Having been on the lookout for quite some time for a second car, and after many months of careful research and trips to the BMW, Ford and Vauxhall forecourts, we found ourselves at the local Honda dealership.
Climbing into the Type R on the test drive, one of the first things that was immediately striking was the interior. It's very funky looking, nicely laid out, and it's clear Honda have put a lot of thought into focusing the experience around the driver, with every control placed exactly and intuitively where you'd expect to find it.
Once driving the Type R it was immediately clear to me that despite lacking the immediate torque I'd been spoilt with in previous cars, the little Honda did something very special. It was more involving to drive.
Climbing behind the wheel of most modern (and usually turbocharged) 200bhp cars, I have found in my experience that they are *too* effortless to drive. My 54 plate Astra Coupe Turbo was blisteringly quick, but required no more involvement than pushing your foot to the floor in order to pick up tremendous speed. You'd find yourself constantly backing off on the throttle as the speed limit came up all to quickly. This is a stark contrast to the Type R. The Type R does require working harder to get the performance, but in my opinion, is all the better for it.
Day to day, drive the Civic Type R gently, and the car behaves like a normal 2.0 litre. Brisk pace is easily achievable without working the engine hard. Bury your foot in the throttle however, and start making use of the VTEC unit, and the driver is rewarded with a growl and raucous engine noise, and raspy exhaust note, as the car quickly picks up pace.
0-60 times for this car are published figures of 6.4 seconds, and I have no reason to disbelieve the figures. Being 200kg lighter than most of it's key rivals means that despite the lack of torque compared to the Astra VXR, Focus ST and Golf GTi, the car is extremely quick off the line.
From a handling perspective, the car will change direction on a postage stamp. The steering is very direct and precise, and the vehicle remains stable while being chucked into corners, giving immediate driver confidence in the car's handling. There is also plenty of feel through the seats, steering and pedals letting you know exactly where the line is at all times. Push the car over it's limits of grip, and the car will gracefully transition into gentle under-steer. The Vehicle Stability Assist has been set up by Honda to allow the driver to have 'more fun' before stepping in, and works very nicely, never feeling intrusive, but ready to correct anything too over zealous.
Issues I have found with the car are few and far between. A couple of criticisms however, include the brakes and the stereo.
The issue with the brakes isn't one of safety per say, but if the driver wished to take the car on a track day or similar, they would want to buy an aftermarket brake upgrade, as when pushed, I found the car suffered badly from brake fade. I'm not an expert on car mechanics, but I suspect grooved and vented discs should have been fitted on this car as standard to help mitigate this issue.
Our other car is a Ford Mondeo ST. The stereo in this vehicle is fantastic, plenty of bass, and very punchy, with a clear well rounded sound even at low volume. Sadly the Civic's stereo lacks the punch or the clarity of Ford's Sony unit. More noticeable perhaps because of the heavy metal that usually blares loudly whilst I'm driving.
In summary, I would definitely recommend the Type R to anyone looking at a performance hot hatch. Most dealerships now fit the Type R with an aftermarket Tracker at no cost to the owner, although not all do. Buy one from a dealer that does and you'll save yourself £400. Insuring the vehicle at age 29 with 7 years no claims, a clean license, and the tracker (in a nice area of town) and parking my car on the driveway at night has brought my insurance in at £470 per year. Not bad for a group 17 insurance vehicle.
If you are lucky enough to have the money in your early 20s to be buying one of these, *do* check the insurance out before buying. I've heard horror stories of £1700-2500 per year to insure.
I hope this review will be useful to anyone looking seriously at owning one of these. Enjoy.