New Honda Civic Type R Sport Line 2021 review

The new Honda Civic Type R Sport Line turns down the styling, but does it still deliver the thrills?

Overall Auto Express Rating

5.0 out of 5

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Toning down the styling means the Civic Type R now offers something just a little more reserved in Sport Line spec, opening it up to a previously untapped market of buyers who can’t live with the standard car’s lairy looks. The interior and infotainment could still be improved, but the engine, gearbox, chassis, steering and brakes make this still the most enjoyable and engaging hot hatch on sale today. The best just got better.

The Honda Civic Type R is our favourite hot hatchback, with updates to the formula last year cementing its place at the top of the class at our New Car Awards for the fourth year in a row. However, it’s always had an overtly in-your-face look – until now.

That’s because the £35,400 Honda Civic Type R Sport Line does away with one of the more aggressive styling cues the model is known for – the massive rear wing.

Instead, a low-level spoiler gives the car a more refined appearance; the blistered and bulging bodykit remains, but is now combined with 19-inch alloys (an inch smaller than the Type R GT’s), for a more reserved look.

Those tyres have softer sidewalls, and Honda claims that the ride is more refined as a result. It’s right, because in Comfort mode on the kind of twisting back roads that the Type R loves, it’s better than ever.

The Sport Line’s ride quality is superb, but the Type R has lost none of its focus, responding to brushes of the brake pedal in corners by tightening its line, and offering the level of adjustability we’ve come to expect. It’s something that few hot-hatchback rivals can match, front-wheel drive or otherwise.

The steering is superbly sweet, too, and it commands a front end that offers simply incredible levels of grip and traction, the latter helped by a limited-slip differential.

It puts down the engine’s 316bhp and 400Nm of torque with relatively little fuss for a 0-62mph time of 5.8 seconds and a top speed of 168mph. In a family hatch.

The engine is explosive once you’ve waited that fraction for the turbo to wake up. It’s effective and pulls hard, right to the rev limiter, but it’s not accompanied by a particularly thrilling soundtrack, and this is made worse by an augmented drone in the Sport and +R modes; we’d prefer to listen to the coughs and chirrups from the turbo.

The motor isn’t an all-time great, but it’s connected to one of the best transmissions ever engineered. A more ergonomic gear knob was fitted to the six-speed gearbox last year, but the fundamentals haven’t changed; the weight and feel of the shift are great and add to the experience. The Type R’s Brembo brakes offer solid pedal feel and strong stopping power, too.

However, it’s not all positive for Honda’s hot hatch. While the Alcantara steering wheel is good to hold and the deep bucket seats place you well, material quality isn’t great for the car’s price and the infotainment still feels like an afterthought, even if you do get a lot of features fitted as standard.

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These include a seven-inch touchscreen with sat-nav and smartphone connectivity, wireless charging, adaptive cruise control, a rear camera and lots of advanced safety kit.

There’s no change to the Civic’s practicality, either, so rear passenger room is great and there’s a 420-litre boot. Removing the big wing means visibility is a touch better, too.

So the Sport Line isn’t exactly as reserved as a Volkswagen Golf GTI, despite its visual modifications, but it’s certainly not as divisive as the standard Type R. It means the hottest Civic’s appeal is now that little bit broader than before.

Model: Honda Civic Type R Sport Line
Price: £35,400
Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo petrol
Power/torque: 316bhp/400Nm
Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
0-62mph: 5.8 seconds
Top speed: 168mph
Economy: 34.0mpg
CO2: 187g/km
On sale: Now

Sean’s been writing about cars since 2010, having worked for outlets as diverse as PistonHeads, MSN Cars, Which? Cars, Race Tech – a specialist motorsport publication – and most recently Auto Express and sister titles Carbuyer and DrivingElectric

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