The last Civic Type R made the best of a flawed package. The next one, built around the tech-laden tenth-generation Civic, is Honda making amends. And on this evidence it’s really very sorry
Peak Civic. Honda has thrown everything it’s got at the tenth-generation of its family car, pooling the three global bodystyles under one team, and empowering it to deploy one-third of the company’s entire r&d resource in the largest single development programme in Honda history. And before the regular petrol and diesel models have gone anywhere near showrooms – sales don’t begin until spring 2017 – Honda is readying us for peak, peak Civic, the Type R.
First, the performance prototype was tested on the Nurburgring Nordschleife, where today’s FK2 Type R claimed the hot hatch lap record in 2014. It then re-emerged in Spain for hot weather durability testing. And just 13 days ago, executives unveiled a concept at the Paris motor show. Enigmatically, the company gave away scant information.
Next year will mark 25 years of Honda’s Type R performance brand, and the fifth-generation hot Civic will be unleashed in that anniversary year. Not that Honda Europe’s chief operating officer Katsushi Inoue confirmed the precise timing, when I asked him about a flagship hatch at the unveiling of the standard Civic. “You mean Type R?” he exclaimed, hooting with laughter. “We are thinking about it. In the lifecycle it comes.” “But we’ve seen a prototype,” I proffered. More chuckling. “It won’t be long…” Revealing the Paris concept, Honda did admit it would be on sale in the second half of 2017: reassuring news, given its slothfulness in launching the recent NSX and the five-year Type R hiatus for UK buyers from 2010.
The concept, and the prototypes, give a clear indication of the Type R. Principal designer Daisuke Tsutamori says the aggressive look of the ‘ultimate’ Civic is shaped by function. “I call it the war machine,” he says. “Inspiration comes from jet fighters.” But the special sauce for this car – the technical advances that make us very, very excited about the next-gen Type R – come under the skin. It starts with the engineering philosophy: everything is geared to making the new Civic brilliant to drive. “The highlight is, always will be, the dynamic performance, the feeling of how the car drives,” Mitsuru Kariya, chief engineer for the entire project, told me.
So the tenth-generation Civic bloods a new architecture, which is lighter, stiffer and has a 10mm lower centre of gravity. Resistance to bending is increased by 52% thanks to encircling bulkheads, extensive cross-bracing, more concentrated welding points and by assembling the body’s outer frame first, then adding its inner frame and joints, which Honda claims defies industry convention. Despite this robust structure, the bodyshell is said to be 16kg lighter, in a car that’s significantly longer than the outgoing model.
This rigid platform provides a solid base to mount the suspension, essential for tuning precise dynamic responses. The Civic uses MacPherson struts up front, and hydraulic compliance bushings at both ends to quell noise and vibration, an Achilles heel of the ninth-generation Civic. And there’s a significant development at the rear: the Civic finally switches to multi-link independent suspension, like higher performance versions of its engineering yardsticks, the Audi A3 and VW Golf. “The A3 is really dynamic: you can drive very fast with great confidence. That driving performance was the main point we wanted to benchmark,” reveals Kariya-san.
“We’d really hit the limit of the torsion bar,” he adds. “With independent suspension the ride comfort increases, and the handling of course. With the highly responsive rear suspension, you have much more stability and much higher cornering speeds are achievable.”
All of which sounds promising for the new Type R. The regular Sport can be specified with adaptive damping; the Type R is sure to employ this, hopefully providing a broader spread of ride settings than the ‘rock’ and a hard place’ of today’s car. The flagship hatch’s body will naturally be lowered, confirms Tsutamori.
The 30mm broader platform also provides an increased footprint to boost balance, enhanced by sticky Continental Sport Contact 6 rubber on the concept’s 20-inch rims.
The Civic finally switches to multi-link independent rear suspension
Power and a lever
Type R will retain current car’s 2.0-litre four-cylinder VTEC unit, which today produces 306bhp and 295lb ft of torque. No sign of a dual-clutch ‘box, so a six-speed manual is nailed on. Frantic shifting a Type R rite of passage.
Turbocharging key to meet Type R’s goals (and towering specific output), hence the intercooler scoop. But could previous monoscroll turbocharger make way for twin sequential blowers?
Great Japanese brake off
Huge vents lurk in the flared arches behind the 20in front wheels, to help scavenge hot air from the wheel wells and cool the big Brembo brakes – with their four-piston calipers and drilled and ventilated discs.
No all-wheel drive
After Focus RS it’s the question everyone’s asking, but a four-wheel-drive Civic Type R isn’t happening. Yet. “It was never an option – even in America there’s no big demand for it,” says the chief engineer. Clearly, we didn’t demand it loudly enough.
Beams out, links in
Previous Type R’s torsion beam junked for multi-link independent suspension, just like Audi’s A3. Engineering makes for “more stability and higher cornering speeds”.
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