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HONDA CIVIC TYPE R IS HOT HATCH ROYALTY
11 Sep 2018
Honda South Africa
Honda South Africa
In the realms of hot hatchdom, the Honda Civic Type R has always been somewhat of a left-field choice when compared to the Volkswagen Golf GTI, Renault Megane RS and more recently, the Ford Focus ST/RS.
Hit-and miss generations
Rating as a sort of “in-between” contender, the Type R showed that it wanted to be taken seriously over the first two generations, but then retreated when the heavier third generation FN2, also the first iteration to be sold in South Africa, touched down in 2007.
A further surprise awaited die-hard VTEC fans when FK2 Type R arrived three years ago, in that the high-revving normally aspirated 2.0-litre engine had been equipped with a turbocharger to finally bring the Civic in-line with its direct rivals, and prove that forced induction and VTEC power could indeed work together
It was therefore simply a case of refining a winning recipe when Honda took the wraps off of the FK8 Type R at the Geneva Motor Show last year, with the sole intent of finally putting its critics to rest. That it did not long after by officially becoming the fastest front-wheel drive car to lap the Nürburgring with a time of 7min43.80sec.
Now in its third generation of being sold locally, the FK8 not only rates as the most powerful and exciting Type R to date, but in this writer’s option at least, the last of the proper driver focused hot hatches on sale today.
As controversial as Honda was with the styling of the standard Civic, the Type R takes everything one step further with an appearance that is anything but discreet.
Highlighted by the pronounced front bumper with deep air intakes and red striped carbon fibre spoiler, bulging wheel arches, red Brembo brake calipers, red striped door sills, black alloy wheels with red detailing, angry LED headlights, centrally mounted triple exhaust outlets, carbon diffuser and that huge rear wing, the Type R, in our tester’s Sonic Grey Pearl hue, shouts its hot hatch credentials in the most unashamed way possible, with terms as such “aggressive” and “menacing” being only a few of the less explicit descriptions mentioned throughout its seven-day stay.
The perfect Racer’s office…
As wild as the exterior is, the interior arguably rates as the Type R’s sweet spot with a lovely mix of red and black leather on the steering wheel, gear lever, seats and dashboard, swaths of carbon fibre, piano key black detailing and extensive use of Alcantara.
Sliding into the body hugging sport seats and glancing at the all-digital instrument cluster and a pulsating starter button, you have to remind yourself that the Type R still has traditional Civic virtues, such as a decent-sized boot and good levels of rear passenger head and leg room.
…if a bit flawed
There are downsides to the interior though, the biggest of which being the touchscreen infotainment system, which is rather finicky system to use and not the most user friendly unit out there. Another issue is the use of the materials which varies from good to cheap and certainly nowhere near as the good as that of the Volkswagen Golf R in terms of material quality, which is something to consider with both cars being similarly priced.
R you ready for the VTEC kick in?
In all honesty though, interior quality it is likely to be the least of any Type R driver’s worries as soon as that starter button is pressed and the engine barks into life. The scream and high-revving nature of the normally aspirated models might have been lost, but a new dimension has been created with the addition of that turbo.
Right from the off, the blown 2.0-litre motor is eager to show what it can do, which it does with absolute aplomb. Despite being seven kilowatts down on the European Type R, the 228kW/400Nm offered up comes the fore the moment you touch the accelerator. It is a surge of seemingly never ending grunt that will get go to 100km/h from standstill in 5.8 seconds and on to 272km/h in either Comfort, Sport or the explosive +R mode.
Another highlight is the close-ratio six-speed manual gearbox, which is not only incredibly precise and direct, but comes with a satisfying ‘click-click’ each time you change up, and a burst of the throttle when you change down thanks to the rev-matching auto-blip system.
It is a combination that makes the Type R a true enthusiasts car, one that is unashamedly analogue and encourages you to push it until you find the limits. Combine this with super sharp steering, a firm but acceptable ride and rather impressive 10.4-litres/100 km combined fuel consumption, the Type R is simply a fantastic hot hatch package.
While it was expected that the Honda Civic Type R would impress, it frankly took hot hatchbacks to the next level for me. Although lacking the all-wheel drive grip and everyday ease of the DSG-equipped Golf R, it feels more connected and makes the driver work to extract the maximum from it.
At R635 500, it is also some R30 000 cheaper and much more exciting, which makes it worthy of being the new hot hatch king.