In late October, Honda celebrated 50 years in the UK with a large event held over 8 days at Silverstone, and it was our privilege to provide the track-based driving activity in the new Civic Type R. The compact and twisty Stowe Circuit allowed invited guests to explore the Type R’s handling and performance at more-or-less road legal speeds, in both standard and +R modes, and often in wet and greasy conditions.
306 BHP through the front wheels should be a recipe for hideous torque steer and wayward handling, yet the Type R transmits its power in a remarkably controlled fashion, a refined limited slip differential helping the car haul itself out of bends as the steering opens. We found the car to respond particularly well to trail braking in to tighter bends, especially in +R mode; the VSA stability control intervention point backed off to permit a subtle drift angle with the car’s nose pinned to the apex.
+R mode also activates a more aggressive engine map for greater responsiveness (making throttle inputs a little switchlike), and stiffens the otherwise adaptive dampers by 30%; virtually eliminating body roll and keeping the Type R consistently stable when cornering hard. Whilst this firmer suspension setting may unsettle the car on rough surfaces, it still does not require perfectly smooth roads to work extremely well.
Whilst the overt styling will not be to everyone’s taste, and some will shy away from the very idea of a front wheel drive sports car, the new Type R is a seriously quick and hugely entertaining performance car for daily use. A spot-on driving position, brilliantly supportive and comfortable Recaro seats, precise short-throw manual gearshift, beautifully weighted and communicative steering, well-spaced pedals and delightfully progressive and positive Brembo brakes are all present. These are matched to a great chassis set up and a strong yet smooth and finessed surge of power from the now turbo charged VTEC 2-litre motor.
At around £30,000, the new Type R is a performance car bargain. All members of the TCC team on this event came to the same conclusion: you’d have to spend a great deal more than £30K to buy any other new mainstream production car that could show a well driven Type R a remotely clean pair of heels on your favourite B road. But it’s the fact that so much of the car’s performance can be so readily exploited that makes this new Honda so enticing, and what put a grin on the face of everyone who drove it.
Thanks Honda, on behalf of your guests and us alike; we all had a blast!