Honda shows sporty side to its character

Honda is the most schizophrenic of motor manufacturers. On the one hand it makes sensiblly reliable cars loved by older people. On the other, it creates hot-blooded cars which will turn any true petrolhead to jelly.

Honda Civic Type R GT

This is one of the latter. It’s the Civic Type R which is a dynamite explosion of a car which rockets to 60mph in 5.7 seconds and can top 167mph if you’re on an autobahn or a racing circuit.

Type R vehicles were originally built for racing but are now marketed as high-performance road cars and have built a huge following worldwide over the last 22 years.

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And it’s easy to see why. The Civic Type R is an alluring vehicle with its huge rear spoiler, aggressive front, even more aggressive rear and lashings of bodykit.

But it’s inside - with its red sports seats and cockpit-style cabin - which really engages.

Yet it feels like a perfectly normal car at low speeds. The suspension is sharp, making you feel every bump in the road, but the engine sounds almost placid.

But engage the R button and put your foot down, and the Civic Type R almost takes off. It’s the quickest front-wheel-drive hatchback and has the highest top speed (5.7 seconds to 60mph and a top speed of 167mph where permitted).

It is a car with few real faults. The price? Well, £32,300 is a lot for a hatchback, but it’s cheap for such a high performer. Build quality? Fantastic, which is why Honda do so well in the J D Power customer satisfaction surveys.

It’s not perfect, though. The stereo system and ‘infotainment’ takes a little time to get used to. The controls are fiddly, which is the last thing you want when you have such a frisky ride.

The rear vision is limited, too, by poor visibility through the rear window.

That said, if you want a car which can combine sensible hatchback offerings with supercar-style performance, the Civic Type R is your obvious choice.

My favourite feature is the R button. It’s a bit like a Batmobile switch in that when you switch it on, the responses of the various chassis and drivetrain systems are sharpened. It’s a bit like injecting adrenaline into the car. Steering becomes more responsive and the dampers becoming 30 per cent more responsive. It makes the car firmer and more agile.

The Civic Type R - which is built in Swindon - is, of course, a sensible hatchback at heart. It is well-equipped with some sporty offerings as standard.

It has beautiful black alloy wheels, Brembo discs and callipers, sports seats and leather trim.

It has luxury features too such as climate control, cruise control, parking camera (which is useful considering the odd-shaped rear window) and keyless ignition. The alloy pedals and gearknob are nice touches, too, while the speed limiter should rein you in if you go too quickly.

The standard Type R comes with all those features but the test-model is a Type R GT which means it adds automatic lights and wipers, auto-dimming rear view mirror, a better ‘infotainment’ system, parking sensors, dual-zone climate control, retractable mirrors.

It also has ‘ambient light’ and ‘driver assistance safety systems’ which comprise features such as bleeps to warn of lane departure, collisions and blind-spot traffic, and the car will also recognise and react to road signs such as speed limits.

Honda Civic Type R GT

PRICE: £32,300. Civic range starts at £16,470

ENGINE: A 2.0 litre VTEC engine generating 310ps via front wheel drive

PERFORMANCE: Top speed 167mph and 0 to 60mph in 5.7 seconds

COSTS: 38.7mpg on a combined route

EMISSIONS: 170g/km

INSURANCE: 33E

WARRANTY: Three years, 90,000 miles