Product Type: Honda cars
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What Type-R you?
Honda Civic R-Type
Member Name: LegendaryMrDude
Honda Civic R-Type
Date: 25/02/03, updated on 07/05/03 (25205 review reads)
Advantages: Handling, Performance, Looks
I've been driving my new toy for a couple of months now and it's been put through most of the rigours that my old 306 Gti-6 enfured. I've also got to know the car a lot better, become familiar with it's quirks and so I thought it would be worth an update.
The first thing I will say is that after a few months of driving, the CTR is still an amazing car to drive. If anything, it's a better drive thanks to the fact that it's more familiar (and run in). As I mentioned in my original review, the revvy engine has two disctinct sides. If you are driving it hard then familiarity is a great thing. After two months you don't need the rev-counter, the sound of the engine tells you everything you need to know with gear shifts becoming second nature. There is also a lot more confidence in the handling. You get a much better understanding of how the car feels, and become far better at judging the point beyond which things would get out of hand.
The tyres (205/45 R17s Bridgestone Potenza RE02s) contribute a substantial amount to the handling of the car being, as they are, an extremely soft rubber. The downside of this is mentioned (briefly) in the owners manual, which warns that front tyres will last around 8,000 miles or LESS if the car is driven hard. I've done around 1,500 miles and the tryes are just beginning to look 'scrubbed in'. It will become an issue when they need to be replaced as the Bridgestones retail for around £180 EACH! Another informational gem from the owners manual is the fact that the dreaded space-saver spare wheel cannot be used to replace a front-wheel. Should you be unfortunate enough to get a puncture in a front-tyre, you will first have to swap it with a rear-wheel (from the same side, thanks to the directional tyres) and then replace the rear with the space-saver spare. The reason for this? The front brakes are so big that they won't fit inside the space-s
One thing that detracts from the handling is the Electronic Power Steering. As I mentioned in my original review (below), it can feel a bit 'floaty' at times. Worse than this, it can become confused by bumpy road conditions and suffer from negative feedback. A example was noted on a recent drive up the A1. In parts there is pretty severe 'rutting' of the carriageway, caused by the HGVs. When steering across the ruts, the EPS sometimes takes the bump as an instruction coming from the steering wheel and, as a result, the car veers more than you would expect. While this isn't dangerous, it's something that takes a bit of getting used to and you certainly need to know when to expect it.
Fuel consumption isn't any worse than my old Gti-6, returning around 20mpg around town and pushing between 35 - 40mpg on a long run, depending on how much of a hurry you are in. Visits to the filling station are slightly more frequent thanks to the smaller (50litre) tank, but it does make it slightly kinder on the wallet, a full tank costing around £40 at current prices. The only down-side to this is that a 'long run' up the motorway almost inevitably involves a top-up at Motorway prices.
Inside the car there are few niggles. Build quality is better than I expected and the switchgear is the best I have come across outside of an Audi. The CD player in the 03 model seems better than the one I had in the demo car, whether this is down to an improved speaker layout or just that the demo car had been bashed around a bit I'm not sure. I have also been impressed with the boot-mounted CD changer. I was initially worried that, like the Integra-R before it, it would suffer at the hands of the firm suspension and skip every time you hit a bump. In actual fact, it's proved to be better than the Sony headunit I had in the 306 and has yet to skip, despite the incredibly firm ride.
Another thing that you don'
;t appreciate until you have lived with the car for a while is the size of the boot. On paper it looks generous, 300Litres of cargo space, while not massive, is about average for a small family hatchback. In practice, the wheel arches take a lot more floor-space than you realise and make the effective area of the boot smaller than you expect. A summer push-chair only just fits, a full set of golf-clubs will struggle and two sets of clubs will need one of the back seats flipping down to make room. Fortunately the 60/40 split seats workwell and don't require you to dismantle the whole back seat before you can use the extra space. With the back seats completely folded down the boot space effectively doubles and can take a mountain bike (with the front wheel removed) with ease.
If you don't want to stick the mountain bike in the back of the car you can get either a Honda or 3rd-Party roof rack kit. I have an existing Thule kit that I used to use on the 306 but it needs additional adaptors thanks to the 'short-roof' configuration of the Civic. I am still hunting around for the necessary bits to make my existing Thule bars fit and will write another update when (if) I get hold of the kit. Roof load should not exceed 40Kg, so a couple of mountain bikes is perfectly possible.
The alarm has been updated for the 03 model. Still Thatcham Category-1 approved, the position of the ultrasonic sensors has been changed, they now face forward from the rear of the passenger cabin. Ever since taking delivery of my car, I have had a problem with the alarm going off of it's when the car is left in the sun. A quick visit to the local Honda dealer and I was told the alarm needed a new circuit board to correct a known problem... 8 weeks later and still nothing. the only workaround is to lock the car without arming the ultrasonics, hardly ideal for such a 'nickable' car.
