Honda Civic Type R meets VW Golf R | World’s best hot hatchbacks reviewed and tested | Autocar


Both of these cars, the VW Golf R and this
Honda Civic Type R have got really good claims to being hot hatch royalty. That Golf R is
maybe the best all round hot hatch there’s ever been and this Civic Type R is the fastest
front wheel drive hot hatch there’s ever been. It’s pretty mega isn’t it, Hello!
What’s it like mate? Go on. Do you know what, it’s really, really good, it’s far
and away the best Civic Type R ever. I think we now have to consider the car that came
before this an engineering study, that’s what that was all about. It was Honda’s
engineers learning as much as they could about building a very powerful front wheel drive
hot hatch and they’ve applied all of that learning to this car. Yeah, it’s funny isn’t
it, because they went through a phase of thinking they weren’t going to do another Type R
because the world had moved on, obviously realised everyone still wanted one and like
that last car was only on sale for two years, wasn’t it. and it was very one dimensional. Is it fair
to say this isn’t? That’s absolutely fair to say, this car was developed concurrently
with the base Civic so this platform, now with independent rear suspension, was always
designed and intended to one day become a very powerful front wheel drive hot hatch.
Yeah, you don’t think it misses anything for not being four-wheel-drive? Absolutely
not at all, I mean it’s got good traction, it doesn’t torque steer wildly, yeah it
wouldn’t be better off if it was four wheel drive at all I don’t think, I think it would
just be heavier. It does feel light and agile doesn’t it and because of the double knuckle
spring strut suspension it doesn’t feel like it’s the front tyres at
all steering round. Well at least not in places I’ve driven it. What’s it like on a fairly bumpy
B-road. Okay, because I’ve got a bit of bumpy road here. This car now has a comfort
mode as you all know, the previous model didn’t and it slackens off the dampers beautifully
and it just means that it’s got this real plushness to the ride quality. It’s like sitting on a bed
of compressed air, it goes down the road beautifully. I’m actually going to pay it the biggest
compliment that I can pay a car. It feels, when you’re driving at good speed down a
bumpy road, like a Porsche GT car. That’s pretty high praise actually isn’t it? 2-litre,
4-cylinder turbocharged engine, 320 horsepower. It’s got tons and tons of performance but
it’s still quite a laggy engine. So you’ll be in third gear at just under 3000rpm, put
your foot down and you can count to one before it really starts boosting. Yeah it does take
a while to get going. Gearbox is good though isn’t it? Gearbox is fantastic. Yeah, all
Type R’s have got mega manual gearshifts and this is no exception, it’s really nice
actually and yeah the differential works really nicely actually, the differential is so good
that it just becomes one of the devices that you can use to control the car. So you use
the brakes to slow the car down, you use the engine to make it go quickly in a straight
line and you use the differential to drag you out of a corner, it’s really, really
satisfying actually. What I really like about this car is that it doesn’t have any major
foibles or any weird little quirks or trades that you have to learn to drive around. It’s
actually intuitive, you jump in and you can start driving it well and driving it fast
straight away. The interesting thing about it is because the Golf is, as we’ll find
out in a minute, is very much like that. Is this still, despite the fact that’s it a
great all round car, is it still exciting as well? I think it’s mega exciting, I really
do. I’ve been driving around in it all day and I just think it’s a huge amount of fun
to pedal along a good road. It’s quite a pointy chassis, it’s really well controlled,
really well sorted and I just think it’s huge fun to drive. What’s bad? Okay, there’s
a lot to like about this car but we should address it shouldn’t we, should we address
it now? Yeah we might as well, we better get it out the way. The way it looks. I know!
It’s funny isn’t it, Honda engineers have told me that there’s no scoops on it, there’s
no skirts and spoilers that are not essential. So all the vents and all the spoilers, everything,
they all do something. Which is something. Yeah, which is something. At least they’re
not just there to look aggressive. But I’m like you mate, I don’t really know anybody
who kind of likes the way this car looks. Yeah, I can count on one finger the number
of people who have told me they like how this car looks. It’s not a looker. Also the cabin,
if you’re used to premium cars in anyway, the cabin is going to be a let down. Yeah.
The infotainment is garbage, the navigation is just.. Is there a worse one than that?
