Honda Civic Type R GT

We see if the Type R can stave off the challenge from its Japanese rival

  • Responsive chassis, accurate steering, relatively low running costs, practical
  • Harsh ride, speedometer can be hard to read, styling won't be to all tastes

As with Subaru, Honda is a manufacturer with a split personality. Just as Subaru is famed for producing rugged utilitarian 4x4s and wild four-wheel-drive sports cars, Honda combines a strong racing heritage with a reputation for more mundane mainstream models.

At least, it did. Bosses were determined to make the standard Civic appeal to a younger customer base, so the latest car is a radical departure from the sensible hatchbacks that went before. As a result, the bold lines and angles make a good starting point for the Type R.

The sharp nose, wedge profile and bulky rear end all divide opinion, but the extra side sills and subtle Type R detailing give the hot hatch a racier appearance. Whether you like it or not, you can’t deny it looks more modern than the Impreza.

There’s no rally-style rear wing, either, although a larger spoiler is added to the tailgate. Unfortunately, this hampers rear visibility, and with no wiper, the glass sections get filthy, too – rear vision is a real negative point. And that’s not the only day-to-day annoyance, because the steering wheel can obscure the speedometer and the driver’s seat doesn’t adjust low enough.

The driving position is otherwise comfortable and the seats firm and supportive. Some may find the dash layout complicated, but given time, it becomes intuitive to use. And on top of that, the cabin is more dramatic, modern and sporty than the Subaru’s.

The quality of the materials is so much better in the Honda – the steering wheel is great to hold, the plastics feel more expensive and the buttons operate precisely. There’s a decent amount of stowage, too. Combine this with the ample rear passenger room and the generous 485-litre boot, and the Type R is much more practical than the WRX.

Is it as sporty, though? Well, the 2.0-litre normally aspirated engine is certainly racy. It pulls over a wide range, but high revs are a must if you want to get anywhere in a hurry, and there’s a massive step up in power when the VTEC variable valve timing kicks in at 5,500rpm. From there to the 8,000rpm red line, there’s a hard-edged race car-style bark to the engine note.

While the Subaru’s torque means it’s quicker in a straight line, the Honda’s sharper throttle response and frenzied personality make it the livelier of the two. It helps that the Civic has an extra gear ratio and a far superior shift action. The brakes are sharper, too.

What’s more, few cars change direction as eagerly and quickly as the Type R. A stiff bodyshell and positive controls ensure it responds instantly to your inputs. The steering is meaty yet accurate, and grip is excellent.

As a result, it reacts faster than the Subaru, has more feel though the steering and far less body roll. Obviously, as it’s front-wheel drive, the Civic can struggle for grip in places where the Impreza has traction, but this aside, the Type R beats the WRX hands-down for handling.

The trade-off is a hard, unforgiving ride. However, other Type Rs we’ve driven have proved relatively supple – our long-term test car’s dampers appear to have gone out of tune rather quickly. Nevertheless, the Civic is well equipped, beautifully built and engaging to drive.

Details

Price: £18,627
Model tested: Honda Civic Type R GT
Chart position: 1
WHY: Our current favourite hot hatch, the Type R is one of the most driver-focused cars around

Economy

The Honda unit thrives on high revs. But a lighter body, two-wheel drive and a six-speed gearbox helped the Civic return 26.5mpg – a decent margin ahead of the WRX.

Residuals

A reputation for reliability means Hondas fare well on the used market. The Type R retains 56.5 per cent of its value over three years, and would be worth £10,524.

Tax

It sits in the 30 per cent bracket, and with a lower list price, the Honda is the better fleet choice. Higher-band earners shell out £2,235 a year to run the Type R.

Environment

Running costs of 59 pence per mile are helped by excellent depreciation figures. You’ll also pay £85 less for your tax disc, as the Type R sits in Band F.

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