Honda Civic Type R 2015 review

We drive a prototype version of the next Honda Civic Type R, due on sale in 2015

Honda has had a reality check and realised that raw, near-racing engines with high emissions aren’t what’s relevant for today’s car buyers. The aggression has now been directed into the way the Honda Civic Type R looks. Still not as under the radar as a Golf GTI, but far easier to live with than before.

For the 2015 Civic Type R, Honda has taken a different tack to the previous high-revving, normally aspirated models. The next Type R will have a turbo engine delivering at least 40 per cent more grunt than its 198bhp predecessor, and Auto Express has had a go in an early prototype.

The engine itself is a 2.0-litre direct-injection unit with ‘at least 280PS’ – a shade over 276bhp – Honda says. Insiders hint that the final figure will be more. There’s also considerably more torque – 400Nm instead of 196Nm– and it peaks far lower down the rev band, at only 2300rpm. So, the new Type R should be quicker than the one it replaces while being more fuel-efficient and puffing out less CO2. Honda admits that it has target performance and emissions figures, but won’t tell us exactly what they are.

Honda Civic review

But all this means the character of the car has changed almost beyond recognition. With the old Type R, you had to nail your right foot to the floor until the engine was revving above 5000rpm before much happened. In the right circumstances it was intoxicating stuff, especially as it was accompanied by a metallic growl, which made the car sound like an entry in the touring car championship.

The new car shifts the greater part of the engine’s thrust into the mid-range. From a little over 2000rpm until well above 5000rpm it accelerates with real purpose – enough to make the front wheels squirm in the lower ratios of the six-speed manual gearbox. We were pleased to hear the turbo doesn’t mute the engine, although the sound is now more of a deep bellow. There’s the smallest hint of turbo lag as you step on the accelerator but it’s not too much of an issue.

Honda has targeted a new Nurburgring lap record for a production front-wheel-drive car with the Type R, so the suspension, steering and brakes have been suitably uprated. The company’s high-speed test loop at Tochigi, in Japan, is not the place to get answers to all the questions you could pose, especially in the two laps we were allowed, but it revealed that the car has weighty steering giving good feedback, corners flatly, is extremely stable at the 125mph we were permitted and stops well. As for the ride, we’ll let British roads be the judge, but at best it will be firm.

Tokyo Motor Show 2013

The new car looks much more aggressive than the last, with elaborate front wheel-arch extensions, a finely profiled rear wing, wide rear wheel arches which clash uncomfortably with the doors, messy aerodynamic additions on the rear flanks and, for the car we drove,19-inch wheels and a matt black-paint job. The seats, gearknob and door trims have been changed inside compared with a standard Civic, but it’s not as extrovert as the outside.

So why the wait until 2015? Because Honda decided to promote the Civic Tourer in the production pecking order. There are some within the company who think that might be a mistake.

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