Honda Civic Type R
“But you wouldn’t actually have one, would you?” “I really might, actually.” “But… look at it.” That’s what every exchange over 10,523 miles and seven months with Top Gear’s 2017 Car of the Year has boiled down to. Folks will accept the 316bhp, Nürburgring-bred, multi-laprecord-breaking, £300/month Type R is an enormous amount of performance for not a massive amount of money. That it’s a honed driving tool, yet more liveable everyday than its predecessor. But people just can’t get beyond the Sonic/Lego/Halfords/Transformer/Elephant Man looks. Pick your metaphor. I’ve heard ’em all. And nope, I don’t like how it looks either. That smaller rear wing across the back window? A pain. The fake carbon-fibre skirts? Naff. Fake vents in both bumpers? Yuck.
What they hide is a vastly improved car. The new Type R’s concessions to everyday life go beyond its much-used Comfort mode, which is a real boon in tight car parks and slow-moving traffic, to lighten the steering and soften the ride. After 10k miles, this example has way fewer squeaks and rattles than the last version we ran suffered, because it’s been built properly this time. Built to cope with the punishment. The carpets haven’t disintegrated. The dash is solid. The only loose trim? The boot handles – curiously flimsy. And the paint is softer than a marshmallow on a campfire.
It’s a big car, the Civic, and you notice it in car parks. And for such a big footprint, only offering four seats (Honda bullishly says no middle rear seat is a Type R tradition) feels wasteful. The boot’s massive, though. The seats are superb. Cabin ergonomics are vastly improved from the old Type R. What a pity that global player Honda couldn’t be arsed to spend another tenner developing a touchscreen that wouldn’t look outdated in 1993. The vital Apple CarPlay integration was woefully unreliable. There’s no excuse in 2018. A cracking stereo gave partial redemption.
But, every time we put the Civic against rivals – new RS Megane and upstart Hyundai i30N included – it always monstered them. The Type R transcends what a front-drive hatch should be capable of. Anyone who dismisses it on looks alone is missing out on simply the best hot hatchback on Earth right now. Still.