Thabiso Malimela Reviews. 16/06/2017
If you go outside and ask anyone which car manufacturer has produced the hottest hot hatchbacks in the history of hoodies and backward caps, sure enough the majority of the answers will range from Volkswagen’s GTI (particularly the MK1) to Ford ST and RS models, and rightly so because it seems that if you slap the GTI, ST or RS moniker to a small hatchback, it automatically elevates the car to legendary status. Although the above statement is true, I can’t help but disagree because there is another name that speaks volumes for the cars that bear it – meet Honda’s Type R.
Every time Honda gives one of its regular cars the Type R name, it transforms into a completely different machine. The Type R design brief entails focus on racetrack performance, meaning that a huge emphasis is put on minimising the kerb weight, maximising the performance of the engine and fitting the car with suspension that a racing driver would appreciate. So, in layman’s terms, all Type R vehicles are designed to sing the song of speed and track performance in perfect harmony (The “R” in Type R probably means “Race” anyway).
Honda has once again decided to remix this song because the tenth generation Civic hatchback has undergone the Type R makeover once again, and saying that is a monumental understatement. The 2017 Honda Civic Type R (fifth generation Civic Type R) arrives just a year after South Africa received the FK2 (fourth generation) Civic Type R in 2016. Are Honda replacing it too soon perhaps? Well, all we know is that the 2017 Type R is definitely coming to South Africa. The question of when can only be answered by a being from the future who lives in a time where the car already exists. However, those who were looking to buy the current model should hold their horses because Honda doesn’t seem to be reluctant in dissing the current model to elevate the new one (internally dubbed FK8).
So what’s new?
Engine – More powerful and improved throttle response
Beginning at the business end, the FK8 Honda Civic Type R keeps the 2.0 litre 4 cylinder turbo-petrol with VTEC (Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control) of the current car, but this time the already punchy K20C1 motor has been tuned and refined to produce 235kW and 400N.m, an improvement of 7kW. Power goes to the front wheels via a mechanical limited slip differential (as before) and 6 speed manual gearbox with automatic rev matching and has a 7% lower final gear ratio compared to its predecessor. Good news for the thoroughbred petrolheads of the world is that the automatic rev matching can be switched off, which comes as no surprise seeing that Type R is synonymous with heel and toe downshifting (the Type R car have always been manual only and it continues to be so).
Chassis and Suspension
The Honda Civic Type R will get to 100km/h from rest in 5.7 seconds (quickest for front wheel drive cars) and will reach speeds of 272km/h which is only 2km/h more than before. Fortunately, the Type R is not designed to break land speed records but rather to break lap records (for front wheel drive cars at least). This means that it has to maintain higher average speeds than its predecessor and rivals through the bends, which also means that the suspension and chassis have to be up for the role. In turning your grandma’s Civic into a track monster, Honda and the Type R division have made the chassis 38% stiffer to improve torsional rigidity so that the car doesn’t feel like its put together using Prestick. To minimize understeer and torque steer, the front MacPherson struts found in the old car have been improved and revised. At the rear end, the torsion beam setup of the old car has been abandoned and in its place you’ll find multi-link independent rear suspension with higher rigidity suspension arms to further enhance braking stability (good for trail braking) and allowing for late braking into corners. The new Type R comes with three new driving modes – Comfort, Sport and +R. You can choose between these three based on how immortal you’re feeling on the day (I listed them in ascending order of lethality). What can I say? The Type R is a weapon after all!
Aerodynamics – Cutting Edge!
“Aerodynamics? In a hatchback?” Confusing, I know. But the boffins at Honda know better than to resort to popular opinion. The attention to detail Honda has put on the Type R’s aerodynamics is mind bending, seeing how not even cars with twice the power and half the practicality receive this type of aerodynamic detail. Honda says the new Type R receives a smooth underbody to create downforce by decreasing the pressure of the air flowing under the car thus sucking the car to the ground and creating downforce. Essentially, the car will get heavier the faster it goes and that increases grip on the tyres. See that rear wing (how can you miss it)? It too serves to create downforce on the rear of the car. The front air curtain serves to further increase front end grip by increasing downforce and inform you that the speedbump or driveway entrance is too steep. The latter may be true but wasn’t designed with that in mind, but still a useful “safety” feature.
