Wheels24 correspondent Egmont Sippel names his top 10 cars of 2016. Below is his review of the Honda Civic Type R.
Cape Town - Wind the automotive clock back by many years and you’ve got the E46 BMW M3, a seriously good and spirited coup.
Then the CSL version of the same M3 debuted, weighing in at more than a 100kg less, with some bits and pieces replaced, deleted or moved around to create optimum weight distribution and the lowest possible centre of gravity.
Springs, dampers and the steering ratio were tightened; front brake rotors and the air intake got bigger; camshaft profiling was sharpened and the electrohydraulic SMG II transmission gained advanced drivelogic software to swap gears in 0.08 secs.
Raw and brutal
It was positively raw and brutal, this lightweight M3 and specifically its SMG box. You could tear or compress the car in half, just by slamming up and down the gears. In shift after shift after shift it shook and shuddered the CSL off the Richter scale.
But it was oh so exciting. With this car, this hooligan, this monster, you had a real racing machine in your hands: 270kW and the sharpest turn-in ever. It made the standard M3 feel like a tank.
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The Honda Type R is the CSL of modern hot hatches, with these differences:
1. It is front- instead of rear-wheel driven; and
2. Changing gear is not an exercise in violence, triggered by pulling a paddle. It is an exercise in mechanical ballet, synchronised by foot and hand, at the speed of light.
Not sound. Light.
For this, surely, is the best manual box in the history of automation, which means that the Honda S2000’s box is relegated to second.
Huh? Eez that possible?
Yes. The Type R throw is as short as the S2000’s, the action almost as wonderfully sweet and the shift split even quicker. If you know how to use the 228 kW 2.0-litre’s turbo-charged revs - and very little or no clutch pedal at all - the throw from first to second is, wait for it, as quick as any on a double clutch box or, if you will, the M3 CSL’s SMG II.
Yet, nowhere near as violent and brutal.
READ: Is the Honda Civic Type R the perfect car for enthusiasts?
It is, in fact, sweet and virtually seamless. Revs drop from their 7000rpm peak, the soundtrack lowers its boom, thrust builds anew and the accumulation of speed continues unabated.
The world hurtles past.
And in the process, you discover something brutal about the Type R’s personality and character.
It shows in the low-slung, cab-forward, tail-up, bullet-like stance. It lurks in the angry, low-pitched growl that fills the cabin on start-up. It shimmies through an intimate hug of the road carried by extra-firm but weirdly tolerable ZF damping.
It explodes in the unflinching pursuit of balls-to-the-wall speed, the fast throttle response, the immediacy of turn-in, the unrelenting grip, the mighty brakes, the tear-away acceleration, the focus and intent and purpose, the pure character aimed at one thing and one thing only: absolute performance amidst a cacophony of noise.
Purpose in design
Not for nothing are there splitters and air dams all over the super-aggressive nose. Not for nothing is there a Boeing wing and wild diffuser bolted to the back. Not for nothing are there four spitting bazookas roaring off into the distance.
For this car ain’t gonna take no prisoners. It regularly pulls 1.1 and even 1.2g’s through corners, with the accelerometer lit up by occasional spikes of 1.3 and 1.4.
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That’s mega. Grip is simply prodigious, performance shattering.
But the Type R exerts a toll which, by the same token, shapes an intimate bond between car and driver. And it does so by being a bloody difficult steed to tame when you’re driving on the limit, trying to extract the maximum without being untidy or losing time.
To be this clinical in the Type R requires total focus and a new way of attacking corners, especially as optimum downshifts into corners (to fully make use of engine braking without running into the rev limiter) arrives only after braking and sometimes even turn-in has commenced, with the inverse (namely early upshifts) required unexpectedly soon after apexes - all the while with only one hand on the wheel as the other blitzes through the box.
There’s an intensity, then, about the Type R which is ever-present, even when cruising, let alone hitting the red R button to sharpen performance and beef up the dampers even further.
This is a race car, period. In this respect the Type R is raw and brutal and you’re reminded of it, not only by the Honda’s singular intent on hunting down tarmac and carving it up, but also by the constant demand for total focus, total concentration, total commitment.
In return, the Type R gives so much back in terms of sheer wonder and exhilaration, that you feel like a Vietnam vet once the engine is switched off.
For how will a soldier survive, once the war is over?