Honda Civic Type R
The Honda NSX, when it was introduced in 1990, produced 252bhp. This was comparable to a standard Porsche 911 at the time.
By the time production ceased, although it was a little more powerful, it was easily outgunned by other lower-tier super cars.
Today there are some hot hatches that beat that figure in standard configuration, and some that come close.
One that doesn’t is the Honda Civic Type R. About to disappear from price lists in the UK the Civic Type R – the fastest Honda on sale since the S2000 was decommissioned last year.
Introduced early in 2007 in its current incarnation, we were told that there was far more to its performance than the power increase of a single solitary bhp.
I was lucky enough to drive one on the UK media launch in January 2007 held at Goodwood.
As well as driving routes around Sussex, we were also able to drive the hillclimb route used in the Goodwood Festival of Speed.
The thrill of a blast up the hill was tempered by the worry about stalling on the line or disappearing in a cloud of over-zealous wheelspin.
But driving the Civic Type R on the road it became evident that while it suffered a shortfall in horsepower (and low down torque) compared with its many turbocharged rivals (Golf GTI, Focus ST, Astra VXR, Leon Cupra and Renaultsport Megane) it was no less enjoyable to drive quickly.
The point at which the switch to the high lift cam came in at lower revs than on the earlier model, and it lasts longer.
And, in one of the many feel-good features of the Type R (besides the main instruments being backlit in red rather than blue as on the standard Civic) was a red light that came on to show the valves were doing their thing.
Although it’s still quick, with less horsepower and no huge surge of torque at lower revs it was actually very easy to drive, and rarely made a fuss about transmitting power to the road surface.
Its slick gearchange and communicative steering for a car with electric rather than hydraulic power assistance were all pleasant surprises.
Like many great affordable performance cars, the Civic Type R was also truly practical. Forgive it the minor access problem to the rear seats three-door only option, and there was a great deal of space for passengers.
And its boot (with a hidden compartment for extra space) was second only to the over-sized Skoda Octavia vRS in this class.
Then there’s the engine. Honda must be the finest producer of normally aspirated engines in the world.
While it does its party trick above 5300rpm, it was enjoyable throughout the rev range: subdued at low speeds leading to a frenetic wail at high revs.
Improvements were made late in 2008 with the launch of the Championship White version – as a nod to Type R models of the past – which was offered with a limited slip differential for improved traction.
Honda says Civic Type R production is ceasing in October 2010 because it does not comply with Euro V emissions rules.
Presumably the cost of making the engine cleaner would not justify the volume it would sell as the Civic nears the end of its life.
As the Civic Type R leaves the active roster and joins the NSX and the S2000 as high-performance Hondas of bygone eras, we can only hope the company finds a way of producing a cleaner Type R version of the next-generation Civic that will remain true to the company’s heritage.
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