This time from a leading magazine:
One always got the impression that the latest generation Civic Type R never really fulfilled its potential. Sure, its futuristic styling was quirky, and it had a classic Type R drivetrain, but that didn’t equal a great car. The problem was that underneath it all, the hottest Civic just wasn’t as talented as we’ve come to expect from a Honda wearing the hallowed Type R badge.
Honda obviously sensed there was room for improvement too, hence the Championship White Edition Type R you see here. As well as its new hue, this car also gets a limited-slip diff, and you only need to look to Renaultsport’s Megane to see what a dramatic effect this can have on the handling characteristics of a front driver. Not only is that car the fastest hot hatch we’ve timed around our circuit, its on track brilliance transfers seamlessly to the road, too. To monitor the effects Honda has made on the £19,750 Championship White Civic we’ve bought along our standard long term £19,000 Type R GT for comparison. As ever, our Road Test will put them through a rigorous assessment over hundreds of miles of Britain’s road network before heading to the test track to record acceleration and braking figures and set a lap time. Only then will we know if Honda’s realised the Civic’s true potential.
Love it or loathe it, there’s no denying that the Civic’s angular styling takes on a hardcore edge thanks to the classic Type R white-on-white colour scheme. That’s because it makes the lineage overt, conjures thoughts of NSX-Rs and DC2 Integras dressed in the same outfit — and that makes you want to drive it.
The Championship White’s cabin is standard Type R affair, which is to say quirky, well equipped and occasionally frustrating. You certainly can’t fault the room it offers, with plenty of space front and back (you can even stow luggage underneath the rear bench) and a very large boot Dual zone air-con, cruise control and auto wipers are some of the extras included in Honda’s £980 GT Pack (front fog lights are the exterior giveaway), but GT pack or not, the inside of a Civic Type R remains an interesting place to spend time. The addition of classic hot hatch touches such as sports seats and drilled pedals are perfectly judged too. Vauxhall, take note.
The Civic’s 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, i-VTEC engine is unchanged which, given how astonishing it can be, is no bad thing. The bare stats say you get 198bhp at 7800rpm and 1421b ft of torque at 5600rpm, but that does nothing to convey how dramatic the switch over to VTEC is. In truth it’s like two engines in one; below 5400rpm it’s a competent cruiser, above that point, a fully-fledged racer.
For those not familiar with the workings of VTEC (or Variable valve Timing and lift Electronic Control), it’s Honda’s way of creating engines that combine good low down torque with strong top end power. Basically, situated between the primary and secondary lobes on each cam is a third, bigger VTEC lobe. Below 5400rpm the primary and secondary lobes open and close the intake valve via the traditional rocker arm arrangement, as with any combustion engine. However above 5400rpm the ECU sends a message to a hydraulic control valve that causes a pin to lock a third rocker arm to the primary and secondary items, thus allowing the VTEC lobe to come into effect. This effectively gives you a high lift cam for ultimate top end performance without sacrificing the fuel economy and torque benefits of a low lift item. It’s clever stuff, not least when you remember how unfailingly reliable VTEC has proved itself to be.
The engine itself is the same as in the previous generation Civic Type R, albeit with a few refinements to help smooth out the switch to high lift cams and deliver more torque. The result, says Honda, is that 90 per cent of the Civic’s 142lb ft of torque is available from 2500rpm. This is all driven through a close-ratio six-speed manual gearbox, now with the bonus of that limited-slip differential to help put power down.
It is however noted that no effort has been made to sort out the Civic’s much criticised torsion bar rear suspension, a setup that results in an incredibly stiff ride.
BEHIND THE WHEEL
On the Road
Good sports seats can’t disguise the fact that the Civic’s unconventional dash layout sometimes makes the digital speedo difficult to see. Admittedly, not all testers found this to be the case, but the fact that even one did points towards a fault. Still, the steering wheel has a good range of adjustment and the high- mounted gear lever falls easily to hand so we’re off to a sound start. Until you put the key in the ignition that is, at which point the Civic reveals it has a warning beep for seemingly every circumstance, a trait that’s both unnecessary and annoying.
On the move you’ll find a great gearbox, enough low down torque to make this an easy car to drive and the same rock hard ride as ever. It’s a shame, because if it offered even an ounce of suspension compliance the Type R would be a much more likeable thing to drive, and as cars like Renault’s Clio Cup prove, it is possible to have firm dampers and good body control without the car forever fidgeting uncomfortably.
Rear visibility is unforgivably poor too, the large rear spoiler cutting across exactly the part of the screen you want to see out of, plus there’s no rear wiper and the glass section below the wing isn’t even heated.
In terms of road and wind noise the Civic is as good as anything else in its class, and it’ll easily return 36mpg or more on a motorway run, provided you stay out of the VTEC zone. Mind you, the transformation this car makes above that 5400rpm threshold is enough to push any thoughts of fuel economy firmly to the back of your mind.
