggest running cost.
My local Honda dealer is offering a 300 mile, three month old one of these cars for £16,500. There do seem to be rather a lot of them on the market currently of all ages, primarily because they are an expensive car to run – which takes an undue toll on the biggest running cost of all – depreciation.
Feeding this is that the Type-R attracts slightly more affluent “boy-racers” who tend to have little respect for a car and merely want to go fast and create a lot of noise. This tends to result in second hand cars being in a below average condition which will reflect strongly in their second hand price.
On the other hand there are those, like my brother-in-law, who will lavish attention on the car and treat it well. This is an unusual car in that respect – two entirely different owner profiles, leading to two entirely different results in terms of condition, beware, that is not always reflected in the second hand value, more than ever caveat emptor here!
FUEL ECONOMY 6 / 10
My brother-in-law would have you believe that this car will average 38mpg. He will also tell you that 55mph is its most economical cruising speed. Those two facts, in conjunction, I have no reason to doubt. But neither I, nor the majority of Type R drivers, drive like that in the real world. Realistically, the Type-R is going to deliver between 26 and 29mpg, the majority of owners doing well to see 30mpg from it.
Whilst to many, including myself, this looks like a pretty thirsty small car, it is far more economical than some delivering similar performance, but pales beside a Golf GTi or Mini Cooper S, which would have no problem averaging around 35mpg.
A restricting factor, bearing in mind its GT pretences, is an eleven gallon fuel tank, covering little more than 300 miles on a tank-full of fuel these days is nothing to write home about.
SERVICE & MAINTENANCE COSTS 5 / 10: are you going to make the dealer rich?
Honda dealers are generally of a very high standard, but it looks as though you are paying for a quality service. Estimated service costs over three years and 36,000 miles are £1231 that compares to a Mini at £542 or a VW at £980.
I did warn you that the Type-R was an expensive car to run!
Let the “fun” begin! You want to know what this car is like to live with and to drive and be driven in…….
STYLING 9 /10: A very subjective category here.
Stay away from bright red – attracts far too much attention – and some of the blatantly chavvy body kits (self explanatory) and this is a very good looking car. If you wish for discreet performance then a silver one will hardly be noticed, although silver simply does not suit the shape. Best option by far is the unusual metallic bronze / black.
The Type-R looks a trifle “under-nourished” on the standard 18 inch wheels, which are similar in design to the ordinary 17” ones supplied with five door models, the optional 19 inch rims suit the car better.
I know that there are those who will never find the current Civic model attractive – especially from the rear, the Type-R is undoubtedly the best looking of the range though, thanks to the fully colour co-ordinated bumpers and wheel arch extensions, which on lesser Civic models are finished in dark grey, unpainted, plastic.
OVERALL BUILD QUALITY AND FINISH 8 / 10 Does it look as though it was slung together?
Closely inspecting my brother-in-law’s 2009 model, I am a little concerned that the standards at Honda’s UK Swindon plant were starting to slip somewhat. Previous Type-R’s, including the one driven for this review, have been immaculately finished. His however showed uneven fit of both the front bumper and extended rear spoiler.
A further concern, as with any recent Honda is the durability of the paint finish, with less than 4,000 miles on the clock, the red example that you see here had more than its fair share of stone chips. At least being flat red, the touch up applicator matches better than any metallic one.
SAFETY 6 /10 If it comes to the worst, how well are you and your family going to come out of it.
In spite of all the airbags and modern safety kit being standard kit on this car, there are many other cars that I have felt safer driving. The Type-R is one of those cars which you feel has been developed to the limit of its potential, indeed some of the compromises made in order to turn the humble Civic into a sports car have compromised its safety.
The usual up-rating of brakes has taken place; the stopping power is well up to the performance of the car.
In a crash the three door body shell has proven to be immensely strong, you may have seen on one of the TV Police series the Type-R that finished up upside down having leapt off of a road at colossal speed and ended up in someone’s attic! My wife and I simply could not believe that the driver had actually survived such an almighty crash.
