Back to the Future
Honda Type R 2012
How do you say goodbye to one of the most iconic hot hatches of all time? Pieter Kotze stepped on the loud pedal and gave the Civic Type R a proper farewell.
A heady 5500rpm is a number deemed too high for most cars. That’s when the engine starts screaming for help and tells you that you should’ve changed gears about 2000rpm ago. But not in the Civic Type R. No, this is where the Type R turns from a meek and mild hot hatch to a screaming bullet. There is no turbo charger, no super charger or battery powered electric motor to assist the two litre engine. This is Honda’s engineers at their best. The extra kick at 5500rpm is significant, and there is just no stopping the revs running towards the 8000rpm redline. Yes, eight thousand revolutions per minute. These mind-boggling numbers can be compared to those of the current BMW M3 and modern Ferrari’s.
198bhp and 193Nm doesn’t seem like much, and isn’t up there with the likes of the Golf GTi and Focus ST, but it’s enough to make the Type R a fun car to drive and throw it past the 62mph mark in 6.6 seconds. So what is this spaceship-looking hatch like to live with? Well, not easy really. You see the Type R is a purpose-built car made for those who like their movie titles to include the words ‘fast’ and ‘furious’. This means that the rock-hard suspension will leave your dentures wobbling about in the footwell after only a few minutes of tootling around. This is not a car you want to drive around town every day. The 18-inch tyres will make you feel cracks in the road you never thought existed. Every little bump and dip will attempt to turn your kidneys into a shaken-not-stirred cocktail. But point its nose in the direction of a smooth meandering road and it will reward you with railroad-like grip. Racers will be glad to know that the Type R is fitted with a Limited Slip Differential (LSD), which limits slip of the inside wheel, while sending power to the outside wheel which has more grip. This is especially helpful when powering out of a corner and will ensure that the Civic maintains its line. The electric power steering is dead accurate and feedback is so intuitive that you don’t have to think which way the wheels are pointing or how much grip there is, you just sense it.
As there is almost no give in the suspension, the Type R probably rolls by only one degree when you’re pushing the G-force limit. If you act like an orangutan there will be slight understeer, and you can even get the back out a bit if you lift off the gas through tighter corners. The gear change action is one of the slickest actions around and with the heavy clutch and flywheel combination it feels like a real racer. You have to keep the revs high to prevent stalling while parking, so expect people to point and stare while you muscle your way into a tight parking spot. Talking about parking – you can forget about any view through the rearview mirror. The bespoke rear spoiler, large enough to embarrass the best efforts of F1 engineers, will make small airplanes disappear in your rear view, but does increase grip and stability at high speed. Another clever piece of design is the specially designed wing mirrors and wiper blades which were shaped to improve aerodynamic efficiency as well as wind noise. When you do wind up the screaming V-TEC engine there is little else in to speak of in terms of road and wind noise. You will definitely not hear anything else, except for the screaming of your passengers, when you get that V-TEC signing the 8000rpm opera.
The moment you strap yourself into the Type R’s bucket seats you feel like commanding Scottie to turn all the knobs to warp speed. From the dual zone dashboard with its in-your-face rev counter, aluminium pedals and aluminium gearknob, everything just adds to the experience. There’s even a bright red starter button to get the action started. Only trouble is that you first have to turn a key, and then hit the starter button. And when you want to switch it off you have to turn the key again. It’s all a bit confusing. Why can’t you just have an on/off button? As with most other Honda’s the plastics don’t have a premium feel, but the Type R is well put together and feels like it will last a lifetime. The Alcantara front sport seats are quite special, receiving the red stitching and Type R logo treatment. These seats have more grip than an Olympic wrestler, and can adjust for height, but even at its lowest setting you still feel like a coach driver, instead of a race driver with his bum only a few centimeters off the ground. There are rear seats and 415litre of luggage space in the back, but I doubt that it will be used much.
So it might look like Luke Skywalker’s weekend toy, and might not be the fastest hot hatch around, but the Type R has many other qualities which some of its competitors lack. It has proper presence on the road, the driving experience is intense, the handling and steering is racecar-like, and above all it has character. And if you’re a hardcore petrolhead this is exactly what you’re looking for in a hot hatch. Good bye Type R. Here’s to the next one…