IAIN ROBERTSON 

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Honda-Civic-Type-R

Recalling that the last Type-R that he could fit into was the 2001 (EP3) 2nd generation model, Iain Robertson was enthused by the potential of a ‘softer’ option in the latest iteration that might allow him to regain his loose ‘King o’ The Mountain’ title.

Despite a two-year stint as the editor of ‘Total Honda’ magazine, a regrettable role in many ways, I remain blissfully ignorant of the innumerable in-house model types by which Honda designates its cars. You may have spotted the bracketed ‘EP3’ above that only a trawl through Honda’s archive could reveal to me, for a car that I called innocuously the ‘flatback’ Civic. It was actual the second version of a car that had started the whole Type-R phenomenon in a Japan-only EK9 version, some four years earlier, albeit powered by a yowling (185bhp at 8,200rpm), 1.6-litre screamer, with an accompanying 118lbs ft of torque that would struggle to draw back the skin of a baked rice pudding.

The subsequent Swindon-built EP3 obtained a much needed 2.0-litre powerplant that was no less shouty but developed a modest 197bhp (the Jap-spec versions boasted an extra 15bhp) and drove through a more relaxed set of six forward gear ratios. Whereas the thinner glazing and weight reduced body of the earlier model would induce more vibrations and road racket (I drove an example; it was hysterical), the new British version was thankfully more refined and remarkably subtle.

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Honda-Civic-Type-R

Yet, partaking of dinner that evening of the Isle of Man launch exercise for EP3, held by Honda UK, in the company of both IOM resident and comic genius, Sir Norman Wisdom, and Dave Molyneux, the sidecar racing, much-vaunted ‘actual’ King of the Mountain, it was my wretched bravado with ‘Moly’ navigating my fast lap of the TT Circuit that gifted me (very loosely) his title! Yet, pulling an indicated 165mph at the top of Snaefell, it was more by good fortune than talent that we survived the ‘ordeal’. The race-bred road car was brilliant and I still have the trophy.

However, FN2 and FK2 Type-R versions of the 8th and 9th generation Civics were totally off-limits to me, thanks to seats narrow enough to bruise my buttocks, insufficient headroom (mainly because my butt could not slip between the firm side bolsters) and inadequate legroom. Oh Lord, how I wanted to drive them but it was a physical impossibility and even riding shotgun proved to be a most uncomfortable experience.

The current FK8 version (are you following this?), which was introduced in 2017, is a somewhat different proposition; for a start, it is significantly roomier. The mid-life revised Type-R was actually launched just as the nation went into pandemic ‘lockdown’ but Honda-istes, who are a well-informed lot, knew all about it, even if I scarcely did and could not care less, if truth be known, because not only did I not fit into the previous generations but, out of a sense of sheer frustration, I knocked Honda at every juncture for introducing a car so singularly unsophisticated for its sky-high price-tag that its Press Office did its level best to ignore my requests for a test example.

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Honda-Civic-Type-R

At the time, I posited that an unforgiving ride quality, allied to a screeching, triple-exhausted, 316bhp, four-pot howler was an intentional means to grab some headlines, while not actually selling any examples. In many ways, the 2017 Type-R was not dissimilar to the Renaultsport Megane…all bluff and bluster that would appeal to the high-praising young bucks at ‘Autoskid’ magazine, whose grasp on reality was probably less than that of Bradford lad, Zayn Malik, when he said ‘Ta-ta’ to One Direction (a successful beat combo, I am informed). Okay, I realise that a good buddy of mine and prime Honda-iste, Stuart Pridham, will have a job to keep his hackles under control at this stage, but he does understand my position.

The latest news that deliveries to the tight-knit Honda community, well, the hot-shoe members of it at least, are to commence this month, must be highly welcomed. However, no longer is the Type-R a singleton model. No. Now it consists of a glorious three-foursome. In fact, the entry-level model will cost from £32,820, while both the GT and the Sportline are an additional £2,000 and the range topping Limited Edition Civic Type R is a whopping and market wilting £39,995.

Each of them gains a revised air intake system, much-improved engine cooling, two-piece, floating disc brakes, revised suspension geometry and bushings designed for ‘improved ride compliance’, at last, with a raft of minor cosmetic changes to both interior and exterior. Naturally, as with every mid-life model presently being introduced by Honda’s rivals, the latest ADAS developments are factored in, along with dual-zone climate control, wireless smartphone charging and LED front fogs.

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Honda-Civic-Type-R

Intended for more discerning customers, who might desire the punch of a Type-R in a less overt body, the Sport Line trim is subtler and features less of a ‘boy racer’ appearance, with a low-level rear spoiler, all-black interior, smaller 19.0-inch diameter alloy wheels and larger profile tyres. It is right up ‘meine Strasse’. Yet, the Limited Edition, which is good selling ‘trick’, aimed at those wanting the most extreme version of a Civic Type R, can sate themselves with the knowledge that a mere 20 examples will be sold in the UK (each of which already has a salivating fanatic awaiting delivery). It features lightweight 20.0-inch diameter, BBS forged alloy wheels, a dedicated ‘Sunlight Yellow’ paint job, ‘tart’s bedroom’ red interior detailing and a 47kg weight saving over the stock version. Spotting the rare-as-hen’s-teeth versions will not be hard.

It appears that Honda is learning that the best way to a market’s heart is not by arrogant solus model availability but, rather, by offering choice…from not-so-harsh to watch-that-pebble. In a world seemingly engaged in a future without cars of this type, while not a last-ditch opportunity to indulge in hot hatchery of a more traditional kind, at least Honda still has the balls to go for top dog honours and I applaud it. Ignore my rants, for heaven’s sake, if you want fun by the bucketload, a Honda Civic Type-R can deliver it in spades and its levels of desirability have seldom been higher.

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Honda-Civic-Type-R