Honda Civic Type R First Drive: It’s Witchcraft


It seems like only yesterday that the Honda FK2 Civic Type R was released, but after just two years, there is a new one. It’s larger, more aggressive, and more powerful. It retains the same 2.0 litre turbocharged petrol engine that was used in the previous model, but thanks for some tweaking and that new exhaust system there is 10 more bhp.

Honda Civic Type R First Drive
The new model is somehow more aggressive, who’d have thought it?

This means a grand total of 316bhp, all of which is being pushed through the front wheels. The 0-62 time is still 5.7 seconds, but the top speed has now increased to 169mph, which seems ludicrous for a family hatchback. But the new Type R is not just all about out-and-out pace, Honda has made the car easier to live with day-to-day.

Going Soft?

There is a new driving mode for the FK8, but it’s not one that makes the car even more extreme. No, it is in fact a comfort mode, but you probably already knew that. This make the car more complaint and softer, so it makes the car so much easier to live with compared to the firmer FK2. Whacking the FK2 in R+ mode was something you would only do if the tarmac was smooth, otherwise it would shake your fillings loose. So for many, the new comfort mode is most welcome.

Honda Civic Type R First Drive
Does this look like a car that’s going soft?

The Sport¬† and R+ mode remain of course, with Sport being the default setting when you start the car up. Sport mode is likely to be used by the majority as even this mode is comfortable enough to use for your daily commute. The suspension is firm of course, but it’s not as jiggly as the Ford Focus RS. Actually, even the R+ mode is usable on public roads and for me would the setting to have it on when attacking B roads.

Honda Civic Type R First Drive
I’m not a fan of the design, but it’s there for a reason

On top of this, the new triple exhaust system has been developed in way that makes the car quieter on the motorway and less droney, which again makes the FK8 easier to live with. At this point, you are probably asking whether the FK8 has gone soft, whether it’s given up the hot hatch life. No, far from it. This is a car that obliterated the lap time at the Nurburgring for a front wheel drive car – 7:43.8 to be exact.

What’s It Like To Drive?

It’s rather difficult to review this car without already saying what has already been said. The FK8 feels like a revelation for what a front wheel drive hatchback should be able to do, and although I had the car for a short amount of time, it made a massive impression on me. The new Type R is one of those cars that shines in so many areas, that it’s hard to think of where to begin.

Honda Civic Type R First Drive

Ok, let’s start with getting inside the cabin. I open the door of this Rallye Red (standard colour) model to drop myself in the comfortable, yet supportive sports seats. And I mean drop – the seats are sat lower than the previous model and the low driving position is certainly satisfying. All of a sudden it makes the seating position in the Focus RS feel more like an SUV. I found myself admiring the driving position longer than I would normally, but time is getting on, so time to hit the road.

Honda Civic Type R First Drive
Can you tell it’s a hot hatch?

As a Focus RS fan, the Type R had some high expectations and from the first acceleration those expectations were met. Working my way through the short, snappy gearbox is so pleasurable that you’ll find yourself finding any excuse to flick the short gear lever to the next cog. The new model also has a rev match system, so it will blip the throttle for when you change down, but that can turned off if you’d rather do it yourself.

Honda Civic Type R First Drive
The interior is bold, but I really like it, at least you know you’re in a hot hatch.

The pedals have a nice weight to them and offer plenty of feedback, which is exactly what you need from a performance hatch. Thanks to big Brembo brakes the FK8 will slow down as quickly as it gets going, which is just as well as it don’t half get a move on. Granted, it’s not the fastest to 62mph because of the lack of four wheel drive, but you’d have to be mad to call the progress slow.

Japanese Witchcraft

What really makes this car impressive is the way it handles its 316bhp and 400Nm of torque. This amount of power going through the front wheel just sounds like a disaster waiting to happen. You get a sense that every time you go near the throttle the car will sit there, spinning its wheels, and that when you do get going, it will torque steer in to the nearest hard object.

Honda Civic Type R First Drive
That spoiler helps the new Type R produce POSITIVE downforce unlike other cars in its class

But no, there are no such concerns in the Type R as it deals with this power with great aplomb. From my short time in the car I could not find any torque steer, although there is a still a little bit of turbo lag, but not as much as previously. There is plenty of grip on offer from those big 20-inch alloys, and because the car is lighter than its contemporaries, it feels more nimble in the corners. It’s no wonder it’s the fastest front wheel drive car to go around the Green Hell.

Honda Civic Type R First Drive
Helping to direct air to that rear wing are these grooves, otherwise known as ‘Vortex Generators’

It corners flat and the grip is simply in abundance, which gives masses amount of confidence as you sweep this Japanese monster through curves of the English countryside. The car does a wonderful thing of helping you get the most out of it without taking too much control from the driver. Honestly, this car is simply staggering. What Honda’s engineers have achieved is breathtaking, the Civic Type R is Japanese Witchcraft.

Honda Civic Type R First Drive
The Type R doing what it does best, attacking corners. This is not me in case you’re wondering (I wish!)


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