Honda Civic Type R - Future Classic

By: Mark Higgins, Photography by: Honda UK

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The Civic Type R was Honda's hero car, a real shot in the arm for the brand's image

All we could see was blue sky as we screamed up the steep hill and, just before we crested it, I glanced over at the digital speedo from the passenger seat.

There were three digits, the first two showing a 1 and an 8 and the tacho was tacking deep into the sevens as my chauffer asked, which way does the road go?

"I’ve never been here," I shouted, as my eyes turned dinner plate in size.

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As we went over the top and all went light... and quiet he said, "Oh, left," and gave the steering wheel a flick, keeping his foot buried and as the suspension compressed on landing, our stomachs returned to their normal resting place.

The location was the Millbrook Proving Ground in England, my chauffer was F1 and Le Mans sportscar star, Anthony Davidson.

The car, the British-built 2007 Honda Civic Type R.

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I was in the UK for the launch of the ballistic Honda pocket rocket that was to take on the growing number of hot hatch players back home and give punters a reason to visit Honda showrooms.

And Davidson, the Honda F1 reserve driver at the time, was drafted in to show a group of Australian journos how fast and agile the Civic Type R was.

At that he succeeded, even reducing some of the more seasoned scribblers to disbelief (and a string of joyful expletives) as to how swift this car could be punted around the tree-lined and undulating mini Nurburgring Alpine course, made famous in the James Bond movie Casino Royale.

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One millionth Civic  off the UK line was a Type R

Sharing the slightly damp, verdant mountainous course with us were a couple of Aston Martin test drivers. Much to the disgust of one of them, Davidson caught and passed him on a hot lap.

Wearing a look of thunder the Mr Test Driver followed a grinning Davison into our hospitality area, drew up close alongside, dropped the window, eyeballed him and then nailed it, leaving us to ingest a good dose of Pirelli smoke. We all laughed how he must’ve been ready to quit his job after being hosed by a Honda hatch until he saw who was piloting it.

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The following day three Honda Civic Type Rs scorched across the Scottish countryside in an Italian Job like convoy. At the lunch break one journo said to the new Honda Oz boss, "It’s good to see your press kit doesn’t lie." With eyebrows raised he said, "What to do you mean?", "Well," said the scribbler, "the press kit claims the top speed is 235km/h and I saw 236 on my speedo!" There were more laughs all round.

It’s hard to believe that 14 years have passed since the Honda Civic Type R, based on the eighth-generation Civic, launched here. Conservative beyond Toyota in many ways as a company, for Honda Australia the Civic Type R was totally out of character. Bu it was exactly what it needed, a hero car, a shot in the arm.

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Available only as a three-door body, in four colours white, red, black and silver with a subtle body kit, one gearbox – a flick of the wrist six-speed manual – very firm sports suspension, 18-inch alloy wheels wrapped in 40 series Bridgestone Potenza tyres hiding huge brakes, little in the way of front or rear overhang, sharp fast steering and a screaming exhaust note, the egg-shaped Honda easily catches your attention whether you are inside or out.

It wears the most significant and revered Honda badge, a classic red emblem reserved for the nosecone of Honda F1s and Type R cars only.

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Powered by a K20A two-litre, four-cylinder, double overhead cam engine with variable valve timing and lift electronic control (VTEC) and roller rockers, it delivers 148 kilowatts and 193 Nm with an 8000 rpm redline, the Civic Type R goes from standstill to 100km/h in 6.6 seconds and a top speed of 235 km/h. Down low, the engine is docile but once it hits 6000rpm or so it takes on a new character. There is a change of engine note accompanied by a massive surge in power.

What is remarkable is these figures were achieved without any turbocharging, as the Civic Type R was alone in the sector being naturally aspirated.

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Available as a high performance and eco version, the Honda K-series engine was introduced in 2001 and found its way into the the first-generation Civic Type R along with the Integra Types R and S, Japanese spec Accord Euro before powering the 2007-2012 Civic Type R.

The high-performance K20A features a chromoly flywheel, higher-tensile strength connecting rods, high-compression pistons, stiffer valve springs, higher-lift hollow camshafts with more duration.

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The Eco version of the K20A is employed in a range of Honda models including CR-V, Stepwagon, Accord Euro, Civic and Accord.

