Some sports coupes are wolves in sheep’s clothing, with hot performance concealed under a conservative exterior. Far more are sheep in wolf’s clothing – all looks and little grunt writes Ian Strachan.
But the new Honda Civic Type R is a wolf in wolf’s clothing. It has the looks – from its sharp, aggressive nose to its huge rear spoiler, and it has the performance from its storming 310 bhp two litre turbo-charged engine.
The latest Type R has good looks, performs brilliantly and is great to drive with a 0-60 mph time of just 5.5 seconds and a top speed (where permitted) of 167 miles per hour..
Designed to add a sharklike edge to the Civic’s distinctive wedge shape, the car’s side-on view is enhanced with meaty 19 inch black and red alloy wheels with red brake calipers. The profile rises sharply towards the high and distinctive rear end, with a huge rear spoiler which splits the two-part rear screen. In fact the spoiler is so big, it seriously compromises rear visibility, to the extent that I found myself relying more and more on my wing mirrors for a good rear view.
Beneath the spoiler is a deep and practical loadspace. Honda has done well not to compromise on the basics of practicality here.
Looking at it from the rear, its wide wheels sit flush with strongly flared arches giving it a stable, muscular stance which emphasises its limpet like grip.
The inside of the Type R further emphasises its sporty credentials, with all effort concentrated on driver comfort and convenience. Huge red-trimmed sports seats hug you in a cockpit which is designed primarily for the driver, with a big digital speedometer in the driver’s eyeline immediately beneath the front screen.
The front passenger seat is equally comfortable, but rear seat passengers will find themselves a little cramped for room.
But most people will buy the Type R for its handling and its excellent i-VTEC engines. It won’t disappoint.
The engine has sparkling performance, but is quiet and effortless. Fuel consumption is nothing to write home about at 38.7 mpg in mixed driving, but there’s always a penalty for performance.
The Type R is a real pleasure to drive. Linked to a slick, short-travel six speed manual gearbox the engine is quiet and unruffled throughout. It never sounds or feels under pressure and delivers power exactly when you want it.
Ride and handling are exceptional, with crisp and positive steering response and nicely damped suspension to give a smooth ride. The Honda’s grip on the road is never uncertain, even when cornering at speed, thanks to a new adaptive damper system allowing continuous independent control of each wheel. You can also select R-Mode increases the response of chassis and drive systems for more aggressive performance and responsiveness (and the dashboard lights turn red!)
Equipment levels are good, with all-round airbags, satellite navigation, dual-zone climate control, electric windows and mirrors, cruise control, automatic headlights, front and rear parking sensors, and a DAB radio and infotainment system with eight speakers.
You also get steering wheel mounted controls, digital fuel consumption display, fog lights, rain sensing window wipers and remote keyless entry with push button start.
This is an easy car to like – particularly with its striking good looks – and I was sorry to see it go. The whole thing comes at a reasonable £29,995 on the road.