Honda is poised to re-enter the hot hatch fray with the new Honda Civic Type R. The Japanese manufacturer unveiled its radical new performance model in concept form at the Geneva Motor Show recently, and we've spotted the development car undergoing testing on the road. Expect to see the full production version later next year.
Every swooping curve and prominent crease on the new hot hatch is visible, ensuring there is no confusing it with the standard model. Bulging wheel arches, quad exhausts and a huge rear wing give the Type R the visual punch it needs to give it the upper hand in the hot hatch styling department.
If the showroom model looks anything like the Civic Type-R concept, then it will be one of the most radically styled hatchbacks ever. It looks more like a WTCC racer without the stickers and roll cage than a road car. And according to senior project designer Masaru Hasegawa, that's exactly what Honda intended.
“The current Civic line-up isn’t very exciting, so we needed to come up with something for European Honda fans that also fits our performance heritage,” he told Auto Express. “Now, the Type R is aimed at the VW Golf R and Ford Focus RS. Those cars are subtle and more sophisticated-looking. But we wanted ours to be different and distinctive.”
The Honda Civic Type R price will be around £30,000, in order for it to compete with its main hot hatch rivals. The release date hasn't been narrowed down yet, but we expect the car to be launched in late 2014, with an on sale date at some point in 2015.
The Geneva Motor Show hosted a concept version of the car, seen in our pictures, but we still don't know exactly what the production version will look like - we'll have to wait for the official reveal. Don't expect it to change too much, though.
Designers call it a “racing car for the road”, and the wild bodywork lives up to the billing. Dramatically flared wheelarches with vents behind them, an enormous rear wing with integrated LED brake lights and a full-width diffuser with quad exhausts make the Type R look more like a touring car than something designed to be driven every day.
Headlamps with daytime running lights preview the facelifted Honda Civic, which is set to debut at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show, just like the new Type R. The bumper’s lower splitter forms an aerodynamic fin ahead of each wheel, and the big intakes will make production, too, as engineering data from prototypes running in Japan – one of which we’ve driven – was used to create the concept.
The arches over the 20-inch wheels show the Type R’s large increase in track over the standard car’s. Perhaps the car looks most outrageous from the rear. The extended bumper now has a racing-style double diffuser, which is flanked by quad exhausts that are a certainty for production.
A wing sweeping up from the tail-lights has more than a hint of the old NSX. And that was the intention, according to Hasegawa-san. He explained: “Our engineers confirmed the size of the front bumper intakes and the rear wing angle, so both are about right for production. The tail-lights recall those of the NSX, although these are more sophisticated. It’d be nice to do the wing in black carbon, just like on the NSX R.”
we know it’s targeting an output in excess of 276bhp and 400Nm of torque from the Type R’s 2.0-litre turbocharged engine.
Previous Honda Civic Type R models have used the unique VTEC (Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control) engine, which uses different camshaft profiles to produce extra power when it's needed. This new model should be quicker and more efficient than before, thanks to the new turbo engine, but the character of the car will be different this time around.
We expect the car to go from 0-62mph in around six seconds, but still be able to manage about 40mpg. That's in contrast to the previous model's 31mpg economy. The old model had a firm ride, too, which we hope will be improved in this new model.
As is traditional, the Type R will be sold in a limited palette, including the Championship White launch colour. However, the concept is painted bright red with gold flakes. Says Hasegawa-san: “This shows that despite the car’s outrageous looks, it’s very professional. It highlights the flared wings, and how the standard car’s creases are retained and integrated into the new look.”
The Type R will be sold in a number of versions, catering both for drivers who want a more hardcore model and those who’d like to use it every day.
Hasegawa-san adds that a Civic Type R Tourer isn’t out of the question, with the same engine but a toned-down look. Yet that would depend on demand – especially from the UK, where the car will be built and where most of the latest hot Hondas are likely to be sold.
Honda also showed an extended video of the Type R prototype in action on the famous German circuit being tested to its limits by (among others) WTCC driver Gabriele Tarquini and we heard the noise of the turbo engine for the first time and got a look inside the cabin.
It has lost the high-pitched note of the high-revving old twin-cam V-TEC engine, but still sounds sporty with a deeper, throatier rumble. Famous corners like the carousel were included in the video and the in-car footage shows how hard the driver is pushing, but a source from within the company told us that they had already come close to beating the record at the first attempt with this batch of prototypes.