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Honda Civic Type R GT 2.0 VTEC Turbo
Click to view picture gallery“Time is fast running out for road
  warriors. In the coming all-green
  world, red-in-tooth-and-claw hot
  hatchbacks like Honda’s spectacular
  169mph Type R will be outlawed.
  Buy one now and savour the
  moment...”


SPECTACULARLY DRIVEABLE HOT hatchbacks such as Honda's Type R, with its awesome tractability on everyday roads as well as its ability to serve up rip-roaring trackday outings, can deliver more satisfaction per pound than supercars costing ten times as much. And as the shadows of statist regulation close in, we've been driving the best of the best — Honda's Type R, sampled here in £35K GT spec.

What Honda has created with its sensationally handling Type R is not simply the definitive hot hatch, but one ingrained with a deep and abiding civility. Like the knights of old, the Type R is much more than just a skilled warrior its good manners run deep; through the very bones of its chassis.

The Type R looks every
inch the track star.
Long, low, and wide,
its Rallye Red coachwork
gleaming and
sporting eye-catching
bodywork addenda,
the Type R has
instant impact.
The effect is arresting;
this is not a car you can
ignore, out on the road
or even slumbering
in a car park...”
And it looks every inch the track star. Long, low, and wide, its Rallye Red coachwork gleaming and sporting eye-catching bodywork addenda, the Type R has instant impact. A gloss black grille, huge (mostly faux) front air intakes, and a bonnet scoop adds to the formidable front-end treatment. Follow the roofline with your eye and you'll spot five north-to-south finger-like vortex generators spread across the top of the rear hatch where they clean up the airflow before it reaches that provocative and intriguingly sculpted rear wing.

Seen from the back, the Type R is equally tantalizing: underscoring the bold, single-blade red-and-black spoiler is a central set of triple tailpipe trumpets; also visible from behind are the sharply-defined geometric wheelarches clamped over twenty-inch alloys wearing 245/30-profile Pirelli rubber. The effect is arresting; this is not a car you can ignore, out on the road or even slumbering in a car park.

And, following a few well-considered tweaks, it's now at the top of its game. Its turbocharged 2.0-litre engine benefits from revised engine mapping that smooths out the performance delivery; two-piece 350mm floating discs deliver quicker initial bite plus increased braking feel; and new suspension bushes increase rigidity and feel, inspiring you to push harder and faster than you previously thought possible.

In the cabin, you'll find that the steering wheel is now trimmed in tactile red Alcantara whilst the best in the business manual gear change mechanism features firmer bushings to improve throw feel and feedback and is topped by a weighted teardrop knob that fits perfectly into the palm of your hand. Minor points you might say, but such attention to getting everything not just 99% but the full 100% right is what makes the Type R such a capable and rewarding hot hatch to drive.

Sure you might fleetingly think about the latest Golf GTI with 242bhp under its belt; but while undoubtedly good it just can't keep up, managing only a 6.2-second sprint to the benchmark 62mph and topping out at 155mph the 316bhp Type R, meanwhile, takes just 5.8 seconds to fire past the same 62mph marker, and runs to a genuine 169mph. All of which relegates the Golf to the pretender-to-the-crown slot.

The real upside is the
vivacious decor —
welcoming you aboard
are red accents and
carbon-fibre weave on
the dash and heavily
bolstered, trackday-
worthy, red-and-black
seats, and a tactile
sports steering wheel
with red Alcantara
work areas.
Hunkered down in the
superbly supportive
bucket-style seat,
cocooned by the
sloping dash and high
central tunnel, the palm-
fitting alloy gear knob
perfectly to hand,
there’s a real supercar
ambiance...”
So, a timely moment to mention that the Type R can legitimately claim to be the king of the circuit too. What circuit? Actually, lots of them: along with its 2017 Nürburgring Nordschleife record, the Type R has also taken FWD lap records at Bathurst, Estoril, Hungaroring, Magny Cours, Silverstone, Spa-Francorchamps, and Suzuka.

Hear 'hot hatch' and you tend to think small, but up close and personal the Type R is a big family hatchback. And when you swing open the driver's door you appreciate just how much space and practicality is packaged inside its five-door bodyshell. The real upside is the vivacious decor welcoming you aboard are red accents and carbon-fibre weave on the dash and heavily bolstered, trackday-worthy, red-and-black seats, and a tactile sports steering wheel with red Alcantara work areas.

Hunkered down in the superbly supportive (taking in your thighs, under your knees and all the way to your shoulder blades) bucket-style seat, cocooned by the sloping dash and high central tunnel, the palm-fitting alloy gearknob perfectly to hand, there's a real supercar ambiance. The views out from behind the helm are first-rate; somewhat surprisingly, even that awesome rear wing doesn't cramp your rearward visibility (parking is not a problem even if you don't bother to use the reversing camera and parking sensors).

