The nature of Bang For Your Bucks makes it nearly impossible to pick a winner pre-event.
This track review was carried out in conjunction with MOTOR's Bang For Your Bucks 2019
This was especially the case in 2019 with the purely subjective nature of the scoring, however, in hindsight, our 2018 Performance Car of the Year and the reigning Bang For Your Bucks champion would’ve been a smart bet.
The Honda Civic Type R wasn’t the best car on test. The BMW M2 Competition Pure topped four of the five judges’ scoresheets (Monsieur Cordony being the sole dissenting voice) scoring 266 of a possible 300 points.
Thing is, the Civic snapped at its heels with a score of 261, almost 30 points clear of the third-ranked VW Golf R. Factor in the Honda’s $51,990 price tag, almost half what BMW asks for a base M2 Competition (itself a performance bargain), and it’s easy to see why the Type R was a runaway winner for the second consecutive year.
In the final reckoning, its BFYB score of 139.9 was miles ahead of the second-placed Beemer (120.4) and third-placed Hyundai (115.7).
MOTOR opinion: Give the Civic Type R a chance
That said, it’s not difficult to find fault with the Civic Type R, even without discussing its divisive looks. It only seats four, there’s no sat-nav, the infotainment is almost deliberately obtuse and the secondary instruments are very hard to read.
Crucially, though, none of these faults relate to the way it drives. It’s an incredibly accomplished car in isolation, but only in a comparative context is the quality of the Type R brought into sharp focus.
In my personal case the unfortunate reference point was the Renault Megane RS Cup. It’s a good car and a damp Winton revealed layers to its personality that are very difficult to access on the road. I came away relatively impressed, until I drove the Civic Type R directly afterward.
The differences become apparent the moment you leave pitlane, the engine responding with more vigour and with a more natural noise, the powerband extending right to the 7000rpm redline and the gearshift both lighter and more precise.
Approach a corner and the brakes offer immediate and reassuring pressure beneath your foot while the Continental SportContact 6 tyres feed plenty of information back to your hands about the level of grip available at the front end. More often than not, plenty is the answer, the steering responding immediately to inputs in a beautifully linear fashion, the front end nailed to the road.
MOTOR tyre test 2018: Continental SportContact 6 takes the gong!
If there is one gripe about the Civic’s mechanical make-up, it’s the inability to select settings individually for the various components: steering, engine, suspension. The sportier modes add extra steering weight for no real benefit and if you want to deactivate ESP completely on track the angriest +R mode must be selected; fine under normal circumstances, but in slippery conditions the option to independently soften the suspension and throttle response for greater control would be welcome.
This is nitpicking to a certain degree, as rarely, if ever, do such thoughts cross your mind when engaged in driving the Civic Type R as quickly as you can on a racetrack.
Traditionally, cars that move around at the limit are judged to be the most involving, requiring constant input and reaction from the driver to extract their best. The MX-5 is the perfect example of this. In contrast, the Civic Type R barely budges from its chosen trajectory no matter how fast you’re going, yet it’s nevertheless totally immersive.
While it doesn’t tax your car control skills, it’s so accurate that if you make a mistake you can be fairly certain it’s your own fault and not that of the car, thereby encouraging you to drive better and rewarding you for doing so.
Provoke it by driving like a loon, however, and the Civic Type R proves it also has a sense of humour. It takes a fairly determined flick on a trailing throttle to unstick the rear end, obviously the sort of behaviour that should only be attempted on a closed course with plenty of room to spare, but it’s when grip runs out that cars often show their true colours. The fluid way Honda’s hot hatch loses and regains its hold on the tarmac is an indicator of its tremendous balance.
The chassis is the highlight, but all this talk of handling overshadows the fact that the Civic Type R is a damn quick car. Its front-drive nature layout limits its effectiveness off the line – though it’s the fastest front-driver we’ve ever tested – but short gearing and plenty of torque give it V8-bashing in-gear acceleration. The gearchange is super slick and the rev-match function ensures you’ll never miss a shift, but it kind of feels like you’ve got a cheat code activated when it’s on.
