No-one likes being compared to older siblings but in motoring it’s an inescapable evil. Every new version of a car is measured against previous generations, especially if those outgoing models have drawn particular praise or ire.
Honda Civic Type R GT
Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbo, petrol
Top speed: 169mph
0-62mph: 5.8 seconds
CO2 emissions: 176g/km
So it’s impossible not to think of the new Civic Type R in terms of how it stacks up against the last one. That was a car that wowed and wounded thanks to a phenomenal ability to cover ground quickly paired with a ride so hard even Conor McGregor wouldn’t pick a fight with it.
At the start of this year the car on which that was based was replaced and now we have the all-new Type R. It brings all the improvements of the seventh-generation car but with a healthy dollop of daftness. What’s more, it properly addresses the issues that beset its predecessor.
The area where the newcomer has most closely followed in the previous car’s footsteps is looks. The old machine was no shrinking violet and the new one is just as challenging to look at. The longer, lower shape of the standard car has been emphasised with a dropped ride height, wider track and some serious body kit. It’s not what you’d call pretty but it’ll certainly get you noticed and individual touches such as the triple exhaust work well.
Beyond the love-it-hate-it looks the Type R is a big improvement on the old car. I really enjoyed driving the previous Type R but by the end of a week with it I was ready to hand it back. It was raucous, rough and left you heading to the dentist to have your fillings replaced. Even in the ‘normal’ drive mode it was uncomfortable and only a lunatic used the R+ setting on the roads.
The new one is still firm, there’s no denying it, but it’s not unbearably so. New multi-link rear suspension helps with this, as does adding a third option in the drive modes governing the throttle, steering and adaptive dampers. The comfort mode softens things up nicely for daily use without robbing the car of its sharpness. It’s now akin to a Focus RS in terms of stiffness – you know you’re in a performance-focused machine but you could cope with it as your daily driver.
The hardest R+ mode is probably still best kept for the track. It’s really firm and fidgety over shoddy surfaces but the sport mode softens it just enough to ride well without compromising the car’s handling.
And boy, does it handle. The steering is weighted just perfectly, reacting quickly and accurately to your every input and feeding back what the wheels are doing. Grip is phenomenal, as is body control, and the drive is every bit as involving as in the old model.
The turbocharged four-cylinder engine has been revised to eke an extra 10 horsepower out of it. Its 316bhp still falls short of the RS’s 340 but, frankly, it’s plenty and what’s impressive is how driveable the car is despite putting all that power through the front wheels. Really brutal treatment might prompt some scrabbling from the front tyres but all in all it gets the power down effectively and quickly, very quickly. 62mph comes up in 5.7 second (5.8 in GT trim) and it’ll hit 169mph flat out as you work your way through the sublime six-speed manual box. It stops as well as it goes thanks to some powerful yet progressive four-pot Brembos.
Beyond its formidable performance, the interior brings the improvements of the standard car – more space, better layout and materials – and fits grippy Alcantara-clad sports seats and plenty of R-specific red trim. It’s better than before but still no match for rivals such as the Golf R or Focus RS, especially with its sub-par infotainment system.
As you’d hope for £30k, there’s plenty of kit such as autonomous emergency braking, keyless entry, 20-inch alloys and a seven-inch touchscreen. But if you want nav, parking sensors, more speakers and wireless phone charging you’ll need an extra £2k for the GT trim.
But the Type R isn’t so much about gadgets and baubles, it’s about driving. And this new one does everything the old one did well but with added usability. It’s still a phenomenally engaging and fun drivers’ car but it can now be used day to day without sacrificing comfort.