The beautifully clear instrumentation is spot-on and the switchgear exactly where you'd expect to find it; thankfully the climate control panel makes use of 'proper' rotary knobs and buttons. Flex your feet and the weighting of the alloy pedals feel spot-on too. In fact, every component of the cabin comes together harmoniously to make you feel an integral part of the Type R, even before you press the engine's Start button. And another big, and not really expected, 'plus' the decent shoulder and elbow room plus the fist-and-a-half of headroom.

Honda are exceedingly generous: not only do they give you the best hot hatch money can buy, but they also throw in plenty of kit. Included are Smart Entry & Start, dual-zone climate control, parking sensors front and rear, those fabuloso sports seats, auto-dimming rearview mirror, wireless smartphone charging, 7-inch touchscreen, Honda Connect infotainment system with premium audio (467w + 11 speakers) and built-in Garmin SatNav, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth hands-free phone operation, DAB and internet radio, USB and HDMI jacks, privacy glass, auto lights and rain-sensing wipers, electronic parking brake with auto-hold, heated powerfolding door mirrors, auto-dimming rearview mirror, alloy pedals, one-shot electric windows, 3-way selectable drive (Comfort, Sport, and +R modes), Honda's Rev Match system, and a set of black 20-inch Berlina alloy wheels.

After you’ve touched
base with the Type R’s
handling, you’d forgive
it anything.
Amazingly, one thing
that doesn’t need
forgiving is its ride —
the ride comfort is
superbly harmonised
with the handling
dynamics. You can
quickly prove it by
selecting the Comfort
drive mode setting.
Do so and the electronic
dampers easily
accommodate shabby
blacktop, keeping the
Type R feeling supple
and poised.
Stirred yes, shaken no!
Living with a hot hatch
has never been
so easy...”
And, just for the record in-cabin storage space is comprehensive, with large door bins, a clever two-tier central tunnel system ahead of the gear lever, smartphone bed with WiFi charging, a large and wide glovebox, and a deep and generous bin with twin repositionable dual-use cupholders beneath the broad, suede-covered central front armrest.

Consistent and predictable handling dynamics are, bottom line, what keep you safe. And the Type R's adaptive-damped chassis and brakes are first class. But extra help is always a good thing and on today's tricksy roads you can never have too much back-up and Honda does back-up BIG. Naturally there's a full suite of airbags front and rear along with whiplash-lessening head restraints. And of course they throw in their City-Brake Active System with Collision Mitigation Braking, Pedestrian Detection, and Forward Collision Warning. Also beavering away in the background in your best interests is Traction Control, Vehicle Stability Assist with Agile Handling Assist, Lane Keeping Assist, and Lane Departure Warning with Road Departure Mitigation.

And there's still more: Emergency Stop Signal, Hill Start Assist, Tyre Deflation Warning System, Blind Spot Information, Cross Traffic Monitor, LED headlights, LED front fogs, automatic dip/main beam switching, intelligent-Adaptive Cruise Control with Cut-in Prediction, intelligent-Speed Limiter, and Traffic Sign Recognition.

Unlike other hot hatches, the 4.5-metre long Type R's rear cabin is spacious enough for adults to make themselves at home, so you can invite your friends or bring the kids. The well-padded seats are made better by their relaxing backrest angles with decent built-in lower back support. Despite those in the back being seated six inches higher than those ahead of them, headroom is good too; and at the other extremity there's plenty of foot room. Three seated side-by-side is doable with fine views out of the deep side glazing. The privacy glass does a good job of screening you from prying eyes while still letting you see those who might want to see you. Parents will appreciate the outer seats' child seat mountings; and there's room for small bottles in the door bins.

After you've touched base with the Type R's handling, you'd forgive it anything. Amazingly, one thing that doesn't need forgiving is its ride — despite the 'rubber band' 30-section tyres, the ride comfort is superbly harmonised with the handling dynamics. You can quickly prove it by selecting the Comfort drive mode setting. Do so and the electronic dampers easily accommodate shabby blacktop, keeping the Type R feeling supple and poised and all without harming the impressive primary and secondary ride. Stirred yes, shaken no! Living with a hot hatch has never been so easy…

Corralled in the Type R's engine bay and eager for the crack of your whip are 316 of Honda's finest prancing horses. The latest spec 1,996cc turbocharged petrol engine befits from renewed mapping and a consequently even-smoother power flow. The four-cylinder uses both VTEC variable valve timing and a high-capacity single-scroll turbocharger to punch out its sizzling 316bhp and 295lb ft of torque.

Despite its 316bhp
the Type R is no rorty
exhibitionist. With a
blazingly-eager 7,000rpm
at your disposal, its
turboed four-pot revs
gloriously,
pulling cleanly as it
delivers a wave of low-
down grunt, maintaining
its mechanical
effervescence as it races
round to the red line,
catapulting you towards
the horizon at a
remarkable rate...”
What makes it such a delight to use is the gearshift. Topped with a beautifully-weighted teardrop of alloy, the Type R's gearchange action is every bit as rewarding to use as the one found on our other all-time favourite stickshifter the Audi R8 5.0-litre V10. Since our last outing in an 'R' back in 2018, the change action has been further polished and the snick-snick between the six ratios as you flick the short metal lever through the H-gate is utterly addictive.

