Honda Type R 1998–2001
OUR PICK: Honda Integra Type R DC2 (UK) up to £15,000
Like Japanese knife masters or ryokan innkeepers, the people who develop Type Rs are borderline obsessive in tracking down engineering tweaks for driving precision. A Type R isn’t just a regular Honda with a bigger engine and crudely stiffened springs. No, it’s a feast of detail-freakery most honourable. Delete that ‘borderline’. If a lightweight back seat, titanium gearknob, hand-balanced engine, braced shell or thinned soundproofing will help, that’s what they get. Hang the expense.
There are a few non-official Japanese domestic market (JDM) Type Rs around, such as the little 1997 EK9 Civic, or the FD2 saloon, and Integras unknown to British eyes. Or indeed the amazing NSX Type R, of which a solitary example was brought in by Honda UK, but non-official ones also came because they’re transcendent and irresistible. Should the S2000 roadster have been a Type R? We say yes. Really, though, it kicks off in Britain in 1998 with the four-headlamp DC2 Integra Type R, a worthy candidate for best-handling front-driver ever. Awesomely sharp, it was adjustable yet forgiving, and full of chatter. Never mind the thin tyres and small engine, because when it’ll do zero to sixty in the sixes and rev into the high eights, you care little. You’ll even ignore the excruciating road noise and jittery ride.
That laid the foundations, while the EP3 breadvan Civic put Type R into the mainstream consciousness. There have been diversions since, including the Accord saloon, perhaps the definitive Q-car – its Airbus boot wing was a delete option, see. Every one was an intricate mechanism of magically accurate response. They felt delicate and shorn of flab, yet indefatigable and tough as piano wire. If the later turboed Civics have a more brutish engine character and bigger grip, they retain sensitivity in their transmission and chassis. A sensitivity that’s all but psychic.