That driver was obviously going suicidally fast, however at speed on a good handling circuit, such as Millbrook, this car has a very stiff, unforgiving chassis. Combine that with rather sudden and quite vicious reaction to both the accelerator and steering wheel and this I count as a particularly dangerous car in the wrong, usually inexperienced, hands.
ERGONOMICS 5 / 10 Before I can start the engine and drive away I need to feel at home in the “working environment”. The relationship between the controls and how I, the driver, am able to instinctively operate those controls is, all important. This for me is make or break, before I drive a car, if it does not instinctively “feel” right in this department then I will never like it or ultimately buy it.
When launched, the spaceship interior of the Honda Civic was truly radical. In the Type-R, the sweeping digital dashboard feels right at home, especially the large digit speedometer frantically flashing in order to keep up with the break-neck pace of acceleration in this car.
Suit it or not, I have driven many Honda Civics over the last three years and am used to the dashboard layout. Sit a “newcomer” in it though and the ergonomics are totally bewildering. At first site buttons and a myriad of digital displays from everything from the heater temperature to a gearchange shift light seem complicated and randomly scattered.
Add to that the length of time and amount of fiddling that it will take you to get comfortable (find the ideal driving position if you can!) behind the wheel and this is one of the least driver friendly cars that I know.
The heavily bolstered sports front seats are very comfortable however.
VISIBILITY: 2 / 10
My brother-in-law’s car has the “luxury” of an impressive, full colour, rear parking camera, which is displayed on the large, central, GPS screen. Laugh and call it a gadget if you will, but the first time that you select reverse gear in this car you will see just how essential a device that is. The standard five door Civic has miserable vision to the rear and rear three quarter, the Type-R is significantly worse.
Those huge tombstone front seats rob you of over the shoulder vision – through the passenger window too even, the rear quarter pillars in the three door car are simply huge and then, to cap it all, the view through the rear view mirror is almost non-existent thanks to the huge rear spoiler cutting the rear window in half.
The very poor visibility further hampers the safety aspect of running one of these cars and indeed would be a prime reason for me not recommending it to you.
On this score alone, I would not purchase one myself.
SPACE: 9 / 10:
Even with those space robbing front seats, a strong showing on this score. The Civic is an incredibly roomy car inside, with a large square boot too. The three door version has just as much space in the rear – but for only two, rather than three passengers. There is a catch though, seated in the back you are likely to feel claustrophobic due to those very heavy rear pillars and the small blacked out rear windows.
STYLE 8 / 10:
I actually like the interior style of the Type-R, it suits the image of the car. However I would fully respect your opinion in not liking it!
All is black and red inside, the soft surfaces on the seats, doors and carpets being finished in red, whilst the hard plastic surfaces are black. All the instruments illuminate in red, completing the theme.
MATERIALS, FIT & FINISH 5 / 10: Aspreys or Ratners?
Going towards the Ratners end of the scale here, sorry to say. There is nothing wrong with the interior finish, more the materials used, which, after several years on the market, now look very cheap indeed compared to the competition.
It may be that I have been spoiled with the superb materials used inside my own Subaru, but the Honda is full of brittle shiny plastics which look as though they were re-cycled from the Star Ship Enterprise, circa 1974.
AUDIO & CLIMATE CONTROL SYSTEMS 7 / 10: Strange grouping?
Whilst working very well, unfortunately the controls for the audio, climate and indeed GPS systems are of brittle plastic, they do not feel any better to the touch than they look.
ON THE ROAD……..
……Time to start it up and to offer you a driving assessment.
I have to say here that the difference between the latest 2009 model and the 2008 car is remarkable. This is worth bearing in mind if you are considering a second hand, rather than new car.
Had I written this a month ago the score here would have been a lowly 4. The engine in the latest car is so much smoother and quieter that you would hardly believe it was the same one as previously supplied. I do not know how Honda have modified it, but it is all to the good.
However, anyone who drives a car will know that there is so much more to the overall experience than purely a refined engine. In other respects the Civic remains rather rude and crude, especially in the way that it rides. So stiff is the suspension on this car that ordinary road surfaces see it crashing and skipping about where other cars would simply glide along. Harsh is a very good word for it.
