Cars

The sleeping Lion – our hot hatch of 2016 – the Type R

Civic Type R Pan-European launch

Civic Type R Pan-European launch

It isn’t really though is it, a sleeping lion that is. But when you press the ignition button and the car wakes up from a deep sleep it definitely feels as though the king of the Savanna has woken.

The Civic Type R is £29,995 of relentless 306bhp Japanese prowess, complete with an obvious, highly enjoyable front wheel drive, six speed manual gearbox, mechanical LSD, track savvy gear change, and luxury clamping seats.

Limitations to the car’s revs come at 7,000rpm albeit in a slick turbocharged motor. I can’t help but feel like the car wasn’t happy in its first three gears, feeling almost like a 100m sprinter who kept leaving the starting blocks before the gun went off. Simply due to its eagerness to perform it is a car that favours speed over your everyday city driving.

After 50 miles or so however you learn to keep the Type R comfortable but you do have to find restraint not to unleash her epic fury.

When exploring the itinerary of this model, as you might expect from Honda, their feats of advanced engineering are extensive to say the least. Spourning from the increased rigidity in the bodyshell coupled with refinement to the bracket designs and construction this is a car which oozes specs at the highest level.

2015 Civic Type R

2015 Civic Type R

And as for comfort of ride, whilst Ford Focus RS, and other hatches benefitted from trick front suspension systems to manage torque steer by minimising the camber change on the front wheels whilst handling corners, Honda’s new Dual Axis Strut Front Suspension, DASFS, reduces torque steer by 55 per cent.

Other feats of re-engineering include the brushes, damper forks and lower arms, whilst at the back is a Honda standard torsion beam set-up. This means you get a lot of bang for your buck, with an increase in handling stiffness of 177% leaving no need for a rear anti-roll bar.

And when at last you find the right stretch of road to awake the sleeping lion, you will be mesmerised to hear the thunderous roar of the Type R engine.

A 2.0-litre four cylinder direct injection VTEC Turbo allows you to pick up speed quickly once at high revs and the +R mode, a bit like the Golf Gti sport mode changes the whole experience further still.

I did find the lag somewhat challenging to come to terms with as until you reach 3000rpm you can often feel it. The difference with the Gti is that the comfort modes really do seem to turn the car back into an about town commuter, whereas you never quite feel the R could be.

Despite this using the Maxi-cosi Rodifix child seat, it served incredibly well as a family car, my 4 year old enjoying the unique interior styling every bit as much as I did. There is also lots of legroom and boot space for luggage for weekend trips away.

Weighing just 1378kg, this gives the Type R a power to weight ratio of 222bhp per tonne, ten per cent better than a Golf R.

This makes its new six speed manual gearchange even more pleasurable to shift through, effortless and on point.

Civic Type R Pan-European launch

Civic Type R Pan-European launch

To look at both inside and out it is a true thing of beauty and I am not surprised that on average Honda only release one of these special edition hatches once in a blue moon.

Back to the real reason you should consider tightening your belt and investing in the timeless masterpiece with your next ISA cashin the +R mode.

This button on the dash gives for a modest value an experience that you only hope to get close to when you join the likes of the M5 and perhaps even the R8 clubs. The dash glows red instead of white and the controls give you an uplifting 0-60 attack mode, a lap time experience plus the ESC is loosened, the torque map is more aggressive, the power steering assistance diminishes and the magnetorheological dampers firm up. This is the same technology which the Corvette Stingray and the Ferrari 458 benefit from, not to mention Audi’s R8.

This is one element which whilst for millpond tarmac at Silverstone you could benefit from, on a typical English Road, especially with our weather system you could do without and that part is not a switch on or switch off as long as you are in +R mode.

The exhilaration and comfort you get when behind the wheel however is a joyous experience and as I come closer to seeking my next purchase, I am easily convinced that I am Honda‘s latest convert to the Type R club. 9/10

Specs

2.0-litre 4cyl turbo, 306bhp @ 6500rpm, 295lb ft @ 2500rpm, 0-62mph in 5.7secs, 167mph max, 38.7mpg, 170g/km CO2, 1382kg

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