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Driven: Honda’s Civic Type R grows up

R Rated: With 228kW/400Nm of power fed to the front axle from a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, Honda has fitted a helical limited-slip differential and special suspension components to tame the torque steer in the new Civic Type R.

Broad torque curve, Comfort mode to broaden Honda Civic Type R’s versatility


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16 Oct 2017

HONDA Australia is hoping its new Civic Type R will strike the perfect balance between everyday usability and hardcore track performance as its new $50,990 before on-road costs hero hatchback competes directly against the likes of the Ford Focus RS and Volkswagen Golf R in the burgeoning hot hatch segment.

Speaking to GoAuto at the launch of the latest red-badged model, Honda Australia general manager of customer and communications Scott McGregor said the fifth-generation Civic Type R was designed to offer the best of both worlds – sporting performance and daily driving comfort.

“We put the customer in the centre of the way the vehicle’s been designed,” he said. “There’s a lot of thought that goes into the customer and how the customer is going to physically use the car.

“The fact that the customer wants to be able to drive this car every day, but also have the opportunity to take it to a racetrack on the weekend and really, you know, see what it can do.

“I think that’s the reason why those three suspension modes are in there and why the level of refinement in terms of the power delivery, the refinement of the cabin and all that kind of stuff has been designed in such a way where it’s not just trying to do one thing, it’s trying to kind of serve the multitude of uses an owner might want to have for it.”

The new Civic Type R is the first red-badged Honda to feature a Comfort mode setting – alongside Sport and R+ – to make the hot hatch more user friendly and versatile.

When compared with its Australian-market predecessor that was discontinued in 2011, the new turbocharged Civic Type R also delivers peak power and torque much earlier in the rev range – 228kW at 6500rprm/400Nm from 2500-4500rpm in the 2017 model versus 148kW at 7800rpm/193Nm at 5600rpm for the third-generation model.

However, Mr McGregor said the changes made in the new model are in the name of customer choice and to mature the nameplate, not to dull the traditionally hard edge and rawness of a Type R model.

“What the Honda brand (and Type R) has always been about is being quite pure and focused in terms of the driver,” he said.

“Comfort mode just gives you an option that makes the car a lot more relaxing to drive, but then at the flick of a switch you can dial it up as soon as you get onto a road you want to have a bit of a punt on.

“I think having the Comfort mode just gives it that extra dimension that some of its competitors don’t have.”

When asked if the new Civic flagship will garner the same cult-status and following as its predecessors, Mr McGregor said the fifth-generation Type R is a worthy successor to the iconic red-badged hatchbacks of the past.

“I think the recipe, whilst it’s evolved, is still similar,” he said. “It’s under 1400kg, which is lighter than most of its competitors, it’s got the power, it still revs out, it’s got the agility, its shown what it can do on the track.

“I do think it’s got all the ingredients that the other Type R’s have had, it just adds a whole new dimension in terms of pure speed and then also the ability to apply those different suspension modes to give it that degree of liveability as well.”

Arriving as the flagship for the tenth-generation Civic line-up, the Type R-fettled hot hatch sits $17,400 upstream from the previously range-topping VTi-LX variant and matches the Ford Focus RS in price, while undercutting its Volkswagen Golf R rival by $2000 – however the incoming Grid version of the latter starts at $47,490.

While all three cars are powered by turbocharged four-cylinder engines, the 257kW/440Nm Ford hero and 213kW/380Nm German hot hatch power all four wheels, while the Civic Type R sends its 228kW/400Nm exclusively to the front axle.

However, the front-wheel-drive (FWD) UK-built Japanese hot hatch tips the scales at 1393kg, compared with the Focus RS on 1575kg and VW Golf R at around 1450kg, giving it a superior power to weight ratio of 164kW/287Nm per ton.

The Ford manages 163kW/279Nm per ton, while the Volkswagen is 147kW/276Nm.

Available only with a six-speed manual gearbox, the Civic Type R can accelerate from 0-100km/h in less than six seconds and returns an official fuel consumption rating of 8.8 litres per 100km, while emitting 200g/km of CO2.

Honda has fitted a new Dual-Axis front suspension system with aluminium steering knuckles and lower control arms, as well as a helical limited-slip differential, to eliminate torque steer and maximise front-end grip.

Suspension settings – including spring, damper and bushing ratings – have also been revised at all four corners.

A dual-pinion electric power steering system with a variable gear ratio is employed, alongside a comprehensive aerodynamic package which includes an attention-grabbing rear spoiler, rally-inspired roof-mounted vortex generators, smoother underbody and functional bonnet scoop.

Further differentiating the Type R from its standard siblings is a carbon-fibre-like front splitter, side skirts and rear diffuser, as well as a tweaked centre-exit triple exhaust.

Black 20-inch wheels wrapped in 245/30 Continental SportContact 6 tyres sit at all four corners, while stopping power is handled by 350mm ventilated and drilled discs with four-piston Brembo callipers up front, while 305mm solid discs are fitted to the rear.

Honda has deleted the middle seat in the second row, leaving room for only four occupants, but front passengers are treated to suede-like sports bucket seats as well as a red-accented interior including highlights on the steering wheel, dashboard, shifter boot and carpet.

The boot of the Civic Type R will swallow 414 litres, but the 60:40 split-fold rear seats can also be stowed for more capacity.

Like the standard Civic range, the Type R adopts a colour touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Andriod Auto functionality, as well as a digital radio, Bluetooth connectivity and USB inputs.

Honda’s Sensing safety suite is also standard on the Type R, which includes lane departure warning, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control and autonomous emergency braking.

As standard, the Honda Civic Type R is finished in a Rally Red colour, but Championship White, Crystal Black, Brilliant Sport Blue or Sonic Grey are also offered for $575 – the only option available.

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