A big thank you to everyone who got stuck into the comments section when I introduced Top Gear’s new Honda Civic Type R last month. If you need to catch up, the spec of our Rallye Red Civic Type R GT - and the comments thread - is here…
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Life with Top Gear’s Honda Civic Type R: update 1
Our Type R’s properly run in and taking on a British winter
Discussing those looks
The questions you asked appeared to fall into three main categories. Set one is what I’ll call the ‘how the hell can you be seen dead driving that thing’ committee. Someone asked if it’s a pain to clean, and if the aero bits suffer with stone chips. Yes, the Civic’s hang-gliding-hedgehog styling really isn’t to all tastes, it’s fair to say. So as the miles rack up and the Civic visits all corners of the UK and ventures into Europe, I’ll report back on what it’s like living with such a brutally obnoxious wing, and the car on the bottom end.
Set two are the practicality questions. Plenty of you are quite keen to hear if the new XXL CTR is useful for carrying a family, and if it’s lost out in cargo skills after binning its clever flip-up cinema seats so the driver can sit lower this time (it’s to do with shifting the fuel tank back). And if the fuel economy is crippling. Fear not: the Civic has already been deployed as a taxi, a refuse truck and a mountain bike wagon. We’ll come back to that one.
All mouth and no trousers?
The last set is the questions that made me laugh. ‘How many traffic light grands prix have you won’? ‘Can you iron a pair of gentleman’s trousers on the rear wing’? I’ll have a go at answering these vital consumer queries as the law allows…
Winter is coming
Anyway, here’s a quick update on the Civic’s first 1000 miles, and how it’s coped with winter. As you can see from the pictures, the car’s able to contend with a dollop of snow over Christmas.
What’s been a really pleasant surprise is how much more neat’n’ tidy this Civic Type R is in slippery conditions than the old car. Having a Comfort mode to relax the dampers and keep the tyres working with the road is a proper godsend. I think the tyres themselves are in a different league too. It’s not had winters fitted: our Civic is on the factory-fit Continental SportContacts. They generate purchase from a greasy road that the old car’s functionally identical Contis couldn’t hope to find, and even when the boost does overwhelm their reserves of grip, the 20-inch rubber loses and regain traction with a smoother grip/slip/grip transition than the snatchy, trampingsensation in the old car. It’s a spectacular transformation if you happen to live somewhere where rain is what’s known as ‘a lovely summer’s day’.
So it’s miles easier to drive the new car smoothly in dire weather, and still deploy decent gobbles of power. Which is pretty much the point of a Type R. Not the full 316bhp – front-drive has its limitations – but it’s nowhere near as frustrating as it used to be. It even works in snow.
Winter has exposed an irritating carryover from the old Civic though: this Type R steams up a lot. I think while it was being built a wet dog somehow got loose in the factory and hid in ‘my’ car for a while. From the moment it arrived, just 328 miles old, the car’s suffered with its windows fogging up incessantly.
I don’t like to run the A/C constantly because it knackers fuel economy and doesn’t allow the stop-start to work in traffic. But unless the Civic is in constant demist mode on a damp day, all the windows are quickly layered with condensation.
Plus, if you turn on the air recirculation (handy in London, where I live, to stop the climate control fan sucking fumes into the cabin), the A/C gets cancelled and makes the issue even worse. The rear window’s heater element button is going to get worn out at this rate. I’m planning to get hold of a dehumidifier and see if that dries the car out, but it’s shame Honda hasn’t sussed out a problem that existed last time around.
The Type R only had a 45-litre tank. This shot was taken after its first fill-up, having summited the mighty heights of 30mpg. Isn’t that display so Japanese? So many readouts, numbers and general anal retentiveness. Like that.
So far, it’s settled at about 28mpg, though that seems to be improving as the engine loosens up. I babied it for the first 500 miles, then gradually started using a few more revs, but didn’t challenge the change-up lights at the far end of the rev band until the magic 1000 miles had passed, so I’m happy the 2.0-litre turbo VTEC has been run in sympathetically. Still, only 250 miles or so to a tank is getting to be a bit of a pain. The challenge to breach 300 on one batch of super-unleaded starts here…
There’ll be plenty of other details about life with the Type R to come back and mull over in the next couple of weeks. We need to talk about Apple CarPlay. Wireless smartphone charging. The decision to fit an electric handbrake. And whether or not this new Type R can, in fact, drive itself…
Stay tuned, and keep the comments coming.