I’m not sure there is. Don’t think there is, exactly, I don’t think there is. Having
said that, we now have a good driving position, the seat is much lower than it was in the
previous car. We’ve still got these mega really supportive seats. So in terms of the
things that matter in a high performance car, this cabin actually isn’t bad at all. Alright,
can I talk you through the Golf and at some point I suspect we’ll agree which one we
might prefer. Right so welcome down to, welcome you, to my, well not mine but you know a borrowed,
Volkswagen Golf R. Nice place, nice place to sit as far as hot hatches go. Try using
that. This thing, the infotainment system and the nav, it all just works, it’s intuitive.
Yeah, it’s brilliant. It’s just, as they all are in all Volkswagen group cars, you
know, the ergonomics are sound. Driving position is brilliant. Steering wheel goes exactly
where you want, you can just sit on a deck, bring it up close. It’s just a hot hatchback,
but first and foremost, it’s a hatchback, which offers it quite a lot. In terms of design,
this car and the Civic they’re polar opposites really. Yeah, totally. This is very restrained
and subtle and that Civic is just wild, yeah totally, totally. There are some big wheel
options on this and I just think oh no, it’s a bit much. Actually no, just keep it a tone
lower. It’s also pretty quick, 300 – ish horsepower. This one is a DSG, twin clutch. Would you have the
DSG or the manual? I don’t know, you know. I’ve driven 900 miles in a day with a manual
and it’s fine, it’s a good manual as well isn’t it, it’s quite snicky, it’s quite
sort of light and easy going. However, if I was driving one of these everyday and my
commute was like most commutes are, I think I’d probably have DSG. I had a pre facelift
car for the best part of a year, I did a load of miles in it, it was a manual and I actually
concluded that I would have the DSG box. I think it just suits the nature of the car
a bit better. Yeah because it’s not an engaging car, I don’t want to use the words ‘It’s
not exciting,’ because it kind of is in a way but it’s not as in your face exciting
as the Civic is it? It’s a different proposition, it’s an every day hot car rather than a special
one. It works on a deeper level doesn’t it really. Yeah, exactly. Engines good, engines
strong, nice linear power delivery. There’s a bit of lag, not loads. It makes an alright
noise, they’ve got this little sort of sound composer by the bottom of the dashboard to
sort of help that on a bit but it’s not, you know, it’s not a screaming engine or anything
like that is it really? No. Four-wheel-drive which means it’s got loads of traction and
it’s kind of front lead until it wants to put power to the rear but it doesn’t wait
until it scrabbles anymore does it. I think if you turn in and you’re trailing the brakes
into a corner it preps the diff to put power to the back, which is pretty clever. You no
longer sense that it’s waiting for the front wheels to slip before it shunts anything back.
Yeah exactly, but inevitably it adds a bit of weight so it’s less agile than even a
Golf GTI, I think but considerably less agile than the Civic. Yeah and ultimately, most
of the time I wouldn’t care that much, I agree, I agree. So let’s have a think, if
you were going to do a track day, you owned this car and you were going to do a track
day in this car. I think you’d probably go once and discover that the car’s actually
not really cut out for track work, it’s competent but just not that exciting. I think
if you had the Civic, you’d go on track and just think wow it’s fantastic I’m
going to do it again, and you’d keep doing it. Yeah, I reckon you’d be really happy
in one of these until you did a track day alongside somebody else. If you owned both,
what do you think the ratio would be of days you drove one versus days you drove the other?
I reckon I’d spend in a year, pushing on 300 days a year driving these rather than
a Civic. Agreed, yeah agreed but I think we both agree don’t we that this is the better
all rounder, it’s the car that you would use most of the time. We’d also agree though
that in terms of sheer excitement, in terms of thrill, that Civic has got an edge on this.
It’s really special isn’t it, it’s a special car and the Honda, no question, is
the better drivers car but I think this is the best car. Just maybe not the best drivers
car. That probably makes it overall, the best hot hatch that’s currently on sale. You
could make an argument it’s the best car in the world. Do you know what, I’d actually
go with that, I’ve written in the past that I think hot hatches are possibly the best
genre of car going, just because they cover just about every base and they’re affordable,
yeah exactly. There’s only so fast you can go on the road isn’t there, you know, you’ll
have a lot of fun in one of these, you go quickly, super reliable, you know, perfectly
fine to get into in December just as it is in August and all at £30,000. It’s such
a difficult car to criticise, it really is.

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