During this time, we will establish whether or not the phenomenal driving experience the Honda Civic Type R offers, can be reconciled with some other, shall we say less than salubrious facets. In particular, a very busily styled, very unpopular exterior, and an interior that’s also a bit hit and miss.
But for me personally, I will be trying to open my mind to the idea of owning a Honda at all. I’m not a Honda guy; my favourite all-time Honda is the S2000, a car that sits out on its own in Honda’s performance car history.
A screaming, north-south atmo four in the front sending power via a blissful six-speed manual and limited slip differential to the rear wheels – nothing like it has worn a Honda badge since. As for other Honda performance royalty, I appreciate the original NSX but don’t lust after one, same for the DC2 Integra Type R and EK Civic Type R.
I only mention all this because I know a lot of readers feel the same way. And so here I am, self-professed non-Honda person, with the keys to a front-drive hot hatch with a big, fat, red Honda badge on the front of it.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m very, very happy about this. That’s largely because when it comes to driving very fast, it’s hard to talk about the Civic Type R without sounding like you’re an exaggerating lunatic.
But there are true things about this car and the way it drives. The controls are a total delight to use, at any speed, and some of the best feeling of any new performance model. The handling, helped by the independent rear end and spot-on adaptive dampers, is sublime.
The turbocharged 2.0-litre engine is punchy, reasonably responsive and strong, with an exhilarating, frenetic buzz about its upper revs. A Torsen limited slip differential is fairly effective at getting the not insignificant 228kW/400Nm to the ground, with minimal torque steer. And while it’ll get smoked by, say, a Ford Focus RS with its launch control and all-wheel drive to 100km/h, the smart money will see that at the end of 400m, the Type R is going faster.
It’s also a lot faster mid-corner. In fact, we struggle to think of another modern performance car, anywhere, that does so much with such relatively modest rubber, the Type R extracting every last ounce of purchase from its 245/30 ZR20 Continental SportContact 6 tyres. The speed you can carry into corners in the Type R is eye-opening.
This partly explains its blistering 7:43.8sec Nürburgring Nordschleife laptime, the fastest of any front-drive car ever, and one which knocks off a whole generation of legendary machines. Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera, 996 Porsche 911 GT3 RS, E46 BMW M3 CSL – all the hero cars of MOTOR yesteryear – the Civic Type R would outpace around the ’Ring. Gives you confused feelings, doesn’t it?
In the news: Civic Type R lap record campaign ends
Of course, despite that staggeringly talented chassis, giant-killing laptime potential and delightful controls, perfection eludes the Type R. In just one week of driving it, I have outwardly shouted profanities at its horribly unintuitive, almost deliberately difficult infotainment and trip computer interfaces.
I strongly resent that, for controlling the audio volume, there is a weird, tactile-less touchpad thing on the infotainment screen. The volume knob did not need reinvention. Nor did hiding some of the most common HVAC controls in a sub-menu of the centrescreen. I can only hope that with time, these are things I’ll get used to.
While I’m moaning about this otherwise awesome car, I need to address the fluoro pink elephant quivering behind the lampshade in the corner of the room.
Opinion: Give the Civic Type R a chance
Normally at MOTOR, we don’t rate a car’s styling; we rate how it drives, take the most flattering photos possible of it and leave how it looks up to you. But as this is a long-term test and the Type R’s styling has proven such a conversation starter, I feel I can give my opinion.
I’m still making up my mind. I think it looks tough from very specific angles, but stray beyond them and it can look very overstyled or just plain wrong. Sometimes at a glance it looks like a Pokemon on all fours, about to attack; at others, like its cheeks are all squashed up in an open-face helmet.
We’ll explore the Type R’s styling more in a future update, but I do think it has some redeeming details. I quite like the NACA duct on the bonnet. I don’t even mind the rear wing.
Over the next six issues, we’ll see whether the Type R’s most off-putting attributes can be tolerated for the epic drive on offer. And if an openly non-Honda guy can fall in love with one very talented ugly duckling.
Would familiarity breed contempt? On MOTOR long-term reviews
2018 Honda Civic Type R Pros & Cons
Three things we're excited for:
1 - Driving it on track
2 - Driving it on road
3 - Driving it, full stop
Three things we're nervous for:
1 - Looking at it
2 - Being seen in it
3 - Giving it back