My particular car is a JDM import model, with the rectangular headlights, 1998 spec. Changes over the UK version, apart from the obvious difference at the front, are the 16-inch alloy wheels. It is marginally lighter, has slightly revised suspension and brakes, and has a bit more power – 197 bhp is claimed, but I suspect that is when it is running on Japan’s fuel, which is higher octane than can typically be obtained in the UK. Running on Shell V-Power it should still develop around 193 bhp at a guess.
I bought this car purely on impulse. I had been getting itchy feet for a while with my old Clio 182. I had always known about the rave reviews that the 182 got by the likes of Evo and Autocar, but I felt that it didn’t really handle as well as some said, nor did it seem as powerful as the 180 bhp in such a small car would suggest, although make no mistake, it was well capable of showing the vast majority of traffic in the UK a clean pair of heels. However, my old Mk2 Golf GTI was more fun to drive, with better handling, and although not as fast, it gave a good sensation of speed. I had thought about modifying it; however, the amount I felt I would have to spend to bring it up to the standard I was hoping for didn’t seem to make financial sense, and in the end, although the Clio is not a bad looking car, it didn’t really feel special in any way.
I was actually after an MR2, and I went around looking for one, but when I saw this DC2 parked up, looking very nice, well, after hearing the rave reviews that Evo magazine gave it (best handling FWD car yet), well I had to have a go.
One test drive later and I had signed the papers.
I have had the car for around 8 weeks now, and since then have covered 3,000 miles.
So here is my review...
Looks: I really like the looks of this Honda. Mine is championship white, with 16” speedline white alloys, completely standard. It has a sleek, aggressive appearance that I really like.
Not that I need one, but this car feels like a manhood extension to me after the Clio. It’s really eye catching, and attention grabbing. I have had complete strangers talk to me about the car on numerous occasions. On the rare occasion that I spot another ITR driver, a wave and flash is usually exchanged.
This does have some drawbacks though. I have been followed by police on several occasions, some of whom were clearly trying to goad me into doing something daft so they could pull me over. Also some people also automatically assume you are boy-racer scum, and I have had people giving me coffee beans for no apparent reason. Who cares about them though, when they are driving their boring Vauxhall Corsas? It’s also a bit of a scrota magnet; I’ve had to wipe mayonnaise and chips from my windscreen on one occasion. Overall, it’s a bit boy racer in the same way as the likes of a Subaru Impreza or an Evo, but I like it!
Interior: The interior is very no-nonsense, and it leaves you in no doubt as to what this car is about. The dash is quite plain looking, and looks quite dated. It has splashes of carbon fibre effect trim which arguably look rather tacky. Mine has grey Recaro bucket seats, which are extremely comfortable and supportive. Other Type-R models often have red seats, but they are said to be harder to keep clean. It has a small Momo steering wheel which looks and feels great, and a titanium gear knob which feels really good to the touch.
The car is actually quite practical, as it has a reasonable amount of room in the back, and the boot is actually quite large.
The driving position is excellent, very comfortable and you feel quite low down to the ground, which makes you feel more connected to the road.
On the move: Once on the move, you notice the rather vocal engine; this is due to the lack of soundproofing. You also notice the hard suspension, and the car can be quite harsh around the pot-holed town roads. There is quite a bit of driveline shunt if you are not smooth with the accelerator pedal. Overall, it is not particularly friendly around town.
Once you up the speed, you begin to notice the wind and tyre noise more. On motorways, the engine revs at 4,000 rpm at 70 mph, so it is fairly noisy, but once you get used to it, not bad. Also the ride quality improves at higher speed, and it feels safe and planted. Overall, it’s probably not the easiest going car when you aren’t in the mood for fun, but let’s face it, you don’t buy an Integra Type-R to be cosseted.
Performance: Initially, when I had the test drive, I did feel that it was quite gutless, which is what most people had led me to believe VTEC engines were like at lower revs. However, I am now wondering if the car had 95 octane fuel in at the time, because since I have had it, I have to say, I am more than surprised about just how nippy it feels and how well it pulls at low revs. I guess its short gearing has something to do with that, but on a flat it will happily pull from 25 mph in 5th, and the throttle response is crisp and instantaneous. Once you get used to it, you are aware that you are using more revs than you would in normal cars in everyday situations, but if you removed the numbers from the rev counter and wore earplugs, I doubt it would seem that much different to many other normally aspirated engines.
Despite its nippiness though, as you know, the real performance comes when the car comes on cam. In this case, the cam changeover seems to kick in at around 6,000 rpm. When this happens, the engine note changes and the car takes off. The engine note is a spine tingling roar that sounds not too dissimilar to a very big motorbike engine. I have friends that have commented on how loud and aggressive it sounds from the outside when I have overtaken them. It gives a real sense of occasion, and it’s the best sounding 4-cylinder engine I have ever heard (and I have driven the EP3 Civic Type-R and the Celica T-Sport 190).
