Civic Type-R Mod. 2001
Contradictions. Life is full of them. And pretty soon so will be all of Honda's showrooms. That's because October sees the debut of a hatchback wearing the Civic badge yet packing a 200bhp engine. And it will boast a £15,995 price tag that will make it one of the performance car bargains of the year. Inside, there's the usual family-sized cabin that can accommodate five people with ease. In front, though, are race car-like bucket seats which grip you tighter than a wrestler's bear hug. And as the salesman boasts about the reliability of Hondas, you may spot that the rev counter's red line is at a mighty 8,000rpm. Meet the Civic Type R, forerunner of several hot Hondas set to bear the prestigious Type R badge. The Swindon-built model is charged with achieving much higher sales than its Accord and Integra Type R counterparts. But can it really rewrite the performance car rulebook and be all things to all buyers?
Judged on looks alone, it has not made the best start. To our eyes, the three-door body looks top heavy, although skirts, spoilers and massive alloy wheels give the impression that this car is something special. It's a similar story inside. The sensible, humdrum design of the standard Civic three-door has been livened up with superb sport seats, silver trim on the centre console and doors, an alloy gearknob, chunky steering wheel and black-on-white instruments.
Any Type R worth its salt has to do more than look flash; it must drive as though it's alive. With a new 2.0-litre 16-valve i-VTEC engine kicking out an impressive 200bhp at 7,400rpm and 196 Nm at 5,900 rpm, it certainly seems promising. An updated six-speed gearbox feeds power to the front wheels and, with 90 per cent of torque available at only 3,000 rpm, it's not likely that you'll be left at the traffic lights. Those familiar with the current high-output VTEC engines will find using the new one an eerie experience. Unlike previous Type R units, the i-VTEC version delivers a generous helping of power throughout the rev range. Rather than leaving you wondering where the performance has gone, it pulls cleanly from 1,500rpm, hauls strongly from 3,000rpm and goes ballistic at 6,000rpm. Overall, the Civic is smoother than the Integra and Accord. Enthusiasts will be pleased to learn that the crisp snarl of Honda's four-cylinder engines is much in evidence here.
Better still, performance is kept well and truly on the boil, thanks to the new gearbox. Although the lever looks awkward, sprouting like an unwanted weed from the dash, it works superbly, being within easy reach and snapping through the gate with a razor-sharp action. The ratios are well spaced, too, and capable of holding the engine in that all-important VTEC zone.
On the track, pocket-rockets trying to keep up with this Type R's pace will, we suspect, be left trailing. Weighing in at 1,200kg, the Civic hits a 146mph top speed and sprints from 0-60mph in a Subaru Impreza-rivalling 6.8 seconds. In fact, the Honda is in a league where it will find itself competing with cars such as the Audi S3 and Ford's forthcoming Focus RS. However, both of these will cost you thousands more. Unlike its sister Type R models - the Integra in particular - the Civic is a hospitable companion. It doesn't wear you down, having exactly the right balance of exhilarating soundtrack and refinement. But does this mean that you must do without that addictive hit of adrenaline from the Integra Type R's awesome abilities?
Ultimately, the answer isn't clear-cut. Yes, the Civic has a stiffer bodyshell and boasts superior ride comfort and bump absorption, together with superb body control at speed. Potentially, it's faster across country than the Integra, because it's more capable when driven on demanding and undulating roads.The engine/gearbox combination has upped the Type R ante, too, as have the brakes, which deliver astonishing fade-free stopping power. Yet despite all this, hardened enthusiasts may not be totally convinced. Sadly, the Civic is lacking the raw, instinctive reactions of the Integra, partly because it's heavier and also because its electric power-steering isn't as satisfying to use when pushing on.
However, the poise of the Civic's chassis, regardless of road and conditions, is something to be admired. This British-built hot hatchback boasts all the finest ingredients, including precise and immediate turn-in, perfect balance between front and rear axles, astonishing grip and progressive loss of adhesion right at the limit. And when it finally begins to let go of the tarmac, it lets you know through your fingertips, and eagerly tightens its line when you ease off the throttle. In addition, it's one of the biggest three-door hatches, having masses of front and rear legroom, loads of headroom and a big boot. Do you need any more reasons to be convinced?
Honda's new Civic Type R puts in such a strong performance on the road and in the price war that we can't help but be impressed - even though we haven't been able to drive it in the UK yet. This is a i.l.a.çing car that takes the Type R brand to a new level of sophistication, ensuring it appeals to as many new buyers as there are existing fans. It's difficult to see anything coming along to better it.
At a glance
* New £15,995 Civic Type R on sale in October.
* Powered by a 200bhp i-VTEC engine delivering 196Nm.
* 0-60mph in 6.8 seconds; top speed: 146mph; 31.7mpg
Civic Type-R Mod. 2001
When it comes to creating a performance version of something like the Civic, Honda - unlike a number of its rivals - doesn't slap on a turbo and add a couple of other tweaks. It does a full engineering job, and it doesn't fancy turbochargers in any case.
Creating a Type-R Civic is a similar kind of project to Ford producing a Fiesta Cosworth. And the heavily modified Civic could be a real winner. Honda is even homologating it for Group N competition, and we should see race-prepared examples out on British circuits next season.
At the press launch on the Isle of Man, before the October on-sale date, we were given a unique opportunity (thanks to the local police authorities) to drive as fast as we felt like going over public roads closed to other traffic. Road-closing arrangements like this, of course, are quite normal on the island, and have been for very nearly 100 years, although the motor-cycle races and special stage car rallies have all been abandoned this season because of the mainland F&M problems.
The closed section followed the magnificent TT course from Ramsey to Creg-ny-Baa, climbing and descending Snaefell. It would have been ideal in fine weather. I had driving rain, thick cloud, almost minimal visibility in places, and a slippery road surface. So the six-speed box, the ABS and other safety/stability features were given a really tough test.
Honda has fitted the latest model in its Type-R sub-range with a 196bhp two-litre twin cam i-VTEC engine. Bearing in mind that the Civic doesn't carry much surplus poundage, what we have here is an excellent power to weight ratio.
So the fastest Civic really is fast. Accelerating to 62mph in 6.8 seconds, it should dash on to a maximum speed just over 145mph. The best I managed, on the final downhill stretch of closed road, was a snatch reading just short of an indicated 130mph. In the prevailing weather conditions - low cloud and heavy rain, remember - that was absolutely enough, and I backed off smartly.
Balance And Control
Elsewhere there were no major dramas. Even arriving too fast for one of those left-handers that seem to go on forever was sorted out by holding the wheel firmly and putting in some gentle, progressive braking to take the bite out of the G-forces. Very few cars in the Civic's class would have been so easy to control.
There's tremendous balance, great engine response and very powerful braking on call when you need it. All-round engineering, in fact, and obviously a lot of development testing, not least on the full-length Nürburgring.
The Type-R's looks are understated, hinting at the performance rather than making a great song and dance about it. There are 17" alloys, but you have to take the car out on the road to appreciate how solid that three-door bodyshell feels.
Honda is obviously aiming this car at younger drivers, but likes to say that the Type-R is as suited to the requirements of a young family as it is to the enthusiast who isn't able to afford a WRX Impreza or a Lancer Evo something-or-other.
Yes, well. The front cabin is certainly comfortable enough for a long motorway trip, and the ventilation system, tested to the full on my bad-weather drive, is highly efficient. The luggage space is surprisingly good, but getting into the rear seats can be a struggle for anybody on the tall side.
There's a good view of the close-grouped main instruments. From the short-throw gear change, you'd think you were in an all-out sports car, and the ratios are carefully spaced, to stop anyone but the most clumsy of drivers coming up against the rev limiter.
People don't buy a car like this if they want a long list of luxury features. It's all designed for the enthusiast, the emphasis being on performance linked with safety. Perhaps the most noteworthy item is that the Type-R will retail at £15,995. The opposition will be worrying.
Civic Type-R Mod. 2001
So the Civic Type-R is exactly what you'd expect - a lean, mean and focused road going race car. It's the latest in a line of no compromise sports thoroughbreds from Honda - a car suitable for the road, but whose heritage comes straight from the racetrack.
The striking looks set the tone. As the flagship of the Civic range - not to mention the most exciting of the new 3 door models - the hot Type-R is ready to give rivals a roasting.
Powered by a new 2.0 litre DOHC i-VTEC engine developing a mighty 200 PS (197 bhp) at 7,400 rpm, the new Civic rockets to 60mph in 6.4 seconds - and carries on to top 146 mph. Maximum torque is 196Nm (145lb-ft) at 5,900rpm, promising levels of performance better than of the Integra Type-R - the car that the Civic Type-R replaces.
Matching the engine is a 6-speed, close ratio manual gearbox. Carefully spaced ratios ensure that engine revs remain within the power band during acceleration, while overall gearing is firmly biased towards performance - sixth gear is a usable ratio, not an economy oriented cruising gear. High performance gearbox synchronisers and a highly efficient changing mechanism allow extremely quick and precise gear changes.
The new Civic 3 door, with its extremely rigid body and highly praised suspension design, provides an ideal platform for a high performance derivative. Nevertheless, Honda has introduced additional stiffening to give the Type-R greater tautness and precision.
A strut across the rear of the engine bay increases horizontal rigidity at the front of the car, while at the rear, vertical rigidity is maximised through locating an additional strut between the wheelarches.
Firmer dampers and springs and alloy wheels shod with 205/45 R17 tyres connect the car to the road. Backed up by a programme of extensive testing at Germany's demanding Nurburgring, the package ensures that the Civic Type-R possesses excellent chassis dynamics, with a high degree of linearity in its handling behaviour. In particular, it is even more responsive to steering input than the fabled Integra Type-R.
Settle into the drivers' seat of the new Type R and before you even turn the ignition key it is clear you are driving something special, with the finely honed bespoke exterior matched by an equally exquisite interior.
The large, heavily sculpted competition-style seats provide exceptional comfort and support. Cushioning is firm and the seats have additional bolsters at shoulder height locate occupants even during the most spirited cornering action.
The seat inserts are finished in suede effect material known as Alcantara ®.
The Type-R's performance credentials are further signalled by white instrument faces and an alloy gear knob. Additional flourishes include an embroidered Type-R logo at the base of the headrest and red stitching on both the seats and the steering wheel. Door and seat inserts, together with centre console trim, are finished in a titanium metallic colour for an air of added sophistication.
The Civic Type-R will re-ignite the extreme performance hatchback market within the C-segment and sales are expected to be as high as 3 per cent of total Civic 3 door sales. UK availability in the first full year will be less than 1,000 cars.
The Civic Type-R will be built in the UK at Honda's Swindon factory. Production commenced this autumn, with the car going on sale in October. The model is also set to be the first British built to be sold in Japan when exports commence at the end of 2001.
Styling revisions, while adding to the Type-R's overt, sporty appeal, are more than just cosmetic. Each of the additional body panels - chin spoiler, side sill garnish, rear under spoiler, larger roof spoiler - have been carefully shaped and tested to provide improved aerodynamic performance.
To ensure this was achieved, the designers used a computer-generated 'virtual wind tunnel' to predict wind flow around the car and every aspect of the body was studied to reduce drag, reduce lift and minimise wind noise. This included developing the general shape of the body, refining the front spoiler, adding a rear suspension cover, and even refining the shape of the door mirrors.
A mesh-type front grille, complete with 'Type-R' script, black-plated headlamp sub-reflectors and twin chrome tail pipes complete the sporting appearance. Even under the bonnet there is no mistaking the performance potential: the red i.l.a.çle-finish cam cover is picked out with the legend 'DOHC i-VTEC'.
The Type-R's performance credentials are further signalled by white instrument faces and an alloy gear knob; additional flourishes are provided by an embroidered Type-R logo at the base of the headrest and red stitching on both the seats and the steering wheel. Door and seat inserts, together with centre console trim are finished in a titanium metallic colour for an air of added sophistication.
Behind the exhilarating performance of the Civic Type-R is an outstanding new engine, which features Honda's advanced DOHC i-VTEC technology. Applied to the Civic Type-R, power output rises to a prodigious 200 PS (197 bhp) at 7,400 rpm, with peak torque of 196 Nm (145lb-ft) delivered at 5,900 rpm. The result is a towering 100 PS / litre - and level of performance even better that of the highly-acclaimed Integra Type-R, whose power to weight ratio the Civic tops..
These figures translate into a top speed of 146 mph and acceleration from standstill to 60 mph in a potent 6.4 seconds; yet the Type-R achieves a combined cycle fuel consumption of 31.7mpg.
Aside from its prodigious output, the new unit is both more compact and lighter (by 13kg) than Honda's existing 2.0 litre unit that powers the Accord. Actual dimensions are 870 mm (length), 635 mm (width) and 622 mm (height) versus 942/740/621 mm for the 2.0 litre Accord unit. It is also noteworthy that the unit is designed to run on the normal premium grade 95RON unleaded fuel, not the 98 RON Super unleaded grade.
i-VTEC is the generic name of Honda's outstanding new engine family. The name is derived from 'intelligent' combustion control technologies that match outstanding fuel economy, cleaner emissions and reduced weight with high output and greatly improved torque characteristics in all speed ranges.
The design cleverly combines the highly renowned VTEC (Variable valve Timing and lift, Electronic Control) system - which varies the timing and amount of lift of the valves - with VTC or Variable Timing Control. VTC is able to advance and retard inlet valve opening by altering the phasing of the inlet camshaft to best match the engine load at any given moment. The two systems work in concert under the close control of the engine management system delivering improved cylinder charging and combustion efficiency, reduced intake resistance, and improved exhaust gas recirculation among the benefits
The i-VTEC technology offers tremendous flexibility since it is able to maximise engine potential over the whole speed range. A particularly flat torque curve is testimony to its effectiveness: by 3,000 rpm the engine is already delivering in excess of 180 Nm - or more than 90% of its maximum.
The joy of six!
The Type-R's 6-speed transmission is matched to a high performance clutch and features triple cone synchronisers on both first and second gears. The new gearbox is not only strong and light, but shorter in length than many 5-speed units. The Type-R retains the ergonomically excellent fascia-mounted gear lever common to other Civic hatchback models, to offer a shift quality that's smooth, accurate and lightning fast.
