Honda Civic Type R Ch. White

Limited-slip diff and new paintjob transform the Honda hatch.

White paintwork means a lot to Japanese car fans. With its roots in Honda’s racers, the colour was a must-have for buyers of the frenetic Nineties’ Integra, and Civic Type R customers have been demanding the shade ever since.

The Championship White version of the latest hatch features the striking colour of its bodywork and wheels in its title, but is it really as outrageous as it looks?

Well, the frenetic 2.0-litre engine at the heart of the car is unchanged, and still produces a relatively modest 198bhp. Honda’s technicians have also resisted the temptation to tinker with the suspension – even the colour-coordinated wheels are the same size and style as before.

Open the door and the light touch extends to the interior. The spacious cabin is identical to the regular Type R GT’s, right down to the red upholstery on the supportive bucket seats. Only a numbered plaque sets it apart. So, what do you get? First of all there’s the snazzy paintjob. With only four colour choices on the regular car, it’s a welcome addition to the palette. Unfortunately, it also turns the Honda into a dirt magnet, so buyers had better get used to washing their Civic!

Other visual treats include a new smoked alloy finish on the door handles, grille surround and fuel-filler cap, although this will hardly get hot hatch fans in a lather.

That job falls to the Championship White’s new limited-slip differential.

It is the most significant addition to the existing Type R package, and makes a huge difference to the way the model deploys its power, especially out of tight bends.

Where the standard car will spin its inside front wheel as the engine reaches its peak, the special edition is much more capable.

It harnesses every bhp and allows you to get back on the throttle harder and earlier than before. The steering is also uncorrupted, so you don’t feel the power tugging between the front tyres through the wheel. Push hard into a corner and you can still get the front to wash wide, but at the test track the clever new diff allowed us to tear around bends faster than before.

The rest of the Type R is the same as ever: the stiff ride means it jars over big bumps and the manic engine is still a tiring long-distance companion. The driving position is also compromised by the high-set seat.

In return you get one of the most agile and engaging hot hatches around, offering masses of grip and precise, communicative steering. The high-mounted alloy gearlever is also a joy to use, and with the rev-hungry powerplant and gearshift indicators on the dashboard the Civic feels like a junior racer. It’s slower than its rivals, however, with 0-60mph taking 7.1 seconds in the wet.

What you don’t get with the Type R is exclusivity. While the Renaultsport Mégane R26.R will be available in limited numbers, Honda plans to sell as many Championship White models as it can lay its hands on – so there’s every chance you’ll see another one on the road or track.

Details

Price: £20,000 (est)Model tested: Honda Civic Type R Ch. WhiteChart position: 2WHY: A favourite hot hatch just got even better with addition of limited-slip differential.

Economy

THE latest Type R could leave the normal GT struggling to find buyers. For the premium of around £1,000 you get a better driving experience and striking new paint. The residual value quoted is for the GT, and while sales of the newcomer will not be limited, the Championship White is sure to be more popular used. Other running costs are on a par with rivals for private buyers, but company users will suffer from its 31 per cent banding.

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