One final (and admittedly very minor) gripe is that the drivers ele
ctric window, while having one-touch roll-down, doesn't have one-touch roll-up. Which means that you have to hold the button all the way up to the top. I know the Type-R badge is for 'racing' but surely leaving out one-touch roll-up for the drivers window can't save that much weight!!!
* * * Update ends * * *
Let's get this straight from the start. Some people see driving simply as a means of getting from A to B as comfortably as possible, others see driving as a means of getting from A to B with as much kit in the car as possible, yet more folks see driving as a chore to be tolerated and finally there's those to whom driving is a pleasure in itself. The Honda Civic Type-R is not a car for comfort. It is not a car for lugging huge loads (although it is actually rather spacious) and it's not someting you would want to drive with a heavy heart. Oh no, the Civic Type-R is an out-and-out drivers car, designed to tweak every last ounce of enjoyment from even the most mundane of runs down to the corner shop.
The R is for Racing and the Civic Type-R is the latest in the distinguished Type-R line, following in the wake of the now legendary Integra Type-R and the Accord Type-R. But is it any good?
The first thing that strikes you about the car is the stubby, agressive stance. From the side, poised on 7-spoke 17" alloy wheels with very low-profile tyres, it looks almost like a sprinter on the blocks. The bulish image is helped along by a generous sprinkling of styling cues around the bodywork. Aerodynamic skirts around the side of the car tie in with the wind-swept front spioler and the pointed 'wing' at the back of the car. The twin-pipe exhaust hints at a slightly sportier performance than your standard Civic. But it is from the front of the car that you get the full picture. With a steeply raked bonnet and a purposeful looking mesh radiator grille, the Type-R logo looks right at home, slightl
y offset from the red Honda badge. It may only be available in three colours (red, pearl-black or metallic silver) but they all complement the lines of the car perfectly. if I had to choose a favourite it would probably be the silver. A great deal of attention has been paid to detail. Everything on the outside of the car is colour-coded. Wing Mirrors, door handles, bumpers, the works. And little touches like the stubby aerial at the back of the roof, the absence of a key-hole on the passenger-side door all add up to provide a car with bags of image. The bodywork itself is well put together. Seams are un-obtrusive, panels feel sturdy and the doors shut with a reassuring THUD.
The styling is carried inside, as you would expect. The cabin is dominated by the silver cerntral console which houses the stereo, air-con dials and all the usual gubbins. What is slightly less than usual is the titanium gear-knob that issues forth from a rubber boot in the middle of the centre console. With the gates clearly marked in red on the knob, the shift action is amazingly smooth and very short-throw. The fact that there is hardly any distance between the steering wheel and the gear lever means that gear-changes are a very slick affair indeed. Moving on to the steering wheel, it's reach but not rake adjustable and a reasonably small size too. One niggle is that at any position other than the top of it's reach adjustment, the steering wheel obscures the top half of the speedo. The instrument cluster itself is presented in a neat group of 3 ivory-coloured dials. All the usuals are there, Handbrake warning, battery, oil etc. The tachomoeter shows a red-line at a shade under 8,000 rpm, and the speedo is marked out all the way to 160mph. Just a few more clues, should you need them, that this is no ordinary Civic.
Moving back from the dashboard we reach the seats. Wonderfully sculpted and trimmed in alcantra it's almost as if they envelope you. The unadjustable
head-support is firm and probably suited to taller people, although my (5ft nothing) girlfriend didn't find them uncomfortable. Entry to the back seats requires tipping the front seats forward (as it's a 3-dorr hatchback). Unfortunately the drivers seat doesn't move (other than for posture adjustment) so anyone sitting in the back will need to get in through the passenger door. That said, once sat in the back of the car the cloth seats are equally comfortable with a generous helping of leg-room, although the absence of a centre seat-belt is a shame. The available space is helped by the complete lack of a transmission tunnel 'hump' running down the middle of the car.
Further back still and we find ourselves in the boot, which reveals that the rear seats are standard 60/40 split-fold. Of apparently generous proportions, I've not done too much investigation yet, although the 'blurb' reckons that the boot is around 300litres, icreasing to 600 with the rear seats folded down. Access to the space-saver spare wheel is through the boot, so while it will require you to unload the car to change the wheel, it does mean that the wheel is not easily 'nickable'.
Overall, build quality appears excellent. The plastics used are firm, cloth is comfortable, stitching is good and the overall finish is tidy. It certainly isn't an Audi when it comes to the interior, there's no real luxury. Everything serves a purpose and there's very little extras but what they have given you is well built.
