Honda Civic Type R: A Brief History #HondaHappening

There are certain initials that are used by the major car manufacturers around the world that signify, to us mere mortals at least, that what we’re looking at is really something rather special. MotorMartin has already spoken of the superb Peugeot 205 GTI on BlackTopMedia in an article that can be read about here which briefly touched upon the hot hatch phenomenon of the late 80s and early 90s. Unfortunately, the vast majority of hot hatches that were so immensely popular back in the day are no longer with us, think various Ford XRi, Vauxhall GTE, Lancia’s HF, the Renault 5 Turbo to name but a few. And then we have those manufacturers that have gamely carried on with the hot hatch, never quite giving up, despite pressure to do so from legislators and insurance companies, the obvious being Volkswagen with the Golf GTI, Fiat and Abarth, the aforementioned Peugeot GTE and Ford with their ST nomenclature taking over from the iconic XRi initials.

Yet one name that is rarely mentioned in petrol soaked discussion, is that of Honda and their Civic Type R. Honda, that safe and reliable designer of family cars, cars that take you to work and back, not heaven. What then are we doing discussing Honda amongst such automotive hedonism, especially a Honda such as the Civic for goodness sake.

A glance at the picture above should tell you that this is no ordinary Civic that MotorMartin is concentrating on today, indeed, it’s as far removed from the standard, overly conservative looking edition as the Type R driver is to the Civic’s more usual demographic. Back in the early to mid nineties though, the fast car enthusiast was already aware of the Type R name as Honda had previously used it on their imperious NSX. The very first Type R model with which Honda’s stated aim was to develop a road-going racing car, hence the ‘championship white’ paintjob and red Honda emblem and the small matter of development work completed by some chap named Ayrton Senna, whoever he was. The Civic has been around since 1972 straddling the middle ground on the other side of the pond and Japan at first, before making its way to over 160 nations and regions worldwide, some 33 years later.

Then in 1995, the world received the all new and revised sixth edition Civic, a rather traditionally styled hatchback that did exactly what it said on the tin and kept many Honda fans on the road for years to come, such was its superior build quality and reliability compared to some of its more well known competitors. 1997 however, delivered somewhat of a shock to the typical Civic owner as not only did The Spice Girls attempt to Spice Up Your Life but Honda had decided that enough was enough and it was time to enhance their reputation once again with a ‘spiced’ up version of the evergreen Civic. It didn’t take long for Honda engineers to latch on to the spirit behind the original NSX Type R, namely, that of a road-going racing car as the Civic was offered, for the first time, in high performance Type R specification.

Figures at the time stated that the Civic Type R, with it’s 4 cylinder, 16 valve, VTEC engine, displacing a mere 1.6 litres, still managed to produce a quite superb 185 bhp at a stratospheric, for the time, 8200 rpm. Incredible. Combine that with 120 lb-ft torque at 7500 rpm meant that this was an engine that loved to be revved, a tradition that has lived on through the various incarnations of Civic Type R right up to the very latest 2016 edition which MotorMartin’s colleague, Tony Yates, will be reviewing tomorrow.

All that power would have been no good without a chassis to deal with it so hot hatch fans the world over were relieved to discover that Honda’s experienced technicians had worked their magic on both the suspension and handling, the Civic EK9 Type R, to give the car it’s full name, boasting a stiffer bodyshell, lower suspension, bigger brakes and revised pedals, all of which combined to produce a car that truly lived up to it’s mission statement, that of being a road-going racing car.

But it was efficient too, with 22.8mpg and a massive 45-litre fuel tank, plenty of room for the driver and passengers alike and even a decent boot, the Civic was able to be a practical family car when need be yet able to unleash it’s wild side at a moments notice, essential capabilities for a hot hatch. With the unique and sporty interior, comfortable seats and unmistakable feeling of Honda quality, the Civic Type R was a winner straight out of the box.

If there was to a be a hot hatch that truly defined the genre it would take an extremely strong contender to take the crown off the incredible Honda Civic Type R. Well done Honda. A superb job.

Where will you go?

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