It's been a long time coming but but Honda is about to re-enter the hot hatch fray with the new Honda Civic Type R. The Japanese manufacturer has showed its radical new performance model in concept form at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show then again at the Paris Motor Show. We've also spotted the development car undergoing testing on the road wearing UK plates.
We expect to see the full production version at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show in March before the new Civic Type-R goes on sale a few months later. The car is expected to be priced around the £30,000 mark positioning it somewhere between the VW Golf GTI and the 4x4 Golf R. It will deliver around 290bhp from a turbocharged 2.0-litre i-VTEC engine.
Honda sent hot hatch fans into a frenzy again by unveiling another Honda Civic Type-R concept at the 2014 Paris Motor Show. Forgoing the classic Civic Type R red in favour or an eye-catching blue paint-job the concept was unveiled along with extensive details and specs.
It’s no secret that Honda is chasing the front-wheel-drive lap record at Germany’s Nurburgring race track with the hot Civic and, in its quest to succeed, a new 2.0-litre i-VTEC turbocharged engine will be its trump card – the first turbocharged engine to be fitted to a Type R model. And, like every flagship Civic before it, the newcomer will only be available with a six-speed manual gearbox.
Honda is reluctant to disclose final specs, but it has promised in excess of 278bhp – more power than the 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine delivered in the NSX Type R supercar. Unofficially, that should ensure the new model cracks the 0-62mph sprint in around six seconds.
Helping ensure all that oomph doesn’t dissipate into plumes of tyre smoke, the Civic Type R will feature a new steer-axis front suspension set-up. In practice, the system will allow drivers to extract maximum performance by reducing torque steer and smoothing out power delivery to the front wheels under hard acceleration.
Another feature to debut on the Civic is the +R driving mode. Enabled via a button on the dashboard, +R sharpens up the responsiveness of the engine, extracts greater performance from the turbocharged motor and gives the steering more weight.
So that it can compete with the likes of the SEAT Leon Cupra and VW Golf GTI in terms of ability, the Type R will also feature a new four-point Adaptive Damper System. This has been specifically designed for the new model and is able to manipulate the firmness of the front and rear dampers automatically depending on the driving conditions.
At slower speeds or when cruising, the dampers will automatically adjust to a softer set-up to provide a more comfortable and supple ride. Yet with more aggressive driving, the dampers will become noticeably firmer to serve up better body control and greater agility.
Honda has also admitted an even more extreme version of the Civic Type R isn’t an impossible dream. At the Paris Motor Show, chief engineer Hisayuki Yaga said that Honda would be prepared to follow the example of the likes of SEAT and Renault by making even wilder versions if there is demand from customers.
“The Type R is already a very special, extreme version. We have been pursuing the ultimate performance,” he said. “But of course technically everything is possible, depending on customer demand. If there is a big noise in the market requiring even more extreme performance, this is something we might consider, even though at the moment it is not in planning.”
SEAT and Renaultsport have traded blows with their extreme Leon and Mégane, with the cars becoming ever more basic, and Yaga admitted this would not be a problem for Honda, too.
“Reducing weight is one measure we could think about,” he said. “It would be like creating a race car from a road car. But it’s not just stripping off weight – we could use technology to do this too.”
“Our intention is to exceed the performance of our competitors, and not just cars that are being developed especially for track use,” he said. “That could be from a standing start, in-gear acceleration, a lap time on the Nürburgring – everything.”
And Yaga was keen to allay fans’ fears that the use of a turbo would dilute the new car’s appeal. “The turbo is just a tool, a measure to achieve certain performance. It’s not just an engine with a turbo unit. It is a Honda VTEC engine with a turbo unit on top. The characteristics will not be spoiled by the turbo. It will have the ultimate performance we have ever created in a Type R without spoiling the traditional DNA.”
However, Yaga confirmed there will be no Type R Tourer, despite the estate’s potential being demonstrated by a race car in this year’s BTCC series. “When I see a station wagon I see the characteristics of a grand tourer rather than a Type R,” he said.
Back in May 2014, our spies spotted the Type R testing in Germany alongside some of its key rivals, such as the VW Golf R, Vauxhall Astra VXR and SEAT Leon Cupra. Then, we spotted another development car testing in Germany on British numberplates.
It appears intitally to reflect the styling of the Paris concept, particularly the rear with the huge wing and quad-tailpipes clear to see. However, there are some details that have been toned down.
The front has lost the striking light clusters, replaced by a simpler design and traditional circular foglamps instead of the LED light bar. The deep front wing is still present, as is the mesh grille.
The wheelarches appear to be slightly toned down from the flared items on the concept, although the deep side skirt remains. The huge brakes are also evident, as are the trademark red calipers.
Only a small section of the interior can be seen but the images show a return of the distinct Type R red bucket seats, as well as red seatbelts and interior detailing.
The first sighting of the Honda Civic Type-R concept came at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show. 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 officially unveiled at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show, with an on sale date at some point later in 2015.
As is traditional, the Type R will be sold in a limited palette, including the Championship White launch colour. However, the Geneva concept is painted bright red with gold flakes, while the Paris version was bright blue. 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.
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