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‘It tolerated me driving it as economically as possible, in violation of the hot hatch code’

By Matt Joy Signing up for a long-termer is the definition of a mixed blessing. Sure, within the parameters of realism you can run any car you like. The only trouble is, choose too well and the final handover can be worse than any other kind of long-term break-up. The Civic Type-R was undoubtedly the most interesting hot hatch to turn up in 2015. Not only did it represent a quantum leap from the outgoing FN2 version – 50 per cent more power, remember – it also proved that Honda wanted to take on the super hatches.

It was one of the least discreet cars I’ve ever had the pleasure of driving, and this is something you’ll see either as a major plus point or a severe hindrance. The arches are pumped out to accommodate the wider track and the rear wing is large enough to provide significant downforce as well as make a fantastic picnic bench should you so wish. Those looks, particularly finished in white, attracted more attention than some cars costing three times as much. Opinion was also evenly split; some people thought it too brash and too showy, while others were vocal – to the point of swearing – in their praise. Me? I sat firmly in the latter camp. I never tired of how it looked

depending on the light, how clean or dirty it was, and that it promised excitement every time you

walked up to it with key in hand. This, surely, is the whole point of a hot hatch.

‘Those looks attracted more attention than cars three times the price’ This is partly fantasy, of course. The reality of owning any car designed for pleasure is that the opportunities to drive it in the manner for which it was created are heavily dependent on the circumstances. But the thing about a hot hatch is that you can use it every single day and treat it like a normal car, then when you get the chance you’re already in a car capable of providing big thrills. And so it proved. There were some spectacular drives during my time with the Type-R; dawn dashes to the airport, late-night cruises and not least the incredible cross-border run between France and Switzerland to the Geneva motor show. A couple of gear changes, or if you were feeling really lazy, a squeeze of throttle was all that was required to access the monstrous performance of that 2.0-litre turbo engine. It fizzed and buzzed with enthusiasm, never seemed to be short of grunt and defined the character of the car. On a closed runway, it also reached 139mph with such ease that the supposed 167mph top speed seemed almost a modest claim. And yet it was the fact that the Type-R remained so liveable despite all the performance available that was equally impressive. The street on which I live is in a shockingly poor state and given that the Civic runs on rubber-band tyres and stiff

suspension, it still coped admirably. Driven normally, it barely created any more noise than a regular Civic; wind and tyre noise faded away at sensible motorway speeds and the fiery engine was happy to lope along at a little over 2,000rpm. It also tolerated me driving it as economically as possible far too often, almost in violation of the unwritten hot hatch code. No car with this level of performance should be driven in Miss Daisy fashion so often, but on several journeys of 40 miles or more, I exceeded an indicated 40mpg, above the official combined figure and enough to make a mockery of the notion that a hot hatch has to be expensive to fuel. And it’s still a Civic, so it could still perform magic tricks with the rear seat – I managed to squeeze a set of bunk beds in there on one occasion, and it was still comfortable. The lack of a third rear seat belt was a baffling irritation, and with hindsight, I’d have gone for the GT version that brings satnav and automatic headlights and wipers with it. But the list of gripes was tiny. Previous generations of the Type-R, in particular the EP3 model, were praised as icons of the hot hatch segment in their day and are rightly prized and sought-after even now. But today, it is the current model that quite properly defines what a modern hot hatch should be; desirable, spectacular, useable and, most of all, damned good fun. It’s a modern classic, but it won’t be around forever.

FACTS AT A GLANCE HONDA CIVIC TYPE-R, £29,995 ENGINE: 2.0-litre unit producing 306bhp and 295lb/ft of torque TRANSMISSION: Six-speed manual gearbox driving the front wheels

PERFORMANCE: Top speed 167mph, 0-62mph in 5.7 seconds ECONOMY: 38.7mpg combined EMISSIONS: 170g/km of CO2

Wednesday 8th June 2016

Times of Tunbridge Wells 8th June 2016  

Read the June 8th 2016 edition of the Times of Tunbridge Wells

Times of Tunbridge Wells 8th June 2016  

Read the June 8th 2016 edition of the Times of Tunbridge Wells