I like to think of myself as a bit of a sucker for a good hot hatch. My first car was a 2011 Subaru WRX hatch, which I immediately ruined with a cold air intake and a tune. From there, I went to a BMW 328i because I thought I wanted a bit of luxury. It took six months for me to realise the error of my ways and sell it for an Audi S1.
Some may say I have a bit of a problem with turning over cars, but I thought I’d be fine, and that I’d be cured with the Audi S1. It was a brilliant little thing. A tiny monster with a big ol’ turbo heart. I figured I’d own it for many a year until I had run it into the ground. At which point I’d probably try to buy another one.
But then what did Honda do? They had to go and release the damned FK8 Type R. How dare they. It was obvious I’d take the bait and take one for a test drive. They must have known they’d get me, and get me they did.
I walked into the dealership thinking I’d just take a Type R for a quick test drive. A bit of a run around town, see what all the fuss was about and then be on my way. I was a fool.
I happened to have a dealer nearby that would let me drive one. That dealer happened to be close to the Royal National Park in Sydney. The salesman in the car just happened to agree that I should take it down to Audley to see how it felt in the corners. If you’ve never been down the entrance to the Royal National Park, the descent into Audley is a chain of 35km/h signposted corners heading down a hill. It’s not particularly long, being only six corners before the fun is over, but it’s long enough to show you how a car feels. It was long enough to show me how the Type R felt.
It felt sublime. If you want a review of the FK8 Type R, I could end it there: It felt sublime. But I can’t end it there, because the word count would be unforgivably low. So I’ll extoll the Civic Type R’s virtues some more.
Cars are pretty boring when they are standing still, so to get you moving there is 228kW and 400Nm of Japan’s finest under the hood. It’s an inline four, because it’s Honda. But it’s also a turbo, which is very not-Honda. Then it goes back to being a Honda by sending it all to the front wheels. Just to make sure it’s a Honda, it’s fitted with one of the finest six-speed manual gearboxes to grace modern vehicles.
To stop the steering wheel dislocating your shoulders when you floor it, the engineers in Tokyo have gone to town with the front suspension, providing a Macpherson set up with dual-axis struts. I don’t know what that means either, but it gets rid of the torque steer, so that has to be good, right?
They’ve also gone and fitted a fancy diff on the front. If you’re wondering about the end result of a bunch of power, front-wheel drive, and well-engineered suspension, I’ll tell you. Well, I’ve already told you. It’s sublime.
In a straight line, the engine does most of the work without too much of a fuss. It will pull from about 2500rpm, at which point the front tyres may complain a bit. But they’ve usually got their act together by 3500rpm which is where the engine really comes to life. There’s a little bit of that VTEC character still here, as the engine seems to build and build the higher the revs climb. This is a bit different to your standard inline turbo-four where you ride the torque, then shift early. You are very well rewarded for holding on just a little longer in the Type R.
When it comes time to change direction, the Civic starts to really shine. There is a seemingly bottomless well of grip provided by the Continental SportContact 6 tyres. It may as well be actually bottomless, because no matter how uncouth I tried to be by stomping on the fun pedal on the way out of corners, the Civic just gripped and tore it’s way forwards looking for the next bend. It’s an amazing sensation, you can feel the diff doing it’s work, apportioning the power between the two front hoops, before you fire out of the corner.
It’s an addictive experience. You approach a corner at a speed you think might be a little silly, huck the front wheels towards the apex with as much gusto as you dare, and then hold on while the front wheels scream out the other end, dragging you behind them with more than a little enthusiasm.
When you’re done with all the fun, you can pop the Civic Type R on the highway, take advantage of the lane keep assist and radar cruise control, pop the car in comfort mode, and just tootle along without your fillings being rattled out. If there’s one surprising thing about the Civic Type R, it’s how well it does the day-to-day, mile-munching thing.
It was designed to be a sports car, so the fact that it can sport about with the best of them shouldn’t be a surprise. But it can also car about with the best of them. It’s comfortable, well kitted out, and has plenty of space.
Not that you care. If you buy a Type R, it’s all about how it drives. No one sane spends $50,000-plus dollars on a hatchback unless they’re a little bit nuts about how much fun it is. But if you’re anything like me you’ll find yourself loving it just as much for how well it does everything else.