Chris Harris Drives The 2017 Honda Civic Type R

Chris Harris Drives The 2017 Honda Civic Type R

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Ah, the Honda Civic Type-R,
the yobbish one. Can you believe they just made a new one?
I didn't think the old one was very old. But now, there's more power,
more sophisticated rear suspension and even more offensive styling. What I want to know is if this signals the
return of the Honda we all loved and lost. So, I thought we'd take a trip down
memory lane, at 8,000 rpm The 2001 Civic Type-R
is like a little racing car. Independent suspension both ends and 1998 twin cam normally aspirated
four-cylinder motor, with 200 horsepower
and a 1270 kilogram kerb weight. It was designed to be thrashed
and boy, were they thrashed. The big change for the 2017 Type-R
you can't even see, it's the rear suspension. It's now fully independent like it always
should have been on the previous model. It now has 320 horsepower
and 295 foot-pounds of torque, which is way down on an Audi RS3, but then a Honda weighs just 1380 kg
because the interior is made of eggshells and it's only two-wheel drive. First up, the old car. So, cast your mind back to 2001,
16 years ago. What was going on?
Well, Big Brother wasn't rubbish and Honda had just released the 2.3 Civic
with a Type-R version, which frankly rewrote the hot hatch book. Here was a car with 200 horsepower for an engine that revved at 8,000 rpm
or thereabouts. Only had 200 horsepower
but 142 foot-pound of torque and you had to wring it by the neck
to make it deliver. But when it did you had one of
the best gearboxes of any production car. I'm in one now and I tell you what, modern hot hatches can learn a lot
from this thing. To start with it feels like a hatchback
to me. It's small, vaguely disposable,
the plastics are hard, It feels cheap, it feels like the money
has being spent on the suspension, the engine and the gearbox. This thing is joyous. It still feels very quick.
It still feels very lively. Small, compact and
when you get it above 6,000 rpm into the VTEC… Wow. Wow! And it's just so immediate. I'm sitting too high,
the dashboard is complete crud. I mean, it is exactly what my generation
thought hot hatchbacks should be. What's quite important for me as well
is that this car was affordable. It was a stretch but if you were 23, 24,
you were a graduate, borrowed some money, you could afford to buy this. I'm not entirely sure you could buy
the new car at whatever it is, 35 grand, when specced. But this thing, it just reminds you
of the company Honda used to be. On the one hand, it's great to remember
the heyday of Honda engineering. I mean, this is a car that had
effectively a racing engine in it, with a race transmission,
fully independent rear suspension and you could just buy
it instead of a Golf GTI. But it was so much more specialised,
so much better to drive. But then, of course,
they went down a different route. They took away the independent rear end
and they gave it a beam. They took the mickey. The replacement
to this car was nothing like as good. This one is spectacularly good. In fact, it's done 43,000 miles
this example, it feels fresh as you like. The steering is good.
The throttle response is exceptional. It's not too fast.
It's very skittish, I have to say. And this is where I have to probably
eat some humble pie, I'm not entirely certain I noticed
it's got an independent rear end, because the back is so skippy and lively. It might as well be a beam. Maybe this one needs a bit of tuning,
and some new bushes and new dampers. But I'm quite surprised at how lively
the back end feels. But the whole thing is immediate. Little things like, look at the gap between the gear lever
and the steering wheel. Tiny. You just always felt that you were ready
to grab another gear. Because in this thing
you row it like crazy. And it doesn't actually go that fast. Well, against contemporary hot hatchbacks
it's very fast, compared to these modern turbo nutters
well it's 120 horsepower down, isn't it? But it doesn't matter, as a driving
experience this thing is superb. Might need to have one of these
in my old shed. Very, very enjoyable. What an engine. Nearly 8000 rpm, reliably so. And of course you have
to take it out to eight, so that when you change gear
you drop back into the VTEC. You don't want to drop out of the VTEC. It is to car driving, what riding
a two-stroke motorcycle is to motorcycles. You know, you've just got to stay on it
to enjoy it. When you're out of the VTEC, the personality change of the car
is remarkable. You just think, "Well, I'm in a quite a
slow, rather gutless noisy hot hatch, that doesn't appear to have
any ride comfort." But the moment you get up,
bang, what a thing. Driving position is way too high. Steering can't be adjusted for reach, It's just on a sort of a rake adjustment,
which is fairly hopeless. You do feel that you're sitting
in a kind of Renault Scenic, but otherwise… God. I don't know whether this serves
to remind us how great Honda was, or how ropey it might have become. Anyhow, I'm told reliably
that this new Civic Type-R is back in the great game. So let's jump in that and see
if we can find any common DNA. and to discover whether Honda has, yeah,
rediscovered it's better days. So the new Civic Type-R does
have an independent rear end. Hold on, I'm just going to do
something bit naughty. I'm taking my hands off the
wheel and clap, Well done, Honda, because you're back
to your best in that respect, This car feels very sophisticated. It feels like it can handle all the power, but, my oh my, am i finding this thing
complicated and conflicting as well. There's so much
that's right about this car but essentially it feels as if they had
just made a couple of extra tweaks or some slightly different decisions,
