Let’s start with a question, has there ever been a better time to be shopping for a hot-hatch?
This writer is struggling to remember a time when there was as much quality packed into the segment as there is at this moment. Fierce competition means hot-hatch buyers are surrounded with an abundance of choice.
Performance hatchbacks have never really been a mainstream flavour in Australia. Enthusiasts often appreciate the engineering prowess a hot-hatch is capable of, but have tended to stick with the safer choice of a rear-wheel drive V6. The demise of locally produced cars now has buyers looking outside traditional choices.
One of the latest hot-hatch contenders in the 2018 Honda Civic Type R, the latest generation of a badge that has been around since 1997. The Type R in its latest form is quite possibly the hot-hatch to beat. The Type R starts at $50,990 before on-roads, the pricing is sharp when compared to rival models from Ford and Volkswagen.
The Type R is a well-equipped car, there are plenty of comfort, convenience and safety features meaning there is no need to analyse a lengthy options list. The only thing missing is satellite navigation which is only available on the Civic VTi-LX. Smartphone users can access maps through Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
From a design perspective, the new Civic Type R is about as subtle as a Shane Warne text message. It looks like it's jumped straight out of the pages of a Marvel comic, there are so many bulges in many ways it's reminiscent of Michael Keaton’s bat suit. It’s the polar opposite of the much-lauded Golf R. It's not something that will appeal to everybody, but nor should it, the Type R is an attention seeker and proud of it.
Red is the exterior colour that brings out the Type R’s character, it also matches the red highlights on the interior. The front sports seats are red, as are the seat belts which is a great touch. There’s also red stitching on the leather-trimmed steering wheel and gear stick.
Obviously, it's a very sporty themed cabin. The low set racing-style seats up front will hold you as tight as your first true love, but beware, the base of the seat is narrow.
Room in the back is on par with similarly sized hatchbacks, however, the Type R is strictly a four-seater. The huge boot will help buyers argue their case on the merits of practicality when roadblocks to purchasing are installed by significant others.
Performance hatchbacks should primarily be about the drive first, the smile factor and its ability to make you forget the sometimes mundane aspects of adult existence.
When the Type R stands to attention, it lets out an understated roar. Initially, it’s a little underwhelming and reminds me of the noise Drogon makes prior to breathing fire. It’s a sound that leads you into a false sense of security that perhaps the fire won't be there – wrong!
Almond milk latte sippers beware, this is a car for the purists. There is only one transmission option, a six-speed manual that sends power to the front wheels. It’s a short-throw unit with closely spaced ratios to suit the 228kW and 400Nm 2.0-litre turbo engine.
Honda has equipped the Type R with adaptive dampers that offer three options to alter the car’s suspension settings. Simply put, the suspension is firm. The comfort, sport and +R presets translate to hard, harder and hardest. When you throw in 20-inch wheels and 245/30 ZR20 low profile rubber, smooth surfaces are necessary.
In a straight line, it’s a fast car. The only thing that limits the speed of the Honda is how quickly I can physically change the gears. The Type R would be quicker if it had a conventional automatic with paddles or a quick shifting dual-clutch transmission. In saying that it’s hard not to respect the decision to keep it traditional.
The bends are where a hot-hatch can show its true colours. Pleasingly, the Type R is a wonderfully entertaining car to drive on a twisty section of road. The lightweight chassis delivers the agility required to conquer tight turns with confidence.
Under load, the limited-slip differential works to equalise the speed of the two drive wheels which means drivers can accelerate a bit harder on uneven surfaces. It also reduces wheel spin when exiting corners. There is an abundance of grip that encourages drivers to give it a bootful.
Stopping power comes from a four-piston Brembo package. 350mm rotors sit up front with 305mm rotors anchoring the rear.
Refinement is an area where the Type R falls short. The noise, vibration and harshness levels are very noticeable during a highway cruise.
We would be reluctant to purchase a Type R to use every day, prolonged daily use has the potential to erode the sense of occasion. This is a ride that is best reserved for the times when you really need to blow some cobwebs out.
Something else that may influence the decision to use the Type R as a daily driver is consumption. Our test covered 1175 kilometres of mixed driving conditions that returned a figure of 13.8L/100km. If you’re likely to spend the majority of time driving in town, the Type R will be thirsty and it has a taste for premium fuel.
Service intervals are set at 12 month/10,000km intervals. Honda offers a comprehensive capped price service program that covers the car for the first 100,000 kilometres. Each visit back to the dealer costs $307 plus the occasional miscellaneous item.
Honda back the Type R with a five year/unlimited kilometre warranty, this covers regular road use, not track use.
As a package, the Honda Civic is a hard act to follow. It looks the part and it drives the part, these two things rarely come together as seamlessly as they do here. The chassis tune, engine and stick shifter combine beautifully.
We could bang on all day about the Type R’s stats, it’s a numbers fest that deserves respect but hides what’s important.
The Type R is a fun car to drive, which is what a hot-hatch should be. It makes you smile when you get behind the wheel, it brings out your inner teenager and reminds you of the carefree days of youth before responsibility started to kick in. These are the things the Honda offers that you won't find written amongst all the numbers. It doesn't matter what happens before you get behind the wheel because it can wipe away a bad day in a matter of seconds.
2018 Honda Civic Type R Specifications
Price from $50,990 plus on-road costs Engine 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol Power 228kW @ 6500rpm Torque 400Nm @ 2500-4500rpm Transmission six-speed manual Performance 0 to 100km/h 5.7 seconds Combined Fuel Consumption 8.8L/100km Tank Capacity 47L Length 4557mm Width 1877mm Height 1421mm Wheelbase 2700mm Turning Circle 11.8m Kerb Weight 1393kg Service Intervals 12 months/10,000km Warranty five year/unlimited kilometre
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