Exterior Styling – What’s up with that exhaust?
The Type R’s triple exhaust setup is not just there to annoy people with OCD (notice how the middle exhaust is smaller than the others). It’s actually designed to reduce “boominess” or the drone on the inside of the car and produce a nice soundtrack without tickling your eardrum (because of the resonance). The styling is something that is better left undiscussed because it truly speaks for itself. The new Type R continues the radical and extreme sharp-edged styling theme that the FK2 Civic Type R incepted, only now Honda has added more presence to the already conspicuous theme. The new Type R is both longer (increased wheelbase) and wider than the outgoing model and adding piano black 20-inch wheels really do the stance and presence of the car some justice. All I will say is that the FK8 Type R sits in traffic like a lion sits in a bird’s nest.
“What about track credentials? Surely it has some”
Yes indeed. Ever heard of a place called the Nurburgring Nordschleife? The Green Hell? Well, the place mentioned above is home to the legendary racetrack that has claimed many lives and has seen the death of many more vehicles. What better place, then, to showcase your might by sending your latest creation around to annihilate the gauntlet set by your rivals? The Nordschleife has recently become the proving ground for all performance car and is also used as an effective way to market a yet unreleased prototype. Predictably, Honda also sent a development version of the Type R around the Nurburgring. On the 3rd of April 2017, this prototype set a daring laptime of 7 minutes 43.8 seconds which also happens to be the unofficial lap record for a front wheel drive production car. It trumps the previous record holder, the VW Golf GTI Clubsport S (7min 47.19sec) by 3.39 seconds and the outgoing Type R by approximately 7 seconds. Honda says that this laptime was possible thanks to the reworked suspension, chassis and aerodynamics which allowed them to carry more speed into the corners (around 10km/h on one of the corners).
“So what must I do if I want one?”
Pray. And be prepared to part with at least R650 000, seeing how the outgoing model came in at R615 900. The prayer is so that Honda, firstly, brings the Type R in large numbers and secondly, doesn’t limit production too early. As I’ve said before, we’re not sure when it’ll arrive at showroom floors but Honda says that production will start later this year at their production plant in Swindon.
The red Honda badge seems to have blown all competition out the water with the fifth instalment of the fast and furious Civic. With an exterior that will surely divide the population into two, like it or not, the Type R will give human beings and petrolheads something to argue about. Either way, it will be on people’s lips and that will give the Type R name some much needed credentials. I don’t think everyone will warm to the appeal of this car. To be honest, you’ll most probably see this car in the car parks of Khayalami (the racetrack) or the car parks at car meets packed with teenage boys gawking at the ludicrous styling. The Type R name has always resonated with its fans, petrolheads and experts in the automotive industry and it looks to continue doing so seeing that Honda has stuck to the traditional hot hatch recipe (manual transmission, front wheel drive, great handling, ultimate driving experience and feel). While most manufacturers are switching to all-wheel drive, automated transmissions and electronic gimmicks, Honda has stuck to it what it knows best regardless of pressure from sales. My only concern is that being such an apt machine on the racetrack (which is as bumpy as a ceramic floor tile), will it be able to adapt its dampers to harsh road conditions? Perhaps it will, but even if it isn’t, it won’t matter much because the people who will buy the Type R won’t mind having their spines shattered on a daily basis – they’re all under 30 after all. And as Ryan Reynolds once said “at that age, you’re just made of rubber and magic”
Thabiso Malimela Reviews. 23/06/2017 #TheAutomobileGenius
- Ford Focus RS
- Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport / Clubsport S
- Volkswagen Golf R
- Renault Megane RS Trophy
- BMW M140i
- Mercedes A45 AMG
- Audi RS3 Sportback
- Subaru WRX STI