DRIVEN: New Honda Civic Type R was unashamedly created for pure driving pleasure

Published May 3, 2023


Cape Town - It’s rare these days that you get to drive a car that’s unashamedly manufactured with performance, handling and driving pleasure as its guiding principles rather than tons of tech and connectivity as its selling point.

Such a car is the new Honda Type R, with only 60 of the new sixth generation having been allocated to South Africa.

With an incredibly slick six-speed manual transmission powering the front wheels it’s been a while since we’ve climbed out of a car with a Cheshire Cat grin.

Under the vented aluminium bonnet sits a 2.0-litre turbo-charged engine producing 235kW and 420Nm, an improvement of 7kW and 20Nm over the outgoing model as a result of a redesigned turbo, increased air intake and a more efficient exhaust system.

The transmission is also unlike anything we’ve experienced for a while.

A lighter flywheel, revised rev-match system, high-rigidity lever and optimised shift-gate pattern, combined with an easy clutch pedal putting power to the tar in the Type R, provide an incredibly engaging drive.

The exterior has been tweaked as well, looking a little less extreme than the outgoing model.

Changes to the aerodynamics generate more downforce and it’s 37mm longer, 13mm wider and 27mm lower than its predecessor.

An aggressive front bumper that looks intimidating when it creeps up into your rear view mirror, 19 inch black alloys, redesigned rear spoiler and bumper with the tell-tale three exhaust pipes and a new rear diffuser, make no apology for the Type R looking the part.

The interior also fits the overall look and feel of the car and, for a change, there are no swathes of glass and screens dominating the driver’s view. Instead, red suede-effect sport seats, carpet and trim, aluminium gear knob and stainless steel pedals are what greet the driver.

Not that it’s all old school though.

A 10.2-inch digital cluster features crisp graphics that can be personalised, including an F1-inspired illuminated rev counter above the gauge cluster that with a quick glance, will indicate where the revs are before quickly shifting up or down again.

A 9.0-inch touch screen with Android Auto and wireless Apple CarPlay infotainment system stands out from the dash. It features Honda’s Performance Datalogger that uses on-board computers and sensors to monitor and record performance parameters. You get to see your lap times, tyre-friction circle in 3D motion and a scoring function that helps improve your skills on the track.

Oh, there’s also a Bose Centerpoint sound system customised for the Type R which we forgot about because we were having so much fun.

Because that’s what the Honda Civic Type R is all about.

The Western Cape launch route included Franschhoek Pass, some highway driving and the scenic Clarence Drive past Rooi-Els, Pringle Bay and Arabella Country Estate. It ended at the racetrack at the Franschhoek Motor Museum.

Playing with the Comfort, Sport and +R modes proved that Type R was equally adept at pottering around village traffic in third gear or blasting past slower traffic with a pleasing exhaust growl when the active exhaust valves open at high rpm.

Gear changes are slick and easy and the engine has no qualms about hovering in the red line.

It is tourist season in Cape Town so rental cars, as well as residents and delivery trucks, didn’t exactly give us free rein but we did get glimpses up Franschhoek Pass and later, unfettered access to its ability on the track.

To say that the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres makes it stick insanely well is an understatement.

The car revels in the challenge, with the improved rigid body structure, chassis and suspension combining superbly.

Hard braking into the corners, touching the apex and flooring it out of the corner, it easily speeds to 194km/h before slamming the brakes on again, changing down and then doing it all over again.

The engineers have done a brilliant job of keeping it all under control, with virtually no torque steer or understeer despite the many twists and turns. The seats do a sterling job of supporting the backside and lumbar regions when being thrown around at full speed.

We all think we’re tame racing drivers until you sit beside someone who does it for a living. It’s then that you get to appreciate what the Type R is about and what it’s able to do.

With tyres squealing, hard steering and a deft right foot, I don’t think there was much left before its limit was reached yet it never felt dangerous or out of control.

There’s much to be said about a car that will thrill you around a track and then gently take you back home. The Honda Type R is exactly that.

It’s a driver’s car aimed at people who appreciate a proper hot hatch that don’t need automatic gearboxes or all-wheel drive, but live for a rewarding drive.

Sadly, this will be the last Type R with an internal combustion engine, so if you fall into that category, get one of the 35 that are left.

The new Honda Civic Type R comes with a five-year/90 000km service plan, five-year/200 000km warranty and three-year roadside assistance

Pricing: R979 000

IOL Motoring