BY ANDY ENRIGHT
Honda really ought to have dominated the hot hatch market for years. They excel at building great small cars and fantastic engines, but it wasn't until the launch of the Civic Type-R in 2001 that the company could really put a significant marker down. With a manic 197bhp power output and a focused image, the Type-R became instantly popular, deposing the Renaultsport Clio 172 as the hot hatch of choice.
Models Covered: 3dr Hatch: (2.0 petrol [Type-R])
The Type-R was an instant hit when it arrived in Honda dealers. Although essential extras such as air conditioning bumped the price up a little more than many buyers expected, used customers can get some cracking deals. The launch of the next generation Civic has slightly depressed used values of early cars, although those that benefited from the 2004 revision have held up well. For 2004, the engine underwent some modifications, including the fitment of a lighter flywheel and throttle tweaks for sharper responses. The suspension was beefed up with revised spring and damper rates. Another thing Type-R owners expressed a desire for was better sound insulation. Externally there were three-light projector headlamps, redesigned taillight clusters, reshaped bumpers, Accord-style door-mounted indicator repeaters, new alloy wheel designs and the choice of grey metallic paint finish. The sports seats and door panels were lifted with the addition of red inserts. A plush Type-R 30th Anniversary edition was also launched in limited numbers. Production stopped in September 2005.
What You Get
The one-box dome-shaped profile with its short nose and large glass area gives a very shrunken-People Carrier feel. It's the same inside, where the dashboard-mounted gearlever frees up floorspace and enables front-seated parents to walk through and clip the ears of warring kids sat in the rear. As for space, well there's significantly more than you'd find in most hot hatches and the Type-R has earned itself a well deserved reputation as one of the most practical three-door sports hatches around. This car really is all about that astonishing engine though. The 2.0-litre unit, equipped with double overhead cams and intelligent VTEC, Honda's stepless valve control system, combining to generate 200PS, which is quite something. No, it doesn't quite approach the otherworldliness of the S2000 roadster's 237bhp from a 2.0-litre engine, but for a hot hatch it's decidedly manic, especially when you consider that it's attained without the aid of a turbocharger.
What You Pay
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What to Look For
Very little: the car tends to prove predictably reliable. Your biggest problem may be finding one that suits your budget. Civic owners don't seem to be selling at the moment. Whatever you decide on, a full service history is preferable. The Type-R is a specialist proposition and you should make sure the vehicle has been well looked after, run in synthetic oil, has tread on the front tyres and hasn't been used as a weekend warrior by a track day fiend. Two years free servicing on every new Type-R means that nearly-new cars should at least have had their required dose of main dealer TLC.
(based on a 2002 Type-R - approx ex-Vat) Get a bit enthusiastic with the loud pedal and you'll get less than 8,000 miles out of your front pair of Bridgestone Potenzas and at £180 a pop that can be an expensive habit. Front and rear brake pads are around £55 and £50 respectively per set. A starter motor is £240, a radiator around £150, and an alternator around £275.
On the Road
Want to experience what it's like to drive the Honda Civic Type-R? Easy. Go to the Extreme Sports Channel on your digital television, sit approximately four inches from your television screen, crank up the volume and sellotape an electric battery drill to the top of your head. Stay in this position until the battery fails and then try having a rational conversation. The performance box is decisively ticked, 60mph flashing by in 6.8 frenzied seconds on its way to 145mph. Think of the rally-bred performance icons of the past such as the Ford Escort Cosworth and Lancia Delta Integrale and the Honda's performance is in the same ballpark, only with normal aspiration, front wheel drive and post-millennial emissions regulations to contend with. Outrageous.
The Civic Type-R is a car that is way more reliable and untemperamental than it has any right to be. A car that appeals to younger drivers - who tend to drive it hard and rev it to 8,000rpm -sounds like a grenade about to blow but it's worth reminding ourselves that above all, this car is a Honda. It regularly scores top marks in customer satisfaction surveys and will be remembered if not as an all-time great hot hatch, then certainly in the second tier of cars that never fail to raise a smile. As a used buy it's tough to top.