The hot hatch that defined a new level of driving performance in the early noughties? Of course the Honda Civic Type R.
It’s been absent without leave for the past five-years, but from this week it’s back – complete with true Type R trademarks: high revving VTEC engine (for the first time with a turbo), manual ‘box and front-wheel drive.
In the five years it has been away, though, the hot hatch market has changed massively. Can the new model cope with ever-more sophisticated and powerful rivals, even with a very healthy 310PS and a ‘Ring record under its belt?
Before GRR got behind the wheel at the launch in Slovakia (and before you will be able to see, and even drive, the car at FoS in a few weeks) we had a chance to sit down with the car’s project manager, Hisayuki Yaga, and go through what we thought were some Type R questions that really needed answering….
With 310ps (306bhp) wouldn’t the obvious thing be to make the car all-wheel drive?
It was out of the question from the beginning that we were going to develop an all-wheel drive Type R. As you can imagine the challenge is bigger to create a 310PS car with front-drive but the Type R has always been front-drive and it follows our principle of ‘mechanics minimum, man maximum’. It is quite easy to make a four-wheel drive car but it becomes bigger and heavier, and it’s more difficult to find the best balance between efficiency, dynamics and fun to drive. All-wheel drive might save you in certain situations but we believe the driving challenge and the fun are bigger with front-drive.
We love a manual shift, but don’t many buyers of sporty cars these days expect a paddleshift automatic?
It’s ‘mechanics minimum, man maximum’ again. We put a high priority on driver engagement, and the fun of driving the Type R is on a much higher level with a manual gearshift than with an automated transmission. Double clutch transmissions with paddleshift are available, but at the moment there are no plans [to offer one]. If the market changes and an automated transmission becomes necessary, we are ready for that.
How sure are you that the car is well suited to roads in the UK where it is made and which will likely be its biggest market?
The Type R has been tested not only on UK pubic roads but also on UK circuits. We are not just concentrating on the German autobahn but also on the twisty UK roads.
You say that in +R mode the car is optimised for the Nurburgring, and you have set a record time there. But isn’t the ‘Ring irrelevant to most owners?
The Nurburgring is very relevant to UK road conditions, with twists and turns and undulations. So being optimised for the ‘Ring is also valuable for the public roads. The time itself is not that relevant, but it was very relevant for us to be the fastest (front-drive car) there because that was our stated development target, what our CEO announced in 2012.
Is it inevitable that all petrol performance engines will be turbocharged from now?
We cannot simply say that they will all become turbo engines. Honda has a lot of powertrain technology – look at the new NSX with its petrol engine and three electric motors – so there are many solutions, sometimes turbo, sometimes hybrid, and maybe others.
What happened to the ‘devil’s horns’ rear spoiler of the concept car?
The Type R is completely optimised in terms of functionality, driveability and performance. There is nothing in place only for looks. The concept’s rear wing had to evolve to maximise downforce and minimise drag. If we had put the bigger rear wing on just for the looks that would have spoiled the functionality and also ultimate driving performance. If the market requires a more stylish solution like the ‘devil’s horns’ then we might consider it, but it might come from a company related to Honda but not Honda itself.
Thanks very much Yaga-san – Mugen Type R anyone?