Earlier this week I cast a final glance at the Civic 1.8 SE that had been my car for the last 30 months, then drove away; it was a moment of ambivalence above all else. Without doubt I'd miss that shiny Alabaster Silver, the pristine leather seats, the sure gearbox and, above all else, styling I'd never grown tired of. On the other hand however there were a number of things I wouldn't miss at all: the squeaking rear suspension, the body-roll around slow corners, but principally the teething problems, which saw me back at the dealer around ten times for various niggling faults, such as a fuel cap that refused to budge and a rear suspension that creaked, groaned and rattled so much I started using a car radio for the first time in a decade. A moment after acknowledging my first Honda for the final time, I briefly wondered why on earth I was driving away in another one. Surely the 2009 Type-R GT beneath me had to be an improvement on its predecessor?
It wasn't meant to be another Honda; I must be honest: I wanted a Scirocco. The two hours I spent at my local Volkswagen dealer were an experience I'd rather forget however: a rigid salesman spent over an hour trying to steer me onto a dreadful PCP deal, didn't offer me a test drive, and if I wasn't interested in the example in the showroom, a thousand fingerprints and all, I was looking at a three month wait. I got up and walked away and doubt I'll look up "People's Car" again in a hurry. My journey home took me past the local Honda dealer, so I thought it wouldn't hurt to see what deals were going on a Type-R. Within two hours my SE was sold. I still can't fault the deal now: 0% APR, with Supaguard treatment, three years' gap insurance and premium Type-R mats thrown in to close the deal. I’d have a wait of no more than ten days until collection. Doubtless others have haggled better but next to the quotes I received from Audi and Volkswagen, the difference was night and day.
Anyhow, I've owned a Type-R GT for four days now. Here are some initial thoughts.
The styling is familiar to me, so isn't something I tend to notice much any more; however, the Type-R presents itself far better than my SE did, with every inch of the bodywork gleaming Milano Red: no black plastics framing the body. I still think the styling both inside out is a winner and remain proud to drive a car that's bold in its presentation and dares to be different. I almost envy virgin Civic owners: I haven't quite had the same thrill this time round. Inside the Civic still looks 10 years ahead of most of its competitors: sleek, stylish and proportional, not the "functional" or "we can't be bothered" squares and blocks that pass for a dashboard and console in many cars. The Type-R interior, with its red theme, aluminium pedals, stitched steering wheel and proud serial number is still catching my eye. The use of red lights across the dashboard is just right: it emboldens its image as a sports car and feels beautifully coded with the Milano red exterior. Speaking of the paint job, the red was by default: I don't want a black car and my previous three rides have been silver, so a change felt essential. If I think “Type-R” I think of red anyway. I still can't say enough about the styling of this car: it's the best all-round in its price range.
I thought the engine on my 1.8 SE was one of the better aspects of the car: responsive, reliable and more than enough power when required. The 2 litre power plant in the Type-R is something altogether different however: the searing sound it emits when surging forward genuinely forces a grin across my face. It's not only swifter than my SE was, it does it with far more class. The gearbox feels a little less sure on the Type-R, though changes seem to be swifter; I may change my opinion here in time but the SE really did "clunk" into gear with a precision I admired. I must admit to having already stalled the red devil a few times, as the clutch biting point feels to be barely an inch off the floor. The suspension remains stiff and will undoubtedly be too much so for some. I was expecting this to be the case but have already noted that the Type-R corners far better than the SE ever did: it slots effortlessly round bends at any speed and brings a massive improvement over the 5 door model. If pushed however, I still reckon I'd be prepared to pay another £2000 for a fully independent suspension, for it’s about the only way I can see how they can make this car better.
The GT model offers gadgets galore, though automatic lights and windscreen wipers aren't really anything I need; one thing I wasn't prepared to be without however was air conditioning, which meant the GT model was the only option due to its absence on the “standard” Type-R. I do feel that, if choice were available, I'd readily transfer the cost of some gadgets towards the aforementioned suspension. The bucket seats are essential given the stiff suspension, though I must say that the fabric isn't to my liking: I don't like any covering that readily collects "bits" and never quite looks pristine. Ideally I'd like black and red leather, though appreciate it could introduce a problem of "driver slide" when cornering. I know my next point has been done to death but it would be great if the front seats returned to position after being moved to allow access to the modest perches in the rear. The boot is huge for a hot hatch and remains far more than I'll ever need. Talking of the boot area, yes, the view out of the rear window is dire but I know this, and to be honest it bothered me for around two days in August 2006. If anything I appreciate how the spoiler blocks any looming headlights and tailgaters out that way.
The stereo doesn't seem to have changed since 2006 but I do have a USB port in the centre console now, though it keeps flashing "unsupported" at me after playing a handful of tracks. Initial investigation suggests this may be because I'm using a cheap and nasty USB stick (one I picked up for attending a software demo). I plan to buy a quality brand 2GB model and take it from there. It's a welcome addition but I haven't quite got it to behave yet.
Where things ain't so great however is that, just like in 2006, I shall immediately have to invoke a warranty repair, as the dashboard is creaking and cracking as though it’s on the verge of collapsing under its own weight. I suspect the plastic trim around the windscreen base is at fault, though can't be sure. This is a real disappointment, as I was hoping for no teething problems after those my SE put me through; it also makes me think Honda and dealers ought to be doing more in the interests of quality assurance on new cars. I'd been off the dealer forecourt two minutes when I thought "warranty return", and if it hadn't been turned six in the evening I'd have turned round and gone straight back. Personally I suspect it would be much cheaper to check and test cars more thoroughly than have them immediately returned under warranty. The presentation of the car could have been better too: the exterior was covered with bits of wax missed earlier and the interior needed a final vacuum. Come on Honda, people paying close to 20K for a car generally expect better. Though a pain my enjoyment hasn't been sullied and I'm adamant I've got a fine deal, a fine car and a lot of driving ahead.
I've attached some pictures, and before anyone points out the lack of premium mats, the dealer didn't get this detail right and has promised me a set of red specials no later than next week.
So, that's a civinfo new car review from me in 2006 http://www.civinfo.com/forum/user-re...my-1-8-se.html
and 2009; will I see you again in 2012 I wonder?