So that's what it looks like, but this is a drivers car... So how does it drive!?!?!
Turning the engine over the dash springs to life. The rev-counter hovers around 1,000 and the safety checks gradually turn off the few remaining warning lights. Heading off down my bumpy side-road, the first thing I noticed was how VERY firm the ride is. A combination of very low-profile tyres and a highly tuned suspension mean
s that you get to feel every single contour of the road. This is fed back through the Electronic Power Steering reasonably well although the chassis probably provides more information than the EPS transmits.
Changing up through the gears is even easier than I had imagined. When moving, the gear change is ultra-smooth and before you know it you have passed 30mph, a mere blip on the speedo, not even worthy of a number. Here is a minor gripe. The performance of the car is such that marking the speedo in increments of 20 is not the most license friendly way of doing things. That said, it made sure I kept an eye on my speed.
Slowing down for the first set of traffic lights and the brakes feel immensely powerful. The pedal is incredibly firm and I begin to wonder if there is any power-assist or ABS fitted! Stopping way short of where I intended proved just how good the brakes are and indicated that a while was needed to get used to them. On an empty stretch of wet road I tried to get the ABS to kick in, jst to prove to myself that it was fitted (and working!). Not once did it flutter the pedal, such is the level of grip that this car has. Although I would guess that the Electronic Brake Distribution helped in some respects.
Pottering around in rush-hour traffic was tolerable. The clutch felt a little heavy but the Electronic Power Steering made light work of nipping in and out of gaps. The compact size of the car was also pretty well suited, with wing-mirrors not sticking out too far. The rear of the car is not far short of vertical either, so there's no real worries when reversing. In fact my only gripe in this respect is that the bonnet drops away so steeply that you can't see it from the drivers seat, which does mean that pulling up to a wall/car/tree/whatever in front of the car will take a bit of getting used to.
Out, then, on to the open roads. The engine has received little mention so far and that's because, around t
own, it's nothing special. The only thing you notice in traffic is the sensitivity of the throttle, but it is hardly a problem. Once out of traffic though things change all together. Push the engine beyond 6,000 revs and it takes on a whole new personality. This is where the Intelligent VTEC kicks in and starts to tinker with the workings.
Much like the unfortunate Dr. David Banner, when pushed, this engine metamorphoses from
a mild-mannered research scientist to a hulking green brute of a beast. As the revs continue to rise, so does the output of the engine. Smoothly increasing until, at 7,400 rpm, it's putting out a whopping 197 break horses, the engine is truly screaming, sounding not too unlike a formula one car. This is where the short-shift, close-ratio gearbox comes in to play. The ratios are close enough that you never drop out of the power band and can accelerate swiftly up through the gears at an almost frightening rate and on to a claimed top speed of 146mph (althogh I didn't even attempt to prove this). All the while, the EPS is adapting to provide a very confident feel to the steering and with the confidence provided by the excellent brakes, the driver always feels totally in control. Even in the wet, power is applied smoothly and in a controlled fashion with only the heaviest right foot resulting in wheel-spin.
It's not just in a straight line that the car excels. Where it really comes to life is on twisty roads where the revvy engine and close gearing mean that there are few cars on the road that can touch it. The geometry of the car is excellent, a wheel at every corner. The wide wheels and low tyres, combined with the excellent chassis and the EPS give you a car that will goe wherever you point it. Understeer is very hard to find and the back-end behaves itself way beyond expectations, only some seriously unruly driving will force the Civic Type-R to loose it's composure through a corner. I have heard clai
ms that the suspension is so firm that, on a bumpy road you could be bounced off-line... it's not something that I have encountered though. Cornering feels like the car is on rails, the only difference being that a train could never take a corner so tight, so quickly.
All in all, the car is amazing. So amazing that, after a 2-day test-drive, I placed an order. It makes my Peugeot 306 GTi-6 look like a family saloon, both in terms of engine performance and handling. the bodywork is much better as well.
Five stars it is then, althogh not without some reservations. If I had to find fault then I would complain about the level of road noise coming into the cabin. The huge wheels provide an emormous amount of grip but they aren't half noisy. The EPS is another slight niggle, it can sometimes feel a little too 'floaty' although never dangerously so. Finally, Air-Conditioning is a ludicrous £1,250 option. The chaps at the Honda dealership told me that it's partly because the air-con has a significant impact on the performance of the car. If that's the case then I would recommend everyone has air-con fitted... the demo car I had was air-con equipped and still went like the proverbial off a shovel!
Thanks for making it this far... I'll update this op after I've been driving one for a few months, just to let you know how easy a car it is to live with.