Hot Hatch of the Year 2017: Honda Civic Type R

The Honda Civic Type R is the 2017 Auto Express Hot Hatch of the Year, with the Ford Focus RS and Volkswagen Golf GTI commended

The hot hatch class is one of the most varied and competitive out there, but as some rivals have moved to four-wheel drive and dual-clutch transmissions, Honda has stuck with old-fashioned front-wheel drive and a manual box – and it has served the new Civic Type R  very well.

The car has already smashed the lap record for a front-wheel-drive production model at the Nürburgring race track in Germany, and at £30,995 it’s a bit of a bargain.

Unlike some competitors, the Type R has no clever tricks up its sleeve such as a drift mode; it simply has to rely on first-class engineering to make it as exciting and entertaining as a hot hatch can be. It’s based on a new chassis, has a more sophisticated suspension set-up and features adaptive dampers, including a Comfort mode, for the first time. All that makes the Type R more usable when you need it to be without affecting the car’s wild side when you want it.

The front wheels have no trouble delivering the 2.0-litre turbo’s mammoth 316bhp and 400Nm of torque to the road. Get off the line quickly and Honda says it takes 5.8 seconds to sprint from 0-62mph, but what makes the Civic the hot hatch of the moment is its unflinching appetite for corners.

You can dive into bends with what feels like too much speed, but the Type R’s front end bites into the road and slingshots you round with the rampant power of the engine firing you on to the next turn. Snatching gears with the wonderful, mechanically precise six-speed manual box is nothing short of addictive, with the rorty exhaust blaring in the background.

But the Type R is just as competent at carrying a family and all their luggage as it is attacking a B-road. The 420-litre boot is one of the class’s biggest, while the spacious rear can comfortably seat two adults.

Honda Civic Type R - front

The styling won’t be to all tastes, but together with the incredible performance, this practicality matched to the new-found levels of comfort signals the Civic Type R’s coming of age.

Our choice 

Honda Civic Type R GT (£32,995)

The Type R comes in two specs: an entry-level model, priced from £30,995, and a higher-spec GT version that adds £2,000 to the cost. The latter brings additional kit such as dual-zone climate control, Garmin navigation and all-round parking sensors. We think the GT is well worth the premium as the extra equipment makes the Honda hot hatch easier to live with every day.


Ford Focus RS

Ford Focus RS - front

Last year’s winner remains an electrifying hot hatch, and it continues to offer tech and performance for a reasonable price. Fantastic four-wheel-drive traction, blistering speed and that famous RS badge on the boot (not to mention the trick Drift mode) make the Focus a car to be taken seriously.

Volkswagen Golf GTI

Volkswagen Golf GTI - front

The original hot hatch has stayed faithful to the same front-wheel-drive layout for decades, but a recent facelift hasn’t proven enough to topple the Type R. The Golf GTI lacks the intensity of the Honda and the pace of the Focus RS, although it’s the most rounded and usable choice in this class.

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