The hottest hatch? Scorching new 280hp Honda Civic Type R development car driven in Japan
Honda Civic Type R prototype: first impressions
If looks could kill, the new Honda Civic Type R would be a stone-cold psychopath.
Admittedly, we’re driving it in prototype form some 18 months ahead of the likely on sale date, but finished in matt black and bristling with additional bodywork from bulging wheel arches to that berserk rear spoiler, we can’t think of a single current hot hatch that appears more intense. Honda is taking this very seriously.
Which is no surprise, really, given the Japanese brand wasn’t going to do a Type R at all this time around. In fact, Honda had perhaps the most pronounced response to the global recession of any car company; it essentially appeared to batten down the hatches and cancel everything ‘interesting’.
So when none other than Honda’s CEO, Takanobu Ito, resurrected the Type R in a September 2012 announcement, we knew it would be something special. Especially since in the very same statement, Ito-san also pronounced the new Type R would break the front-wheel-drive Nurburgring lap record.
Given that record currently stands at a ludicrous eight minutes seven seconds, courtesy of the quite brilliant Renaultsport Megane 265, this guaranteed the new super Civic would be outfitted with a stupendous level of firepower. Now that firepower has been confirmed, and we’ve been given an early chance to unleash it.
Honda Civic Type R prototype: performance
Not a particularly extensive chance, admittedly – just two laps of the high-speed oval at Honda’s Tochigi research and design centre in Japan. But enough to learn a little more about the new Type R, and especially its brand spanking-new 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, which is presently rated at a rippling 280hp.
“The steering is nicely weighted for an electrically assisted system
It’s been a long while since there’s been a turbo-petrol Honda, though the 2.0-litre will be joined by new 1.0-litre and 1.5-litre turbos when it arrives. Honda is far more famous for high-revving, naturally aspirated petrol engines – great fun on the right road, but thirsty and often criticised for lacking low down torque.
The redline is still some 7,000rpm here, but even though Honda has yet to provide an official torque figure there’s little danger of fresh complaint in this regard. The turbo pulls like a train going over a cliff, and unless you pay attention to the upshift lights – green, yellow, red – you’ll soon find yourself tangling with the limiter.
Fortunately, a pleasingly short-throw six-speed manual gearbox makes swift work of selecting the next ratio – typically Honda, typically brilliant – and the engine launches itself at the horizon all over again. At least until we run into the test car’s artificially speed restrictor somewhere in the region of 125mph. Rest assured, this won’t be present come 2015.
Honda isn’t saying anything about 0-62mph at this stage, but even with only front-wheel drive for traction, we’d estimate six seconds or under.
Honda Civic Type R prototype: ride and handling
The new Civic Type R’s ride and handling is even more difficult to judge than the performance, given a grand total of about 10 major steering inputs during our test drive. But it is clear the car is rock-steady at speed, with little body roll, and steering that’s nicely weighted for an electrically assisted system.
“Our Type R development car was kitted out with a very sexy set of sports seats
Benchmark cars include the Volkswagen Golf and Scirocco for regular driving, and that Renaultsport Megane once you’ve hit R-mode and the racing circuit. Which sounds promising indeed.
Big 19-inch alloy wheels and skinny tyres don’t necessarily bode well for the ride quality, though, and expect the steering to twitch a little with the torque during sudden, hard acceleration.
Honda Civic Type R prototype: interior
In addition to the R button and the shift-lights, our Type R development car was kitted out with a very sexy set of sports seats, setting an appropriate tone on the inside.
Less welcome is the amazing resonance triggered by the exhaust when decelerating through about 4,000rpm. So the engineers have certainly still got some work to do. And, while they’re at it, does it really need four tailpipes?
Honda Civic Type R prototype: economy and safety
Guess what – there are no economy and emissions figures just yet. But the new engine is Euro 6 compliant; the last Type R was discontinued because it couldn’t even meet Euro 5.
“This new 280hp hero could potentially redefine the hot hatch genre
As for safety, in addition to everything you get on an ordinary Civic the Type R prototypes are equipped with a suitably massive set of Brembo brakes.