Generally at MOTOR, we get a test car for a week and have to help some poor punter – ie, yourself – try to decide whether or not to park one in the driveway for at least a couple of years. This is not easy. But this is also why we run a long-term test.
At the end of a long-term test, you’re looking for a feeling: whether a quiet relief to no longer have to write about a car. Or a solemness at parting ways.
For me, in the case of the Type R, there was genuine glumness to be giving it back to Honda. (Even if it was with our apologies for the ‘accelerated tyre and brake wear’ – yikes.)
Our six-part tenure with TYPER-5 basically started like this: yes, it drives brilliantly, it just won Performance Car of the Year – but what kind of journey are we embarking on with regards to the styling? The very first time I laid eyes on the UK-built FK8 Type R in the metal was at the Paris Motor Show where it sat in a menacing satin black finish. I thought I could very clearly imagine the exact kind of person who would be attracted to it, and that kind of person was exactly who I wasn’t.
As someone who helps call the artistic shots at MOTOR, I then had to puzzle over countless photos and angles as the Type R made its way into the magazine. And I’m not sure there is another car with a broader spectrum of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ angles as the Type R.
In the metal, initially my brain tried to blank out how it looked as I walked towards it, as you don’t have to look at the car once you’re in the driver’s seat. This strategy only works for so long during a long-term test.
MOTOR comparison: Civic Type R v Megane RS 280 v i30 N v 308 GTi
Having now looked at the car at length, I have concluded that (a) white is its worst colour (red looks to ‘own’ the shouty styling while black helps to hide it); and (b) its most unflattering angle generally has to do with the rear end, the rear bar protruding outwards as your eye follows it lower, like a plastic chin, and generally it is just one giant eyesore of fake-vented plastic. The aero teeth on the leading edge of the rear window don’t help; nor the hunched rake of the roofline itself.
I only bang on about the styling because it’s the thing that would make me most hesitate about buying the car. Yes, I have never shared with MOTOR readers my love for old, ugly cars, however, I also like an attractive car – who doesn’t? Particularly if it’s new.
It’s just as well the Type R drives as good as it does. No, seriously, it’s actually a revelation. Your first surprise is the fantastic, almost big-rear-drive-car-like driving position; then you are simply delighted by how easy the controls are, from gearshift to clutch and brake. The ride is extraordinarily good – it shames supposed high-end luxury cars. And that’s no exaggeration.
Punt the Type R hard and you find a joyfully well-balanced, precise gadget that is seriously quick up a twisty road. The SportContact6 tyres offer enormous grip and those dampers incredible suppleness. The turbocharged four-pot engine is revvy and flexible, and power-down is a real highlight despite the front-drive layout.
In fact, it’s the front-drive layout that’s to thank, in part, for a beautiful light-weight feeling to the Type R’s handling you just don’t get in heavier all-wheel drive machines. That, and the fact it has a proper independent rear end and clever front suspension.
Aside from needing a bit of a sensible approach at the racetrack – the stock Continentals are not cut-out for hardcore track use; and track-spec pads are probably a smart buy – the Type R is addictive, fun and satisfying around a circuit. And quick.
Can the amazing driving feel make up for the styling? For me, yes. I’d have mine in red. With tinted windows. And perhaps I’d fit smaller 19- or even 18-inch wheels to further hone the styling to my tastes – and open myself up to cheaper tyres and possibly an even nicer ride – as many owners have.
I’d consider an aftermarket exhaust as compared to, say, a popping and banging, rorty Hyundai i30 N, the Type R sounds very polite at low speeds.
A bigger issue, I find, is the interior. It would be fine if you’re coming from a 2010 Ford Focus ST. If you’d just sold your Mk7 VW Golf GTI – or, heaven help you, Audi S3 – for a Type R, brace yourself for a $22K VTi drabness that makes itself more obvious over time.
As for the infotainment system, if you’re not in the habit of using Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, you will be. Audiophiles, too, will do well to see the stock 160W speakers as items ripe for replacing. Fortunately the cabin redeems itself somewhat with highlights like the utterly brilliant seats and cool digital instrument cluster.
Are we sad to see the back of the Type R? Very much so. And this time not because of the way it looks.
Follow our journey with our Honda Civic Type R Long Termer:
2018 Honda Civic Type R Pros & Cons
Three things we fell for:
1 - Porsche-like handling
2 - Lovely revvy engine
3 - Sublime controls
Three things we did not fall for:
1 - Econobox interior
2 - Busy styling
3 - Tyre wear