Looks tasty, what’s it all about?
It’s basically a regular Civic that’s raided the Type R’s glam-rock make up box. It’s also the nearest we’ll come to the Type R proper until March 2007 when you’ll be able to buy the real thing. Only Types S and R get the new three-door body, although in reality it’s difficult to tell three and five apart, so neat is the more practical version’s design.
So it’s a stickers and spoilers job, a no-go showboat.
If you like, but it's still worth a look. Whether you’re inside admiring the hi-tech multi-level dash or outside taking in the stubby proportions and nose down stance, the Civic has the competition licked for style. But yes, the running gear is basically the same as a regular Civic's apart from the uprated suspension. So you’ve got a choice between the two existing 140bhp engines, a 1.8-litre petrol with 128lb ft of torque and a 2.2 common rail diesel with double the twisting power.
Sounds like the diesel is the one to have.
Right again. It’s a bit laggy, but always retains its decorum, managing 62mph in 8.6sec, 0.3sec ahead of the noisy 1.8 petrol which it leaves it choking on fumes when it comes to overtaking. Or at least it would if it wasn’t so green. Naturally the 54.3mpg diesel needs feeding less frequently too, although the petrol version’s 42.8mpg is impressive too. Insurance groupings are distinctly un-hot hatch: nine for the petrol and 10 for the diesel.
What does it cost?
Bottom rung is the 1.8 petrol version at £15,250, while the diesel commands a £1300 premium. For that you get standard-fit Vehicle Stability Assist (Honda’s version of ESP), air conditioning and curtain airbags. Or you can chip in an extra £1000 on either model for the GT trim package which adds a panoramic glass roof, dual zone climate control, cruise control, foglights and automatic operation for the wipers and headlights. But then you’re back into proper hot hatch territory.
So does it drive anything like a real hot hatch?
Well Honda worked hard to give the standard Civic a sporty flavour which stands the Type S in good stead. It resists roll in fast corners, is always quick to respond to steering wheel inputs and rarely feels likely to put a foot wrong, even with all that torque rushing through the front wheels. And an unexpected bonus is the ride quality that hardly seems to have deteriorated over the standard five-door’s. But given how badly that car handles small bumps, that’s a good thing. The downside is the steering which, for all its pointiness and weighting offers little in the way of true feel. Many buyers won’t care and many more won’t even notice, but we did and it’s got us worried about what we might expect from the Type R.
So what will the real Type R have up its sleeve?
It’ll borrow a lot of cues from the Type S but expect even stiffer, lower suspension, more aggressive styling, bigger wheels and some more hardcore seats. Don’t expect more power though. Okay expect 1bhp more because that's all Honda's added to the old car's total. The company has opted out of the horsepower race currently raging between the other hot hatch manufacturers, at least for now, so the Type R will make do with the same 2.0-litre engine and six speeds as before and manages the sprint to 62mph in an identical 6.6sec. But there’s whisper of a harder Type RR version being developed that could have as much as 250bhp, though that’s some way off.
It’s easy to see the appeal of this car. Visually, it’s almost a Type R, the funky interior is even better than ever and the diesel version can travel years between fill ups. But don’t buy it thinking it’s a diesel Type R, and don’t buy it if you appreciate why steering an Elise makes people smile. Instead buy it because it’s the most desirable cooking hatch on the road.