PERFORMANCE 10 / 10 Sh*t off a shovel or a constipated tortoise?
The headline figures here are 6.6 seconds from 0-62mph (100kph) and 142mph top speed.
It is difficult to put into words for you just how fast this car feels, on a race circuit, or, come to that, on the A1 in Lincolnshire!
Personally I favour speed without the drama, however thanks to its flash and burn power delivery, the Civic Type-R is very fast indeed - and feels it! The 2.0 non-turbocharged engine has the most advanced version of Honda’s VTEC system. I am not going to go into great detail here in order to explain how this works, but in driving the car you feel a massive change in personality as 5,400rpm is passed and the car flies up to the red-line which is at a heady 8,000rpm.
On the road, if you stay blow 5,400rpm, you will wonder what all the fuss is about. The engine does not develop very impressive torque, which will leave you changing gear frequently in order to keep up with ordinary traffic speeds. Press the accelerator harder though and once the VTEC comes into play – you’ll know it from the dramatic change in engine sound – and you need to keep your wits about you in order not to tail-end the car in front……
……or flip the car into someone’s attic!
RIDE & HANDLING 6 / 10
This is what makes the Type-R so very unsophisticated as far as I am concerned. The standard Civic is already bordering on the harsh for a family hatchback, the Type-R takes that one step beyond the acceptable as far as a standard road car is concerned.
Even if you want to take this car track racing due to its rock hard suspension it will be compromised through the corners, as it skips and jumps its way through them rather sweeping through as you would in for example in a Golf GTi or Impreza.
As far as I am concerned, there is a brittle edge to the handling, imposed by the hard ride that means that I am neither comfortable driving, nor enjoying the experience, in a Type R Civic. In a sense the worst of both worlds, made worse by the fact that so many other sporting cars do it so much better.
CONCLUSION – Would I buy one myself and would we want to drive it to Poland in a day?
No, and I am developing a pain in the neck even THINKING about driving over 1000 miles to Poland in it……
…..but I know someone who intends to do just that in his!
FINAL SCORE: 114 / 170
In the hands of a very experienced driver this is a very fast car from point to point on a country road. However, few of us are that experienced, or skilled, nor indeed want to live with the severe compromises that a Honda Civic Type R places upon us on a daily basis.
You may well have different priorities to I, different motoring preferences indeed. There are those that love this car and will feel that I have been unduly harsh on it in my scoring and opinion here. However, this is a RICHADA review and I have driven many of this cars competitors under identical conditions and know how much better others can achieve the same goal.
Putting that score into perspective are the following cars based on identical scoring criteria:
HONDA CIVIC TYPE-R GT – 67.1%
ALFA ROMEO 147 1.9JTD Lusso (5 Dr) - 67.8% FIAT PUNTO GRANDE SPORTING 130 Mjet - 75.9% FORD KUGA 2.0 TDCi TITANIUM - 64.7% HONDA ACCORD i-DECT EX GT (2008 Model) Saloon - 69.4% HONDA ACCORD i-CTDi Saloon - 80.0% HONDA CIVIC 1.8i VTEC SE - 78.2% HONDA CIVIC 1.8i VTEC S i-SHIFT - 68.8% HONDA CIVIC IMA SE - 73.5% HONDA JAZZ 1.4 SE CVT-7 (Automatic) - 74.7% SAAB 9-3 TiD Vector - 68.2% SAAB 9-3 TiD Linear CONVERTIBLE (2007 Mondel) - 74.1% SUBARU LEGACY 2.0D RE SALOON – 85.8% SUBARU OUTBACK 2.0D RE - 85.3% VAUXHALL ASTRA TWINTOP 1.9 CDTi DESIGN - 78.8% VAUXHALL VXR8 - 84.1 % VAUXHALL MONARO VXR - 71.1% VW PASSAT TDi 140 S ESTATE - 71.7% VOLVO S60 D5 SE - 70.6%
Very high standard of reviewing here as usual Richard. Wow on your 'brother-in-law’s car' having 'the “luxury” of an impressive, full colour, rear parking camera, which is displayed on the large, central, GPS screen' which as you say, this car desperately needs! xXx