Honda Civic Type R hatchback (2015-2017)
"The Honda Civic Type R hot hatch pushes the boundaries of what's possible with a front-wheel-drive hatchback. It's ferociously fast and more practical than its rivals."
- Very punchy mid-range
- Great grip and agility
- Surprisingly practical
- Pretty hard suspension
- Engine sounds a bit disappointing
- Styling will be a bit too much for some
There’s a new breed of super-hot hatchbacks and the Honda Civic Type R has raced in to shake things up. It goes up against everything from the equally talented, yet cheaper (and slower) Volkswagen Golf GTI and SEAT Leon Cupra 290 to four-wheel-drive mega-hatchbacks like the Volkswagen Golf R, new Ford Focus RS and Audi RS3.
The Civic Type R sits between those two sections of the hot hatch class, powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine producing 302bhp. This propels the Type R from 0-62mph in just 5.7 seconds, which is a tenth of a second faster than its closest rival – the SEAT Leon Cupra – can manage. This makes it the fastest front-wheel-drive car you can buy.
It certainly looks the part, too. With an extreme-looking bodykit that comprises deep front bumpers, large alloy wheels, plenty of vents and a huge rear spoiler, there’s no mistaking that the Type R’s focus is on performance.
It’s the same story inside, with red bucket seats, red seatbelts and a generous offering of Type R badges and the all-important ‘R’ button on the dash. The Type R handles really well for a front-wheel-drive performance hatchback, too. The clever suspension reins in torque steer and you can change the ride settings depending on the conditions.
The gearbox is a joy to use, with a slick and precise action, while the Brembo brakes are powerful. The only thing we’d like is to have a bit more drama from the engine and exhaust. The switch to turbocharging has led to the Civic Type R losing some of its exhaust note’s character.
It’s not all about the performance, though, because a hot hatchback still needs to be usable everyday. This is where the Type R is surprisingly capable. Despite its bonkers styling, it’s based on the practical five-door Civic, which means it’s got a big boot and plenty of room for rear passengers. Build quality is excellent throughout, too.
There are two trim levels to choose from – the standard Type R and the Type R GT. The standard Type R comes with climate control, cruise control and a reversing camera, while GT adds sat nav, drilled alloy pedals, brighter automatic headlights and a raft of safety systems including blind-spot, lane-departure and forward-collision warning for £2,300 extra.
The Type R should be fuss-free to run, thanks to a good reliability record and a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating. Just don’t expect running costs to be that low, as the Type R returns only around 38mpg and costs £205 a year to tax. In comparison, the SEAT Leon Cupra 290 returns 42.8mpg and costs £145 to tax each year.