Here's what 7mths living with a Honda Civic Type R is like

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Conclusion after 17,000 km in the TG CTR? Still the best hot hatch on Earth

“But you wouldn’t actually have one, would you?” “I really might, actually.” “But… look at it.” That’s what every exchange over 17,000 km and seven months has boiled down to. Folks will accept the 316bhp, Nürburgring-bred, multi-lap-record-breaking, Type R is an enormous amount of performance for not a massive amount of money. That it’s a honed driving tool, yet more liveable everyday than its predecessor. But people just can’t get beyond the Sonic/Lego/Halfords/Transformer/Elephant Man looks. Pick your metaphor. I’ve heard ’em all.

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And nope, I don’t like how it looks either. That smaller rear wing across the back window? A pain. The fake carbonfibre skirts? Naff. Fake vents in both bumpers? Yuck.

What they hide is a vastly improved car. The new Type R’s concessions to everyday life go beyond its much-used Comfort mode, which is a real boon in tight car parks and slow-moving traffic, to lighten the steering and soften the ride. After 16k km, this example has way fewer squeaks and rattles than the last version we ran suffered, because it’s been built properly this time. Built to cope with the punishment. The carpets haven’t disintegrated like the last Type R’s did in wet weather. The dash is solid. The only loose trim? The boot handles – curiously flimsy. And the paint is softer than a marshmallow on a campfire, so stone chips became craters.

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It’s a big car, the Civic, and you notice it in car parks. And for such a big footprint, only offering four seats (Honda bullishly says no middle rear seat is a Type R tradition) feels wasteful. The boot’s massive, though. The seats are superb. Cabin ergonomics are vastly improved from the old Type R. What a pity that global player Honda couldn’t be arsed to spend another tenner developing a touchscreen that wouldn’t look outdated in 1993. The vital Apple CarPlay integration was woefully unreliable. There’s no excuse in 2018. A cracking stereo (with no premium name stamped into the speakers) gave partial redemption.

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So did the dealer service. How would a dealer go about making your new car’s first service as painless as possible? I guess that once the car flashed up the spanner icon, you’d phone up and get a callback within the hour. You’d pick a date and time most convenient for you, not the workshop, and still be welcomed inside when you arrive half an hour early to beat the morning rush hour.

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You’d be offered a comfy seat, quick wi-fi and all the complimentary coffee you can drink while your car is seen to. After an hour, a text would arrive with a video walkaround of your car explaining tyre, brake and underbody wear and tear (all fine) and after another 30 minutes, your freshly valeted car would be returned, complete with an oil change and new filters.

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As you’ll have guessed, this isn’t a wish-list but a whistlestop account of how the Type R’s first service was handled by Chiswick Honda. Pretty slick stuff – especially the undercarriage walkaround – even if £261 for the service book stamp and some new oil is pretty steep. The front tyres coped well for their 16,500 km, just approaching the wear indicators despite seeing plenty of B-road action – and surviving a few gnarly pothole impacts.

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Every time we put the Civic against rivals – new RS Megane and upstart Hyundai i30N included – it always monstered them. The Type R transcends what a front-drive hatch should be capable of. Anyone who dismisses it on looks alone is missing out on simply the best hot hatchback on Earth right now. Still.

STORY Ollie Kew

TopGear
Author: TopGear
Top Gear is a British television series about motor vehicles, primarily cars, and is the most widely watched factual television programme in the world.