The engagement of VTEC is signalled by the illumination of a small light on the dash, and a shift in engine note to something significantly more aggressive as the high lift cams work their magic. What’s more, because the rev limit doesn’t kick in until past 8000rpm there’s plenty of time to enjoy the rush, each new ratio dropping you right back in the heart of VTEC country. Drive the Type R like this and it’s hard not to love the way it sounds and feels — just like a race car.
This all applies to any Civic Type R though. Indeed, in a straight line our red car is just as much fun as the Championship White Edition. What we really want to know is what difference that new diff makes through the corners. Subtle but effective describes it best, the main telltale being that the LSD-equipped car troubles the Honda’s VSA stability and traction control system far less frequently, especially on a wet and greasy road. This gives you confidence to get on the power early knowing that the tyres will find traction where in the red car the nose simply pushes wide. The Honda’s accurate steering helps the cause, allowing you to place the Civic with confidence.
Due to the character imbued by that frenetic engine, crisp gearshift and uncompromising ride quality the Civic’s always felt like a car that’d be great on track. However, our experiences in the past have proved disappointing thanks to a chassis that didn’t seem able to transmit all 198bhp through the front wheels cleanly, and refused to adjust attitude much with changes in throttle application. Driving the Championship White Edition on the road suggests that Honda could have rectified these areas when it comes to track work, but there’s only one way to find out for sure...
At the Test Track
Before we put any figures on the cars a subjective assessment seems like a useful exercise. First, a couple of laps in the red Civic confirm that it is indeed a touch one dimensional in its approach to tackling corners. A damp and greasy track only serves to highlight its weak points, the front tyres particularly reluctant to grip out of the final turn where they are too easily thrown off course by a mid-corner bump. In contrast the limited-slip diff equipped car locks on course much more effectively, giving significantly better traction and dragging the nose out of the corner at higher speed. The superior front-end grip also helps bring the rear into play more. In the red car there’s no interaction from the back end, even when you take dramatic steps to provoke it, whereas the Championship White version is a much more willing partner, adjusting its line subtly through high speed corners and responding well to left-foot braking.
This is exemplified in a lap time that is six-tenths faster than the red car, an astonishing difference when you remember that the only difference is that new differential. Crucially, you don’t get to the end of the lap and wonder where the Championship White car has made up the time — rather you can feel it chipping away in every corner. All this allows you to better exploit that engine and gearbox combo, not to mention brakes that are both effective and have good feel. And yet still the white Type R fails to pin down a particularly impressive lap time (a Corsa VXR was quicker in similar conditions). Blame the Civic’s portly 1267kg kerb weight for that, for not only does it make a mockery of the modest torque output, but it also means you have to lift for the entry to turn 9 where cars like the similarly powered Corsa and Clio Cup are easily flat. What’s more, it means that after just three laps brake fade sets in, which would make this a frustrating companion on a track day.
The conditions were perfect for showing off the limited-slip differential’s traction advantages getting off the line, the white car stealing a two-tenths of a second advantage to 60mph at 7.5 seconds. You’ll note that’s nowhere near Honda’s claimed 6.6- second time for the benchmark 0-62mph sprint. Blame the damp tarmac for that, plus the tricky nature of launching a VTEC engine off the line without either bogging down or losing time in a flurry of wheelspin.
In-gear the Jekyll and Hyde nature of the Civic’s engine is clear. Compared to a Golf Gti it lags seriously behind at low revs (4.8 seconds 50-70mph in fourth for the GTI versus 5.4 for the Civic), only hitting its advantage home once in the VTEC zone, as evidenced by the 5.8-second 80-100mph sprint in fourth.
Braking distances were respectable for damp conditions, the Civic pulling up straight and with the minimum of fuss even from high speeds.
On Your Driveway
It’s a funny car the Civic Type R, a flawed gem. Some parts are great; the engine, gearbox, packaging and numerous hot hatch styling touches are perfectly judged. Yet, there are some clangers that have made it through to production, the most noteworthy being the dismal ride quality and appalling rear vision.
The addition of white paintwork and wheels adds to the car’s appeal, while the limited-slip diff helps its dynamic abilities, and the £750 premium for both seems more than fair. However, the Civic Type R is no longer the bargain it once was. Rather, at £19,750 the Championship White Edition is priced all but identically to rivals from Ford, Renault, Vauxhall, etc. Insurance group 17 is typical of the class, as is 45 per cent retained value after three years or 36,000 miles.
Ultimately, because of its character, the Civic Type R remains a car that you’ll either love or hate. No bad thing in a world of increasingly bland pretenders perhaps, but even in its strongest guise yet, the Civic can’t live up to the highs reached by white Type Rs of yore.