It’s been several months since it was simultaneously launched with its Hybrid cousin, and finally, the media got their hands on the Honda Civic Type-R. It’s been so difficult simply because the car has been selling itself, with the initial shipment snapped up immediately, and the 5 car monthly allocation causing a waiting list of over 8 months.
Those who’ve been fuming as they await their unit to appear on their driveways will be pleased to know that a bumper shipment of 25 units will be landing in January, but by then, it’s likely that the waiting list will not be shorter at all.
For those who’ve yet to place an order on the RM199,800 (OTR) performance car, then Shannon Teoh’s report on the media track day might be helpful.
For those who have, you have his apologies for making you wait a bit longer as two units were seconded for the event on Nov 13. However, you’ll discover after the jump, that you have none of his pity for being able to afford such a car in the first place.
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To begin with, let me clarify that it was a pretty short acquaintance with Honda’s most powerful car, outside of the S2000 â€“ one out lap, then two more around the north circuit of Sepang and then back in. They weren’t even really flying laps as there were cones set up throughout the course.
Presumably, this was under the pretext of exhibiting the full characteristics of the Type-R, although with an ABS-inducing brake zone before a slalom section at the start/finish straight, one would have to deduce that the real reason was to keep us from finding out what the top speed might be, which Honda seems to want to keep mum about â€“ I can’t seem to find this info anywhere, can you? We can guesstimate by extrapolating from the running diagram with gearing overlaps that it is capable of hitting 250km/h, aerodynamics allowing, but the suspicion is that it’s speed limited at 180.
Whatever the case may be, I never got to touch it. It didn’t help that there was a rather twitchy instructor sitting on my left as well.
But you learn certain things after four laps with a car. Unfortunately, I never got to put them into practice after that.
The first thing is that the engine is useless below 5,000rpm. Ok, not useless, but pretty pedestrian. After that, all hell breaks loose.
Then you find yourself frantically shifting up through the gears in an effort to avoid the rev limiter spanking you when you try to go anywhere past 8,000rpm. Thankfully, the Civic’s multiplex display allows you to monitor your shift timing via the i-VTEC tachometer that signals the impending redline with a series of increasingly intense LEDs.
But it’s here in the final 35 per cent of the rev range that the naturally aspirated K20A i-VTEC 2-litre engine really opens up. The good news is that this is the angriest K20A yet, putting out 222hp at redline with a peak torque of 215Nm achieved at 6,100rpm. The bad news is that that amount of torque isn’t really all that staggering.
Perhaps we’re just spoiled by figures of 400Nm in other sedans like the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX and BMW 335i.
It’s not helped though, that it weighs something like 100kg more than the DC5 Integra Type-R, with just five extra ponies to pull that weight around. Where the car did excel, was around the corners â€“ whether inherent to the track, or man-made with cones.
With a hydraulic steering instead of the electrically powered one on the basic Civic, steering seemed very intuitive and this was helped by the fact that the car felt neutral at all times. Even when gaining speed steadily through the slalom, the car just refused to lean much in any direction. Dampnig rates both front and back are higher than the DC5 Type-R and of course, ground clearance both front and back too has been lowered as compared to the Civic 2.0S.
Not to mention a body with 50 per cent more rigidity than the forementioned DC5. But if ever you were to test the outer limits of the chassis, as we did when leaving a cone-introduced chicane and deciding to pretend the exit was a hairpin, the 225-profile Bridgestone Potenza RE070s on the 18-inch rims were unfazed.
And these weren’t even new tyres. They apparently cost so much that Honda didn’t bother changing them at all despite the instructors doing heavy-duty installation laps before we arrived to set up the course.
This car makes you work for your speed and it is at once a consuming experience yet certainly, has its drawbacks as a practical car to be driving on streets with actual traffic. The close-ratio six-speed gearbox is an example of this methodology. Perfect for optimising power around the track but one can imagine it’ll be quite tiresome to change through four gears when sprinting from one traffic light to another. Plus, while it was no problem on the relatively smooth Sepang tarmac, I’m sure ride quality won’t be fun and games on Malaysia’s notoriously unpredictable roads.
Inevitably, the obvious question has to be, is it worth the 200 grand? Well, frankly speaking, if it’s going to be your only car, you’ve got to really want a Type-R. There seems to be no way that in the â€œonly one carâ€ situation, I could ever conceive choosing this over the Volkswagen Golf GTI â€“ no need to change gears yourself when you don’t want to, e.g., when doing said traffic light sprints â€“ which comes with a lot more creature comforts.
But as your weekend performance car, with the splendidly supportive Type-R front seats to bring out the boy racer in you, this is unparalled as far as sub-200K new cars are concerned. The Evo might still be more bang per buck, but not everyone who has RM200,000 has another RM85,000 to spare.
Text by Shannon Teoh.