they would have absolutely nailed it. As it is, I think it probably is filed
under the flawed genius section. Let's start with the engine,
only 10 horsepower up on the old version, but a mega engine because
it's turbo charged but also has the variable valve timing. So it wants to rev.
Torque down low, power up high. It's fantastic, doesn't sound that great,
and with the third exit on the tailpipe, I thought we'd get a load more whooshing
and wheeshing and popping. There isn't really much. The steering. Well, obviously
there's three different settings here. There's a normal setting called Comfort,
then there's Sport. Then there's Race. In Comfort, it's light, it's electric. Obviously, like everything else
these days. In Sport, gets heavy
and in Race, gets heavier still. But off-centre in Comfort mode,
it is quite indistinct. You don't quite know
where you are actually, so you want Sport mode, to have a sense
of where you are on the road. It gets very complicated at this point, because the DNA button
for want of a better phrase, the switch here that gives you
Comfort, Sport and Race, doesn't allow you to select which one
of the options you want per area. So, you can't have light steering,
heavy dampers or stiff dampers, and then an aggressive powertrain. You have to stay within their parameters. I think that's a huge mistake,
to me I want my suspension in Comfort, I want my steering in Sport,
I want my engine gearbox in Race But I can't do that. So, I'm either stuck in Comfort, which is actually as I drive
because I want the suspension supple. but then I have steering that's just a bit
too light and indistinct. And the engine just feels
a little bit flat. I don't know why they don't have
the ability to choose your own button, like the Germans call it 'individual',
don't they where you get your own choices. It's a real shame I think. If you want to feel the DNA link between this car and the EP3,
it's the gear shift. In terms of the shift quality,
short precise just feels right and then the clutch is just bang on,
as well. The moment you get in the car
you shift cleanly, you feel like a good driver. Because it's just so well matched. So not being able to separate out the choice of steering weight,
of suspension stiffness and throttle aggressiveness let's say, I think it's massive mistake because it means you're stuck in
a particular personality of car. But having said that the suspension
in Comfort mode is fantastic for UK roads. It just feels so plush. And, I can't believe I'm saying this,
it doesn't need to be four-wheel drive. It has so much traction. 245 section contis all-round,
that you never even think about traction. And the diff,
that locking differential is so clever. I've got no wheel fight,
torquester, you might call it, it just stays in the middle of the road, even on quite heavily crowned stuff. It doesn't sniff out those cambers
and throw you across the road. It's just really, really impressive. But here's the thing,
well, two things really, number one, I think this car looks absurd. I know it's not my job to tell you
how things look, but to me this thing
does look faintly ridiculous. It looks like it appeals
to young people lacking taste, but it's got a sticker price of well north
of thirty thousand pounds, that is clearly unattainable. So, what's it doing? Who's it aimed at? Because the type of person
that can afford 35 grand on a hot hatch, I don't think, wants to be seen
in something quite as lairy as this. The other aspect is the dynamics. I think, everything that this car does, it probably does slightly better
than a Golf R. It's more sophisticated
in terms of suspension, The engine is better,
the gearbox is better. This is a boosty engine, so 3,000 rpm. Push the throttle, pulls immediately
and then just keeps going all the way. To what? 7000 rpm. I think it's the best engine
in a hot hatchback. I love the chassis playfulness with it,
as well. I know we're on the public highway, but if you want to make this thing
move around, you really can. But, that engine… But, how does it get all the power
onto the road? Bumpy road this. No torque fight. Yeah, the art of front-wheel-drive has become really clever hasn't it? One wonders whether the Focus RS
actually needs to be four-wheel drive because I think this car is more fun
and it's two-wheel-drive. But is its dynamic advantage
over a goal far enough to overcome this cabin,
which I'll come to in a second, and those exterior looks,
I don't think so. I think it just is too much of an eyeful. And the cabin? Blimey. Well, first of all, the seat is superb
and it's set low. Well done, Honda The rest of this stuff, I have to say,
is baffling. To start with,
very little can be done on the fly. You can't hook your phone up on the fly. You can't engage or disengage
the auto blipper, which is very good for the manual gearbox. Everything has to be done when you stop.
baffling. This screen here, I've had a 5-10 minute
play don't really know where I'm at. It is illogical at best, but I'm sure
if you live with it you'll get used to it. I have to give them that space. I do like the boost gauge
on the big central readout as well. But all in all, this is an eyeful in here. It's like the exterior of the car to me is aimed at someone
between the age of 18 and 24. I know the Instagram generation
is well heeled these days but I don't know how many of them
can afford to buy one of these things. I have to applaud Honda for getting back
in the hot hatch game in a fearless way. This is a top car and if you like
your hot hatches to drive, well, this has got to be right up there
on the list. But I will say, it's a big car. Hot hatches have become very, very big. This thing could easily be an Accord

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