Driving the Civic Type R, the extremely firm sports suspension fed back every bump, dip and blemish on your journey. Up front is a double A arm design with coil springs and anti-roll bars and the rear, a torsion bar with coil springs and anti-roll bars. The torsion bar rear was a new addition to this Type R and employed because it was felt it provided a bigger interior and cargo area without any performance downside.

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The electric rack and pinion power steering is a mere 2.3 turns lock to lock, therefore extremely fast and accurate and keeping one’s enthusiasm in check are meaty 300mm ventilated front disc brakes and solid 260 mm discs at the rear.

Inside the cabin was decked out in red and black cloth and alcantara. Like all Civics of the time the Type R had a two tier dash with the digital speedo up top and a large tacho centrally mounted (ala Porsche), in the main dash pod. Reinforcing its race breeding were the gearshift lights that glow and strobe and from orange to red as you approach the screaming VTEC engine’s redline.

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Holding you in place were comfortable and extremely tight fitting sports seats draped in red cloth and alcantara. The three pedals plus foot rest are of a drilled sports variety, red stitching is used throughout and the aluminium gear shift knob on top of the stubby and short-throw shifter could, on a hot day could almost imprint the H-pattern in your palm.

Despite its rawness – read race breeding, the Type R still had its practical side with a cavernous boot and a decent amount of room for back seat dwellers.

In stop start traffic the Type R’s lack of mid-range torque meant more gear shuffling to keep it on song but on the other side of the ledger on the open road or better still a race track, the Civic Type R came alive and remains one of the most engaging and fun-filled drives you can buy for a relatively small outlay.

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Bruce Newton wrote this about the Civic Type R in the August edition of Wheels magazine in a hot hatch comparo:

"The Type R corners with flat surety, resists understeer determinedly, brakes with authority and responds to steering inputs with alacrity. The type R is significantly and confidently quicker through tight corners than its rivals and it feels more stable in open sweepers to, it’s with mounted fuel tank no doubt aiding balance. Despite riding on big 18-inch wheels and lowered suspension, it’s also the most comfortable. Someone has done a simply superb job of suspension tuning.

"The driver is entwined intrinsically with chassis and engine and the result is beyond mere fun. It’s soul satisfying.

"This is a rare car that is so unified it becomes something greater than the sum of its parts. It is a true hot hatch it’s the car that leaves you wanting more and more. Is it a classic? Let a time decide that one but for now there’s no doubt it’s a bloody great drive."

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Due to demand from the UK and Europe Honda Australia were allocated a few hundred a year and sold for $39,990. Now you can get your hands on a Type R for as little as ten grand with a couple of examples being offered for around 25 grand with under 70,000kms on the clock.

Being a Honda overall quality is excellent the Type R is as reliable as a Swiss watch but a service record is critical with a car like this, because of the VTEC engine. However if it has been maintained properly it should be largely trouble free.

Critically check the timing chain and CV joints have been maintained and/or replaced.

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While most have been owned by enthusiasts who afforded plenty of TLC to their Type R take a close look at its overall condition and look at panel gaps and paint as over enthusiasm and heightened belief of talent usually results in a visit to the panel beaters.

Body-wise check under the front spoiler for gutter and kerb damage, likewise all four alloy wheels. As the Civic Type R had a couple of recalls ring Honda Australia to ensure the work has been done. That will also tell you a lot about the way it has been cared for.

Overall as the Type R shares a lot of its components with the regular Civic so servicing costs shouldn’t frighten your wallet, though its bigger brakes and tyres add to the cost. Parts are readily available and easily obtainable, but before you buy, check, check check.

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FOR
• Outstanding drivetrain and chassis
• User friendly
• Versatility

AGAINST
• Noisy
• Three-door body
• Manual only

2007 – 2012 Honda Civic Type R

Body: All-steel, integrated body/chassis three door hatchback
Engine: Inline four, 1998cc with fuel injection
Power & torque: 148kW @ 7800rpm, 193Nm @ 5600rpm
Performance: 0-100km/h: 7.4sec, top speed 235km/Transmission: 6-speed manual
Suspension: Front Double A-arm, bam rear end
Brakes: Dsiscs front and rear

 

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