Another suggestion for facelift time: a simple button to toggle it on and off rather than burying it in a sub-menu that can only be used when the car is stationary.
Bang For Your Bucks rules allow the winning car to return and defend its title, which means the Civic Type R will be back in 2020 in an attempt to become the first car to ever win three straight Bang trophies.
It’ll be a tough ask against a talented field, but numerous camouflaged prototypes lapping the Nürburgring suggest Honda has some updates in the pipeline to prepare it for battle. Then again, on current form, it doesn’t really need any help.
Getting your money's worth on Bang For Your Bucks 2019
Honda Civic Type R BFYB 2019 Results - 1st place
0-400m: 13.66sec @ 174.92km/h
Bang Index: 179.5
Bucks Index: 100.2
BFYB Index: 139.9
Bang For Your Bucks 2019 Judges' Comments
Campbell - 2nd
“If Porsche made a hot hatch (and got the local asylum to style it). One is in the dream garage.”
Cordony - 1st
“Who cares it’s not like Type Rs of old? It’s a hot-hatch masterclass.”
Morley - 2nd
“Still the best front-driver I’ve ever aimed at an apex. But, lordy, it’s gaudy.”
Scott Newman - 2nd
“Certain things annoy me about the Civic Type R. How it drives isn’t one of them.”
Luffy - 2nd
“Great front end feel and throttle balance, it’s not the older high-revving VTEC engine, but this engine has a lot of low down power. As the traditional high-revving VTEC engine, which is what you come to expect from the Civic Type R, it is disappointing that it doesn’t really have a better top end. But the brakes are good, ergonomics are good. It was just a really enjoyable car to drive on the limit, really easy to drive – a car that you want to keep driving.”
Bang For Your Bucks 2019 Scoring Results
2019 HONDA CIVIC TYPE R SPECS
BODY: 5-door, 4-seat hatch
ENGINE: 1998cc inline-4, DOHC, 16v, turbo
BORE/STROKE: 86.0 x 85.9mm
COMPRESSION RATIO: 9.8:1
POWER: 228kW @ 6500rpm
TORQUE: 400Nm @ 2500-4500rpm
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed manual
SUSPENSION: dual-axis struts, coils, adaptive dampers, anti-roll bar (f); multi-links, coils, adaptive dampers, anti-roll bar (r)
BRAKES: 350mm ventilated discs, 4-piston calipers (f); 305mm ventilated discs, single-piston calipers (r)
WHEELS: 20.0 x 8.5-inch (f/r)
TYRES: Continental SportContact 6, 245/35 R20 (f/r)
BFYB ROLL OF HONOUR
1994 - Mitsubishi Lancer GSR
1995 - Nissan 200SX
1996 - BMW 328i
1998 - Subaru Impreza WRX
1999 - Subaru Impreza WRX
2000 - HSV Clubsport R8
2001 - Renault Sport Clio
2002 - Subaru Impreza WRX STI
2003 - Holden Astra SRi Turbo
2004 - Mitsubishi Lancer EVO VIII
2005 - Subaru Impreza WRX STI
2006 - Holden Commodore SS
2007 - Holden Commodore SS
2008 - Ford Falcon XR6 Turbo Ute
2009 - Subaru Impreza WRX
2010 - VW Golf GTI
2011 - VW Polo GTI
2012 - VW Polo GTI
2013 - Mini JCW GP
2014 - Ford Fiesta ST
2015 - Ford Fiesta ST
2016 - VW Polo GTI
2017 - Ford Focus RS
2018 - Honda Civic Type R
Bang For Your Bucks 2019
The Contenders, Judges & Criteria
11 of the hottest new fast cars under $100K roll up to take on our famous value-for-money formula. Which will be number 1?