► New 2017 Honda Civic Type R
► Sets front-wheel drive 'Ring record
► Switchable modes broaden appeal
The new Honda Civic Type R hot hatch has set the front-wheel drive lap record at the Nurburgring - in an impressive 7min 43.8sec. That's nearly seven seconds faster than its predecessor.
It's the latest in a round of willy-waving by hot hatch makers, desperate to prove their track creds in the power race as pocket rockets now boast outputs that wouldn't have shamed a supercar a few decades back.
What cars has the new Honda CTR beaten to the front-drive record?
- VW Golf GTI Clubsport S: 7min 47.2sec, October 2016
- Honda Civic Type R (previous FK2 model): 7min 50.6sec, May 2014
- Renaultsport Megane 275 Trophy-R: 7min 54.4sec, May 2014
- Seat Leon Cupra 280: 7min 58.4sec, March 2014
- Renaultsport Megane Trophy 265: 8min 7.9sec, June 2011
Is the Nordschleife record still relevant to road cars?
Honda believes so, citing the performance interest of hot hatch buyers, not to mention the gaming generation's obsession with laptimes and circuit driving. It's worth noting the small print of the new 'Ring record - this was for FWD cars, thus bypassing the Ford Focus RS and VW Golf R which boast all-wheel drive.
The lap record was set on 3 April 2017 on a dry day. Honda says the car in question was 'a development car with technical specifications representative of the final production car.'
'The cornering speed achieved in the new Type R is higher because the car features a wider track and tyres, a longer wheelbase, new multi-link suspension in the rear and optimised aerodynamics that improves stability,' said chassis engineering lead Ryuichi Kijima.
'For example, drivers typically enter the corner after Metzgesfeld at around 150kph. Even at this medium-speed corner, the speed is around 10kph higher due to the new Type R’s excellent stability. So, with improved cornering performance, we can increase the speed throughout the lap, helping the new Type R to achieve a much quicker laptime.'
New Honda Civic Type R: the background
The new Civic Type R was unveiled at the 2017 Geneva motor show. The big news was the addition of switchable modes which now allow it a softer, GT streak in addition to its balls-out boy racer mode for Nordschleife duties.
It's because the CTR is now being sold in the US for the first time; no Type R models have ever made it Stateside before, hence the more rounded character for American buyers.
Around 60% of all Civics will be shipped to the US, according to factory chiefs.
So the fast Civic has gone all soft on us?
Far from it. You can tell from the steroidal bodykit that the 2017 Civic Type R still means business - the brutal dynamic focus has been kept intact from the short-lived 2015 model, but its repertoire has been broadened with the addition of a Comfort mode to soften dampers, steering and throttle response in daily driving (the last Type R had normal and R switchable modes only).
The raw figures alone speak volumes about how focused a hot hatch this remains:
- Engine 2.0-litre VTEC turbo upgraded from last model
- Peak power 316bhp @ 6500rpm
- Peak torque 295lb ft @ 2500-4500rpm
- Centre of gravity 34mm lower, for better cornering
- Weight distribution 62% front, 38% rear
No performance claims have been issued yet, but engineers promise it’ll keep many Porsches honest on a twisting road. A limited slip differential should tame all that power going through the front wheels (now 20in items, up from 19s, and wearing 245/30 Continentals).
What else do we need to know about the new Honda Civic Type R?
We've sat in the new fast Civic (below) and can confirm it has a pleasingly tactile gearchange with traditionally ice-cold metal gearknob, wider, softer, lower seats and good visibility out.
DIY gearchanges are standard - there is no fancy dual-clutch transmission available, only a tactile, six-speed manual gearbox. There is a throttle-blip rev-match function, however, for perfect downchanges every time.
Those triple-exit centre exhausts are not merely for show, either. The larger, middle pipe is purely for acoustic tuning, we hear. Honda has worked hard on the soundtrack to counter any worries over the forced induction destroying historically toppy VTEC characteristics.
Also new on this new, tenth-generation Honda Civic base car is a multi-link rear axle, the Type R’s first. Combined with a 38% stiffer bodyshell, Honda promises sharper ride and handling dynamics.
This Civic is built in the UK, at Honda’s Swindon factory in Wiltshire. It is the sole plant producing the Type R globally, exporting hot hatches to Japan and the US. It’s quite a coup, and will continue for the rest of this generation's lifecycle, before it's replaced in 2021.
Honda Civic Type R prices
No word yet on exact pricing for the CTR, which is due to arrive in UK dealerships in July 2017, a month after American sales. We hear it will cost from around £32,000, a similar price point to its predecessor.
Pop it on a Honda PCP and strong forecast residuals mean that packages are likely to start at £300 a month, with a 30% deposit over three years.
Which may explain why the UK is the biggest market for the fast Civic: we buy more of them than Germany or Switzerland, the next biggest territories with an appetite for Type R.
More from the 2017 Geneva motor show