If you’re after a sedate family hatchback the Honda Civic has you covered. The Type R, on the other hand, is a Honda Civic that’s been given a crate of Red Bull which it’s downed in seconds before chomping it’s way through the West Coast Customs workshop.
It makes the Honda Civic Type R exactly the sort of car I’d have had as a poster on my bedroom wall as a teenager.
The in-your-face styling, the triple exhaust, the racing bucket seats. It’s a car that screams for attention and even now, more than a decade since adorning my bedroom with posters, I’m definitely paying attention.
Every time I walked up to the car I smiled. There’s something about the obnoxiously large rear wing, sizable exhausts and aggressive body that resonates deep within me.
Waking the beast
Easing yourself down into the driving position – the Type R GT rides low – and the racing seats wrap around either side of you, like a reassuring hug to let you know you’ll be okay even if you do take a little bit of extra speed into the corners.
While I found them extremely comfortable – and enjoyed the lairy, bright red seat belts – for the larger-bodied these seats can be a bit of a squeeze.
It may be a car with a heavy sports slant, but there’s still enough space in the back of the Type R for two adults to sit comfortably, plus a middle seat which is better suited to a child than an adult.
Plus, the trunk is still the size of a standard family hatchback, making the Type R far more practical than its outward aesthetics may suggest.
Back to the driving seat though, and the cubby hole behind the gear shift comes equipped with a wireless phone charger, making it a great place to not only store your smartphone, but to also charge it.
If your handset doesn’t support wireless charging the Type R GT also has a couple of USB ports hidden behind the center console, with a hole behind the cubby hole allowing you to tidily feed the cable to your phone.
This wired smartphone connection is useful in another way, as the Civic Type R supports Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, allowing you to utilize the mapping and apps on your handset, through the car’s display and speakers.
It means you can access the excellent navigation from Google Maps and Apple Maps, along with apps such as Waze, Spotify and Apple Music – plus Siri and Google Assistant.
The on-wheel controls allows you to manipulate the apps, playback and voice assistants with ease, as well as making and taking phone calls hands-free.
But enough of that, this is a car that needs to be driven, and I press the large, illuminated start/stop button to the right of the steering column to wake the beast.
Honda Civic Type R exterior gallery
Taming the beast
The 2.0 liter VTEC turbocharged engine bursts into life, with a soundtrack ably led by the trio of exhausts at the rear.
The rumbling is music to my ears, and a couple of pumps of the accelerator provide the required vocal feedback I was hoping for.
Pulling away and finding an open stretch of road, the performance from what is essentially a family hatchback with a body kit (sorry Honda, I know there’s a lot more going on under the hood here) is impressive.
You’re sucked into your seat as the Type R races forward, encouraging you to shift up as it hunts for more speed.
It has a trio of drive modes, with the default setting being sport. That’s great for long motorway hauls, but if you find yourself on less well-kept roads you’re going to be feeling every lump and bump.
Thankfully, there’s a switch just below the gear stick that lets you quickly flick the Type R into comfort. This softens the dampers and lightens the steering, allowing the car to absorb more of the uneven terrain, although it’s still on the firm side of things. You’ll still be feeling potholes and such more than you would in the standard Civic.
However, I could easily get past the minor ride niggle thanks to the fact that the Type R GT is just so fun to drive. It’s agile and fast, encouraging you to push it just a little bit more.
If you really want to turn things up a notch, you can shift the mode to +R. This stiffens the dampers and fine tunes the steering while also providing maximum throttle response, allowing you to take advantage of the full power of the Type R.
While there’s plenty to get excited about when it comes to driving fast, the Type R also provides a pleasing array of tech to keep you grounded, and safe.
Honda Civic Type R exterior gallery
Techy and the beast
You get the likes of cruise control and lane assist, which keep you in the right place at the right speed with minimum effort, plus comforts such as heated seats and climate control are also on board.
You also get blind spot indicators on the wing mirrors, ensuring you don’t merge into another vehicle – which is always nice.
When it comes to tucking the Type R away for the night, parking sensors and a reversing camera ensure you won’t be damaging the stunning alloys or bodywork.
Starting at £31,525 ($34,700), it’s difficult to find a car with the same performance, looks and liveliness behind the wheel than the Honda Civic Type R. It may not be the most practical, but for those looking to tread the line between practicality and serious driving the fun the Type R more than delivers.
- John McCann is getting behind the wheel to give you an alternative look at the wealth of cars – and the tech inside them – available today. From super-fast sports cars to tech-packed hatchbacks, he'll take you through a range of makes, models, power and price tags in his regular TR Drives column.