MOTORING: This week Tom Sharpe takes a high speed test drive in the new Civic Type R

THE fastest racetrack in the UK, the most powerful front-wheel-drive production car ever built, pouring rain and a blowing gale… what could go wrong?

Despite all the odds, it turned out that these were perfect ingredients for a much-needed January pick-me-up.

Last summer it was in the blazing sun of Madrid that Honda launched its new Civic e:HEV hybrid.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Six months on it was a very soggy Thruxton Race Circuit that played host to the launch of the hottest Civic Type R ever.

At 37mm longer and 15mm wider than its predecessor, the sixth-generation Civic Type R is more habitable than before, with a 35mm increase in wheelbase adding stability and cabin space.

Styling-wise, the aggressive creases are gone, and that mammoth picnic bench of a rear wing has been replaced by something far more subtle.

That spoiler is one of few embellishments on a car some critics suggested looked as though it had been tarred and feathered with items from a Halfords catalogue in its previous form.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

This is a sharper, faster and more aggressive Type R, though.

Power is up from 320PS to 329PS and torque from 400Nm to 420Nm, resulting in 5.4 second acceleration to 62mph and a 171mph top speed.

For what it is worth, quoted fuel economy is 28.7mpg, with CO2 emissions of 186g/km.

A revised turbo, an air intake and straight exhaust which are ten and 13 per cent freer flowing, respectively, make for sharper responses.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Honda has shaved weight of the Type R’s flywheel and improved its joyous six-speed manual gearbox, working on layout to improve cross-gate shifts.

It has also refined the rev-matching system which replicates the downshifts of a talented exponent of the art of heel/toe pedal work…  

Add to this discreet aero features which generate 900 newtons of downforce at 200km/h and this looks like one epic track tool.

It is early morning when I take to the track in the previous generation Type R I commuted from Heathrow Airport to Rotherham in last winter. What a car.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Even on a track as open as Thruxton it feels rapid, but beautifully weighted, intuitive steering and a manual gearbox so slick and mechanical you should never miss a beat allowing driver and car to strike up a cohesive relationship quickly.

In the pouring wet the pace is no doubt lower than it might have been (my last trip to Thruxton saw me scare myself at the wheel of a Porsche 911), but the Type R proves great fun.

Trail braking into a corner brings the rear end into play and by the third lap Pure McLaren British GT Championship driver Euan Hankey – watching from the passenger seat – is finger slapping enthusiastically as we drift through Goodwood corner at over 100mph, the front wheels towing us down the next straight.

It is soon time to step into the new Type R, its Racing Blue paint popping in the Hampshire gloom, and the difference is soon apparent.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

As the pace rises, the innocuous first corner – right in front of the paddock complex housing fellow motoring hacks – has the car out of shape.

Despite the modest power hikes we are travelling faster, a lower centre of gravity and tighter suspension meaning the new car is quicker to react and slightly slower to forgive.

Thankfully, even in track-primed R+ drivetrain mode (there are also Normal, Comfort and Individual modes), the Type R is quickly gathered up thanks to a hyper-responsive throttle pedal.

That throttle response is reflected in a race car sharp soundtrack, an R+ tailored instrument display prioritising the rev readout and gear selection, engine status and lap times to prompt upshifts that open the door to a new wave of accelerative sound.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

I am left in no doubt that the new Type R is the faster car and the gap between the two would be greater in the dry.

My only question mark as I leave the car after around a dozen ever-quicker laps is who might be looking into my lap data at the end of the day.

A new suite of software, dubbed Log R, reveals the level of available tyre grip being exploited, the amount of G force being generated in each cornering phase, braking efficiency and lap times, delivering circuit analysis and issuing a score to inform improvements.

This F1-level tech underlines just how far Honda is willing to take its Type R concept as it looks to wring-out every last bit of potential before the reality of the electric vehicle (EV) age finally catches up with it.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

In many ways, it already has. Emission regulations mean that UK sales of the sixth-gen Type R will be recorded in the hundreds rather than thousands.

At £46,995 – aligning it with the Audi S3, Mercedes A35 and Audi S3 – the first 125 cars have already been snapped up and a batch due in March will sell out fast.

Just like watching the latest generation of Civic Type R lap Thruxton, there is a sense that you need to be quick to catch a glimpse of one before they are all gone.

Keen to know how the Type R fares on Rotherham roads? Keep an eye on the Advertiser’s Motors pages for a full test in the coming months.

Related topics: