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Honda Civic Type R

Aug 5, 2008
Honda Civic Type R - oxygen not supplied

The hatchback brings with it two main demographics that tend to part with their cash more than anyone else in society - the very young and the very old. For the old, a shiny hatchback represents an economical, safe and pleasant way to get to and from the shops, bingo and church. The Honda Civic range has been king of the grey-haired brigade for decades and brings with it an unassuming, sensible and reliable transport solution for getting from A to B.

For young people - mostly males with fluff stuck to their upper lip, the Honda Civic and it's hatchback rivals represent the cheapest way of getting a car, insuring it and then thrashing it to within an inch of it's life every night in a McDonalds car park. The fun doesn't stop there either. Since the initial conception of Max Power magazine in the early nineties, car modification has gone through the roof. Even Hollywood has got in on the act with the Fast and the Furious trilogy seeing more neon lights in cinema car parks than an Ibiza club.

Much like the punk movement, it's the DIY aesthetic of personalising your car from a million different options and standing out from the crowd that appeals. With its bullet proof reliability and extensive catalogue of performance and styling parts, the Honda Civic has simultaneously become the favoured choice at both ends of the circle of life - but for very different reasons.

Honda aren't stupid and having seen the mass market appeal for 'hot hatches' thought they'd better produce one for the British market - and thus was born the Civic Type R in 2001. Top lip fluff brigade were beside themselves with excitement. Grey haired brigade were happy with the standard issue model. Either way, Honda was onto a winner with a huge percentage of the population.

The Type R was an exceptional car too, with a 0-60mph time of 6.6 seconds and the ever-eager VTEC engine revving to 8,250rpm. Stylistically it wasn't too different from the standard model, with 17 inch alloy wheels and a spoiler adorning the rear the main differences. It was on the road that the little Honda Civic really delighted with the Japanese firm clearly utilising their Formula One programme for the good of their hot hatch. The Civic Type R became the biggest selling performance hatchback in the noughties - with over 35,000 units sold - so it was no surprise at the 2006 British Motor Show when everyone's legs turned to jelly when they clasped eyes on the new one.

The new Civic is all triangles and space-age - a highly risky direction change for a company happily catering for such a diverse range of customers. However Honda have always wanted to shed their image of being an old-persons car maker and the newest Civic is a styling exercise with the sole intention of keeping its young fan base and stealing the middle aged away from their Volkswagen Golfs. The Type R for the record didn't just turn my legs to jelly at the motor show - I needed a crash team and some oxygen.

The production model is only a tad watered down from the final concept in 2006, with the body kit identical. That means that unlike the previous Civic Type R, you don't need to check the badge to know this isn't the base model. I don't know where to start to be honest - seeing one will say everything I need to, as you'll either love it or hate it. It looks as though a spaceship has crashed into the Pyramids and driven off - but for me, it works.

Crucially Honda haven't messed with the engine, so the new Type R retains the 2.0 litre, 197bhp engine from its predecessor. Although this will of course save on Honda's design costs, it's a clear case of 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it'. Honda say they have made this new model more refined, with a suspension that isn't as racy the previous model, yet it's somehow firmer and unfortunately not refined in the slightest. This criticism aside, the new Type R has every reason to feel confident in an already crowded market place most notably featuring the Ford Focus ST, Renault Clio 197 and Volkswagen Golf GTi.

Brand loyalty counts for a lot and when the last model sold 2333% more than anticipated, the fluff brigade are surely going to be reaching for the oxygen and their cash too.
About the Author
Gareth Jones loves all things Honda especially the Civic Type R
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