Carefully spaced ratios maintain engine revs well within the power band during acceleration and give intermediate gear maxima of 36, 56, 78, 103 and 128 mph at the 8000 rpm red line. .
The inherently fine-handling Civic 3-door with its highly rigid body and much praised suspension design provides an ideal platform for a high performance derivative. Nevertheless, Honda has introduced additional stiffening to endow the Type-R model's handling with even greater tautness and precision.
Body rigidity is even more marked in the Type-R where additional bracing further boosts the precision handling characteristics of the flagship model. Frontal horizontal rigidity benefits to the tune of 17 per cent thanks to an additional strut located at the base of the front bulkhead and between the two front side members. At the rear, a strut fitted between the wheelarches, together with a reinforced wheelarch gusset increases vertical rigidity by 23 per cent.
The Type-R benefits from firmer dampers and springs, uprated anti-roll bars front and rear (that at the front is stiffer, that at the rear is increased in diameter) compared to standard 3-door models; in addition, ride height is reduced by approximately 15mm. Ultra low profile 205/45 R17 tyres are specified, on 17 x 7JJ alloy rims.
Brakes to match
Large front ventilated disc brakes with solid discs at the rear are backed by ABS anti-lock and EBD (electronic brake force distribution) to ensure stopping ability to match the Type-R's high performance potential. They also ensure fade-free performance, even during the most rigorous use.
Equipped for action
With the accent firmly on performance, the Civic Type-R maintains the "no frills" approach to specification. Equipment such as a sunroof, cruise control, electric seats etc has no place on a model with such purist sporting intentions.
But that does not mean that safety or practicalities are neglected - and so the Civic Type-R does boast ABS anti-lock brakes, remote central locking, CD radio tuner and Cat 1 alarm. Like all other Honda cars it also has power steering, twin SRS front airbags, electric front windows, and ECU transponder type immobiliser. As with Integra and Accord variants, the Civic Type-R will be offered with factory fit air conditioning as a cost option. The Civic Type-R will be available in a choice of Milano Red, Nighthawk Black or Satin Silver Metallic finishes.
Type-R - a breed apart
Honda's worldwide Type-R sub-brand sets out to encapsulate the company's innovative engineering capabilities, its reputation for technical sophistication and above all, its enviable sporting pedigree within a unique road car package. The tightly focused Type-R programme is aimed directly at the enthusiast who seeks the excitement and feel from a competition car and for whom total performance is paramount; more specifically it caters for the discerning driver who is able to appreciated advanced technology used in the pursuit of driving pleasure.
Type-R branding is confined to cars offering outstanding dynamic abilities, with strong race car overtones. Their capability is realised through innovative and elegant engineering solutions rather than the more traditional measures aimed at performance enhancement. It is certainly not about cynical badge engineering, and all Type-R models have the resolute purpose of providing a sublime driving experience.
In Europe, the Integra set the tone with its 190 PS (187bhp) 1.8 litre engine boasting one of the highest specific outputs in the world allied with chassis dynamics seldom found outside of a race track. It was followed by the Accord Type-R - which applied similar race-bred technology to the four-door Accord, the model on which Honda's successful European Super Touring programme was based upon. The Civic 3-door becomes the Type-R latest incarnation, and it is wholly appropriate that Honda is seeking motorsport homologation of the car in time for the 2002 season.
Ready for racing
In conjunction with the launch of the high performance Civic Type-R at Geneva, Honda Motor Europe has announced that it is to seek homologation for the car in the FIA-approved Group N classification in time for the 2002 season.
Aimed at those who race competitively several times a year, the 'roadgoing' version of the new Civic Type-R will offer owners a high degree of competitiveness without burdening their budget, as very few parts will need modification or replacement for competition use.
The intrinsic qualities and exceptional dynamic ability of the standard car form the ideal basis for this development, and the Civic Type-R looks set to become the new competition benchmark among mass production road cars.
The Type-R pedigree is already well established: throughout Europe the Integra Type-R has enjoyed many successes in Superproduction and Group N racing, as well as rallying and hill-climbing.
A prototype Civic Type-R has been prepared to FIA Group N specification and its development will be entrusted to former BTCC champion, and ex-Formula 1 and official Honda Supertouring driver, Gabriele Tarquini. Rally parts are also being developed and will be made available for professional and club enthusiasts alike.
Competition participation provides important input to the Type-R programme and is a very effective test bed for new Honda technologies. The company has for several years had an active touring car programme in Europe and competes with great success in the US CART series. Last year saw Honda return to Formula 1 with the BAR Honda Team - and this year the programme has been extended to include engine supply to the Jordan Formula 1 racing team.