(Pocket-lint) - For the first time in 7 years Honda has updated its Civic Type-R. But this isn't just an update, this is a reinvention to deliver more power and handling than any Civic Type-R before it.
There are a lot of accolades for the 2015 Honda Civic Type-R. According to Honda, this is the fastest hot hatch around the Nürburgring with a time of 7 minutes and 50.63 seconds; this is the first time Honda has added a turbo to its VTEC Civic Type-R engine, which has resulted in more power than ever; the list goes on.
Essentially, this car is the result of Honda aiming to create the fastest hot hatch that can still offer road-going economy and comforts. But has it achieved that potent mix?
We took the Honda Civic Type-R GT onto the roads and track to test its limits.
Power, power and more power
Traditionally the Honda Civic Type-R cars are all about the VTEC engine, which offers plenty of power in the high rev range. As such it's been very popular with drivers who like to push a car to its limits. Now Honda has added a turbo.
For the die-hard VTEC fans this might be odd, as the point of VTEC is no need for a turbo. But by combining the two Honda has been able to utilise the lower end power of the VTEC while adding the turbo to continue delivering more power on top of the high revving VTEC. With a compression ratio of 9.8 per cent this is the highest for a Type-R yet. The redline is way up at 7,000rpm which means this motor drives more like a superbike than a normal car. That's a lot of fun and it sounds stunning.
Despite the 310PS of power from the 4-cylinder engine, the acceleration at the lower rev range can leave you waiting around a bit. Once it hits the 2,500rpm sweet spot you're thrown back in your bucket seat. Even in fifth gear, the high revs delivers plenty of power for easy overtaking on motorways.
The VW Gold GTI, by comparison, has a lower max torque rev range at 1,500rpm so it pulls off with an earlier kick. But since the Type-R is all about revs, it performs like an animal at the higher end.
A sound from the track
The four exhausts from the 2.0-litre VTEC turbo engine really sing. The low end offers an aggressive burble, pregnant with potential. Once the revs start to scream out, the power of the car surrounds the cockpit to adds to the adrenaline of acceleration. Inside and out it sounds brilliant.
But this is where that attempt at a blend between a road car and track car begins to cause problems. The car is really loud. This is not the car for a commuter or anyone wishing to do any long distances, unless you never get sick of that noise.
Unlike previous Type-R engines the turbo in this new model offers a beautiful hiss as it drops off, punctuating the revs perfectly.
The handling on the new Type-R is utterly awesome. Despite relatively slender wheels the grip just keeps on giving, leaving you feeling confident going into and through corners.
Rather than show the video of us driving the car, here's one of a pro pushing the car (and us) to the limits on the track. Note the G-force monitor next to the speed readout, lots of fun.
Of course the car does a lot of work for you.
There is normal mode and then there is +R mode. This sports setting immediately changes all the dials in the car to red so you know you're in fighting mode. The result is a change in engine mapping for more performance, tighter steering, vehicle stability assist to maximise grip, while adaptive damping is increased by 30 per cent. This is very much a track mode.
Throwing the Type-R into corners in +R mode leaves you even more confident as every judder of grip is fed back into the wheel, so you know exactly how far to push. In a front-wheel drive car this is reassuring feedback that lets you push yourself enough to keep up with what the car can offer.
As a front-wheel drive car the grip while cornering in the Civic Type-R is astounding. This is likely also due to the damping system, which works constantly at the millisecond level making it effectively real-time.
On the track we could feel the judders as the car reached it's potential in corners. They allowed for constant correction so you could hang on to the point of even kicking the back end out and still remaining well in control. Impressive stuff for a front-wheel drive car.
That's the key here. This isn't just about impressing your friends with acceleration. This is very much a driver's car allowing the owner, if they're good enough, to give a passenger a scare with crazy cornering speeds. Anyone can put the pedal to the metal, it takes a real driver to test limits in corners and this car offers the reassurance and feedback to do that.
Braking is powerful and keeps up with the extra power in this model. These are the largest brakes on a Type-R yet with 350mm Brembo beasts making light work of cutting stopping distances. We had a red seat belt mark by the end of our drive, always a good sign.
Infotainment and sound system
The Honda Civic Type-R comes with plenty of smart kit as standard including its Connect system and 320W six-speaker surround sound.
There's plenty of power in the audio system while remaining balanced nicely to stay clear, even with that roaring engine noise.
The basic operating system of the central unit is Android. This means you can access apps and widgets. These work nicely in conjunction with the steering controls. You're able to set two apps for quick assess from the wheel, ideal for jumping to digital radio, for example.
There is a screen above the wheel in the dash that uses coloured lights to show revs. When powering along this is a great way to see when you hit the red line without having to look down at the dials, especially on the track. Since the car is made for high revving this was a very clever touch that works, while looking badass.
There's a second screen above the wheel. This can be used for car metrics like G-force and accelerator power, speed limits, fuel economy and more. Our favourite is the ability to use this as a timer, recording your lap times as well as quarter mile times and even your 0-60mph attempts.
Cruise control is standard but if you shell out for the GT package which is an extra £2,300 you get more. The GT pack adds a Garmin navigation system with 4 years free maps, 8-speaker 320-watt stereo, dual zone climate control, rear parking assist with camera, electric folding mirrors, adaptive cruise control, automatic wipers and those red highlights on the body. There is also a safety package with that, including forward collision warning, lane departure warning, high-beam support system, blind spot information, cross traffic monitor, traffic sign recognition system.
The new design of the Civic Type-R doesn't appear that different at first glance, but when you look back at previous models you realise this is far better looking.
That large rear spoiler has now got side scoops, there's a flat underside and more edging spoilers to help traction. The result is better handling as well as enhanced, more aggressive looks with cleaner lines.
The rear door handles are beautifully built into the frame of the window so the car has the look of a two-door but with the functionality of a five-door. A very nice touch indeed.
Inside the car are deep bucket seats that offer a surprising amount of comfort considering they're deep enough to lock you in place even at serious G-force when cornering. There's also plenty of space in the boot, comparable to the competition in this market.
The 2015 Honda Civic Type-R was created to offer a car for the road which doubles as a track car. This has been achieved. In fact the car errs on the side of track over road, with enough comfort for most but a bit of an effort for those looking for a comfy commute.
Handling on the new Type-R is, frankly, ridiculous. That, coupled with an intelligent cornering system, results in a car that can give even pros a rush but makes newbies feel like a star. It's this confident delivery that leaves you feeling you could push the car harder each lap, and the car had plenty left to offer beyond our driving abilities.
The new design aesthetics are gorgeous, and in our time with the car we really fell for it, finding new angles we hadn't noticed before.
The buckets seats and harder suspension might be a bit much for some, but for anyone who enjoys driving, this offers enough comfort for day-to-day use. The 37mpg mixed fuel economy might be a stretch, but this car isn't about fuel economy.
This is the world's quickest hot hatch. That's reflected in the near £30,000 price tag for the base model. But for that you get a track day car, a road car, and what feels like a smart car that keeps you safe. You could pick up a Ford Focus ST for less, but it won't deliver quite as much power.
If you're a VTEC engine fan, enjoy the race track and want a good looking and handling hot hatch, the Honda Civic Type-R is a very tempting offer indeed.