To be honest, it’s not the fastest car in the world, but it is pretty rapid, and is certainly a bit quicker than my old Clio 182, and it will give a Subaru Impreza WRX a run for its money on a straight. 0-60 is said to come in 6.2 seconds, and it will apparently crack a quarter mile in 14.6 seconds. It certainly feels good for that.
It’s not so much the raw performance that impresses, but the dramatic fashion which it delivers it. This car is great fun in the real world; you can have fun without losing your license, but you could quite easily lose your license if you wanted.
I drive hundreds of miles on A- and B-roads, and I can say that the overtaking performance is excellent if driven correctly; more than capable of overtaking large numbers of cars in one go.
On the motorway, despite its lack of torque, short gearing means I can make good progress without changing gear if I want. And where my old 182 used to feel somewhat breathless beyond 100, the Integra appears to pull convincingly all the way up to 130 mph and beyond, probably due to its aerodynamic body.
Handling: As I said earlier, the Clio 182, despite the hype was a little disappointing to me. Sure it had plenty of grip, and pointy, responsive steering, but it seemed to have the same problem that afflicts many modern cars – grip, grip, grip, without any real sensation that you were approaching its limits. As such, you did not really have the confidence to explore its limits. Not only that, but the drive-by-wire throttle meant that it was not really responsive enough on the throttle to control its lines with the throttle. High centre of gravity meant it leaned more than you wanted despite the fairly firm suspension. It also dived under braking, making the back end unstable, and the short wheelbase could make it feel twitchy at times.
But enough about that, this is a review about an Integra, not a Clio. The teg is a different kettle of fish to be honest, and it really does deserve its accolades.
The teg is apparently blessed with a limited slip differential. As a result, the car can be launched off the line more convincingly than many front drivers. They way it can be powered out of corners is astonishing if you are used to lesser front drive cars. Throw it into a corner, provoking a sideways slide (no understeer to be found here), and floor the throttle, and watch as the car straightens up its line, and digs in, hurling itself towards the horizon. Utterly astonishing, utterly addictive. The handling is just superb. There is plenty of grip here, but not too much; you can explore the limits of this car much easier than many cars nowadays, and it’s so much more fun for it.
Not only that, but the longer wheelbase, lower centre of gravity and firm suspension give it stability that most hot hatches can only dream of. There is no diving under braking; there is virtually no body roll at all. The throttle response is crisp, and it allows you to adjust the car's line using just the throttle.
To sum this up, I am by no means a racing driver, by any stretch of the imagination. I am just an enthusiast who enjoys safe, fast driving. I am pretty average. This car makes me feel heroic quite honestly. It’s not that it can necessarily corner faster than your best hot hatches these days, it’s the level of involvement and fun that it offers while doing it. It is by FAR better than the majority of hot hatches, if not better than all of them. So forgiving, it will not bite the hand that feeds it, yet the faster you drive it, the better it gets.
I’ve driven quite a few RWD cars too, and believe me, many RWD afficionados will tell you that RWD is the only option for handling, but believe me, this FWD car is in a completely different league than your average, including hot hatches, and can certainly rival even some of the better RWD cars out there. OK, it is different than those cars, but it handily does away with many of the problems that afflict many FWD cars. The nose never feels heavy thanks to its lightweight 1.8 litre engine, and as such understeer is never an issue. It’s really rather neutral. I’ve driven some of the most revered FWD cars, but the Integra is pure brilliance.
Running costs: Right, back to the boring stuff. This car is not particularly cheap to run quite honestly, but it is attainable for Mr Average, which is all I am to be honest. The 6,000 mile service intervals are twice as frequent as many cars, and in some cases, even more than that. Although for the most part, oil and filter changes are what are needed.
Insurance is probably the biggest killer. With this particular car being a JDM import, it is equivalent to a group 20 insurance car (UK version is group 18). Nevertheless, for this 28 year old living in a decent area, I still expect to get insured for around £700 - £800 a year.
Fuel costs: ...well if you can resist the temptation to put your foot down, then 30 MPG is possible in mixed driving. Typically though, you should expect low to mid 20’s. I get about 200 or so miles out of a tank, but the VTEC is used whenever possible. Also, with regular VTEC use, the car drinks a bit of oil. It has drunk about 1-litre of oil in the last 3,000 miles. However, I expected this, so am not surprised or disappointed with this.
It’s not all bad news however. With it being a pre-2001 car, it is not in the new tax classifications so road tax is £180 a year. No doubt cheaper than say, a Focus ST, which is a band G car costing £250 a year, but I bet it’s more fun to drive than that car. At the end of the day, it’s a sports car so it’s not designed with economy in mind, but it is quite economical considering. Anyone who fancies a Scooby, but is put off by running costs should at least consider one of these.
Overall: I have to say I am truly delighted with this car; an 80,000 mile car that felt newer and tighter than a 20,000 mile Clio. I did quite fancy the idea of an Elise, but a little impractical. This car is almost as close as you can get to a practical Elise. In fact, think of a combination of an Elise, a Scooby and a hot hatch, with a little bit of motorbike thrown in and you get the idea. Brilliant, brilliant car.