Amazing, isn't it: Progress. Not so very long ago only a supercar would hit 169mph flat out. Now a family hatchback can manage it. And despite its 316bhp the Type R is no rorty exhibitionist. With a blazingly-eager 7,000rpm at your disposal, its turboed four-pot revs gloriously, pulling cleanly as it delivers a wave of low-down grunt, maintaining its mechanical effervescence as it races round to the red line, catapulting you towards the horizon at a remarkable rate. And that's not just on the way to the benchmark 62mph because even at double that the acceleration keeps on flowing, accompanied by a well-modulated soundtrack from the triple exhaust pipes.

And it's no louder than your bog standard hatchback when you're in the cruise. Even so, you'll be perfectly happy to leave the stereo switched off even on long trips. For a trackday riot, the Type R manages the boring everyday stuff with aplomb. Of course you need to be meticulous about being in the right gear at the right time, but that goes with the territory. And there's an unlooked for bonus for a fast-accelerating 169mph piece of road-track machinery, the Type R can go easy on the unleaded. Officially, touring consumption is 43.5mpg with combined at an especially good 36.7mpg. Ah, yes, but… we hear you saying. No buts though, as confirmed by our hard driven week's average of 33.7mpg.

Buckle up the red belt, fire up the engine and prepare to be delighted and astounded in equal parts. Some might see the Type R's aerodynamic embellishments as somewhat in-your-face, but those in the know appreciate they're only there to do a job manage the airflow around the tail and generate downforce, loading up the engineered-in traction to keep the tail reassuringly in place (particularly when spearing through faster corners). The feeling of being poised and planted is underscored by the predictable front-end that features a limited-slip diff to ensure that despite the 295lb ft of torque being doled out through the front wheels, none is lost to torque steer and the steering remains uncorrupted.

For those times
that you want to get from
A to B without turning
on the adrenaline tap,
the Type R can be as
civilised as you dare
it to be. For a
performance machine,
it rides oh-so-
impressively, ironing out
blacktop bumps while
retaining its ready-to-
rock-and-roll tautness,
and will gobble up long
distances with its
relaxed gait...”
Add to that keen turn-in from the precise steering that keeps you in touch with what's happening up front, adaptive dampers that keep everything as lithe and taut as a Cheetah on the hunt, a crisp throttle response, and Brembo brakes with floating discs that shrug off punishment and kill your speed mightily but precisely through a beautifully modulated middle pedal, and you have a winningly-focused machine that will catapult you down a challenging road as engagingly as any supercar.

In today's world, of course, you can't always go for it, and even the most ruthlessly committed drivers don't want to be driving at ten tenths 24/7. For those times that you want to get from A to B without turning on the adrenaline tap, the Type R can be as civilised as you dare it to be.

As we mentioned earlier, for a performance machine it rides oh-so-impressively, ironing out blacktop bumps while retaining its ready-to-rock-and-roll tautness, and it will gobble up long distances with its relaxed gait. Because the Type R defaults to its Sport mode every time you press the engine Start button, you might overlook its Comfort setting. Don't, because whenever a promising stretch of road appears, flicking back to Sport is easy-peasy.

If you're in a gung-ho mood then select the +R setting which alters the steering feel, throttle response, and adaptive damping, and also utilises Vehicle Stability Assist and Traction control as well as letting you make good use of the Type R's rev-matching feature. Rev Match enhances smooth downshifts during spirited driving, allowing the driver to more easily maintain stability and precise cornering without ever having to master heel-and-toeing. It does this by detecting when the driver downshifts and then blipping the throttle to increase engine speed to match that required by the upcoming lower ratio, so preventing a sudden rush of undesired engine braking. Make no mistake; however you choose to drive it hardcore fast 'n' furious or softcore pootling the Type R is astonishingly fulfilling. Something that not even spending six figures can always guarantee.

Most hot hatches are a confusion of compromises, but the Type R stands out for its practicality and space space that continues south of the back seats. Its 420-litre (to the window line) boot trumps most in its class. Drop the 60:40-split rear seatbacks they fold flat to form a seamless loadbay floor and you create a very handy 786 litres even if you only stack to where the glasshouse begins. Plus you get a very clever and intriguing roller-blind load cover that rolls up to no bigger than a compact umbrella, so you never need to remove it, as well as some extra storage space under the boot floor.

The short version: Born to be wild. The long version: Comfortable, practical, and eminently usable every day yet courtesy of a brilliant chassis and awesome traction, it's blisteringly fast on road and track. Let off its leash, the Type R is a 169mph riot; utterly compelling and unquestionably one of the most beguiling performance cars at any price. If you love driving, this Type R never stops giving. ~ MotorBar
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Honda Civic Type R GT 2.0 VTEC Turbo | £34,820
Maximum speed: 169mph | 0-62mph: 5.8 seconds | Test Average: 33.4mpg
Power: 316bhp | Torque: 295lb ft | CO2: 176g/km

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