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Honda Civic Type R hatchback (2007 – 2010) expert review

By Stuart Milne, 23rd June 2007

The verdict

The Honda Civic Type R’s bold looks, breath-taking performance and brilliant reliability make the ultimate hot-hatch for the PlayStation generation.

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Expert rating:

3.8

Pros

  • Imposing looks
  • Brilliant VTEC engine
  • Impressive practicality

Cons

  • Compromised rear visibility
  • Can draw unwanted attention
  • Harsh ride

Full Review

1. Exterior

Love it or hate it, even the standard Honda Civic turns heads wherever it goes. And the Type-R version has even more appeal. It might not look like it, but the lower panels – including the doors, rear wings and front and rear bumpers are unique to the three-door Civic. Specifying a Type-R version adds sculpted side skirts and deeper front and rear bumpers, while a black ‘honeycomb’ grille replaces the glass panel which runs across the front of standard Civics. A set of 18-inch alloys and a larger rear wing finish the look, although the latter seriously compromises rear visibility.
Our rating: 4

2. Interior

The concept car look carries on in the cabin, where there are no fewer than three display screens – a digital readout for the speedo, a huge analogue rev counter with digital readouts for some of the ancillary functions and a digital display for the radio. It takes a bit of getting used to, but seemed natural after a few hundred miles behind the wheel. After the unique dash, the seats need to be something special – and they are. Supremely comfortable and supportive, they are finished in red cloth with black suede-like bolsters with Type-R livery.
Our rating: 4

3. Practicality

The Civic should be commended for the huge amount of interior space. It’s got a huge 485-litre boot – 100 litres more than a Ford Focus – which increases to more than 1,350 litres with the seats folded There’s plenty of storage space around the cabin too, including a refrigerated glovebox in the GT version we tested. It’s probably the most practical hatchback round in terms of interior room. The bonnet slopes away so steeply there’s very little sense of the length of the car, and the rear spoiler obliterates rear visibility.
Our rating: 4

4. Ride and handling

Honda says it aimed to produce an experience as near to driving a race car as possible, and it has succeeded. There’s virtually no body roll, and the steering is wonderfully quick to react, meaning the Type-R can change direction in an instant. We think it could be a fantastic track car; and it’s no slouch on the road either. The ride might be too hard for some, but it adds to the experience. The Type-R sits on lowered and stiffened suspension with a rear track (the distance between the wheels) increased in width by 15mm to increase stability.
Our rating: 5

5. Performance

Its 200bhp is less than the Ford Focus ST, Seat Leon Cupra and Volvo C30 2.5T, but is quicker to 62mph than most of its rivals. Top speed is 146mph, about the same as the Type-R’s competitors. The Civic remains docile under 5,400rpm, but turns into a motorbike-sounding screamer between 5,400 and its 7,950rpm redline. Keeping the car in the VTEC zone is an incredible feeling as the revs build, the six-speed manual gearbox has a perfect set of ratios to keep the engine spinning between the magic numbers.
Our rating: 4

6. Running costs

Although Honda claim the Type-R can manage an average fuel consumption figure of 31mpg, our road testers struggled to keep it above 27mpg. That’s got a lot to do with the intoxicating blend of sound and acceleration when it’s driven hard. Insurance is about average for a hot hatch, while 215g/km of CO2 place it in a costly band for road tax. Honda offers two trim levels, the standard Type-R and the GT – the former doesn’t have air-con, which is a surprising omission for an expensive car.
Our rating: 3

7. Reliability

It’s a Honda, so a decent level of reliability is guaranteed; although some of the trim on our test car felt flimsy. The exterior door handles didn’t really feel up to the job, while the centre console trim between the front seats could be easily moved from side to side. Used Type-R buyers should watch for crash damage and signs of hard use on road or even on track. Honda claim never to have a single reported failure of a VTEC system; impressive when the driver is encouraged to frequently hit the 7,950rpm redline.
Our rating: 3

8. Safety

Although the Type-R hasn’t been tested by Euro NCAP’s crash assessment programme, the standard Civic has, scoring four stars for both adult and child occupant protection. That’s less than the Ford Focus, Renault Megane, Volvo C30 and Volkswagen Golf. The standard Type-R only has four airbags while the GT model gets six: front, side and curtain.
Our rating: 3

9. Equipment

Honda expects the higher-spec GT model to make up around 80 per cent of all sales, and the extra cost  is worth spending for the additional airbags alone. Standard models come with 18-inch alloys, a trip computer, ABS, stability control and electronic brakeforce distribution and those fancy racing seats. The GT model adds climate control, curtain airbags, cruise control, automatic headlights and front fog lamps. It seems a shame some of the equipment on the GT isn’t available as standard on all models.
Our rating: 4

10. Why buy?

The Civic Type-R is bought for its looks, its reliability and its cracking engine. It’s bristling with technology and fills a gap between the thuggish Focus ST and the refined Golf GTI. In time, it will be regarded as a modern masterpiece.
Our rating: 4

Expert review 3.8stars

  • Exterior4
  • Interior4
  • Practicality4
  • Ride and handling5
  • Performance4
  • Running costs3
  • Reliability3
  • Safety3
  • Equipment4
  • Why buy?4

Our recommendations

Best on a budget:
2.0 i-VTEC Type R
The best value Type R lacks some kit, but none of the fun.
Best-seller /Blow the budget:
2.0 i-VTEC Type R GT
The most popular Type R is the enthusiast’s choice.

In time, the Civic Type R will be regarded as a modern masterpiece