Honda has the Hottest Hatch of the lot

It may still look like a car you’d send the kids to school in, but boy oh boy is it fast. Automologist MAC reports on this record-breaking offering from Honda. 

The Honda Civic Type R is now the world’s fastest hot hatch in the front-wheel-drive category after it set a blisteringly fast lap time around the Nürburgring in Germany, and in doing so established a new performance benchmark that the others will have to try and follow. The Honda Civic Type R debut at the recent 2017 Geneva Motor Show and was billed as being “all-new”. Then April 3rd came and somebody had the smart idea of running the car around the Nürburgring’s Nordshleife (yes, there is a southern loop as well, but it is no longer used) where the spritely little pocket rocket managed to clock a time of 7 minutes and 43.8 seconds which – when you consider the Lambo’s, Porsche’s and Pagani’s only go about 20 seconds faster than that – makes it a very decent time.

This particular Civic is the 10th reincarnation in the long line of Civic’s and was engineered to be the most rewarding drive in the hot hatch category, either on the road or track. I don’t know if that is a marketing spin but I can’t wait to get my hands on one to see what I can do down at Sepang in Malaysia.

At the heart of the car – and thus the new benchmark time at the Nürburgring – is the 2-litre VTEC engine that puts out 320bhp, which compared to a measly 292 from the Golf R, another contender for hottest hatch, will get a few teenage boys squirming in their….well, whatever it is that teenage boys squirm in. However, this is still a little down from the all-wheel-drive Ford Focus with 345 bhp or the insane Audi RS3 with 400bhp, but I am sure that Honda will quickly remind me that both of those need to have power on all four wheels to get the power down.

The chassis is more rigid with a torsional stiffness improvement of 38% and is also 16kg lighter than the outgoing model. The gear box has seen some improvements as well, with new lower gear ratios in the six-speed box aiding its sprint time from the line. Improved multi-linked rear suspension helps keep the tyres on the roads, particularly in cornering and allowing for later braking as well.

For those of us out there who are not experts on the Honda design, the new car looks remarkably similar to the old one, but according to the Honda marketing blurb, there is a completely new and comprehensive aerodynamics package that helps to deliver outstanding high speed stability and the “best-in-class” balance between lift and drag. The inside, though…well, this was never one of Honda’s strong points and true to say the interior still lacks a certain level of sophistication.

It comes with three driving modes to choose from, with the very agile performance-ish “Sport” mode, the ever popular and exceedingly lairy “+R” track mode and now a new “Comfort” mode, which is probably there to rectify some of the ride issues suffered in the older Civic R.

No other manufacturer have announced plans to best the time set by Honda, but Honda is apparently determined to defend its record. Chief Engineer for the Type R programme, Hisayuki Yagi, is quoted as saying that Honda would create a new and faster Type R if any rival manufacturer breaks the record with a production spec model.

Of course I am excited about seeing and driving one in the flesh, despite the fact that this car looks like the practical, family-focused school-run vehicle on which it is based.

Yup, still not sophisticated…

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