How good is the new 2021 Civic Type-R?

We review the new Honda Civic Type-R in NZ

Thanks to Top Gear, Honda has picked up a bit of a reputation for being rather bland and boring. Admittedly, there was a point where a cursory glance at their drivers in heavy traffic revealed a sea of blue rinse but nowadays not so much. Their new design language is exciting and vehicles moreso, even six time Indycar champion and Kiwi Scott Dixon drives a Honda. Anyway, in 1992 Honda merged their ontrack racing prowess with their on road sports cars and created Type-R and this week Honda New Zealand gave me their latest model, the 2021 Civic Type-R for a blat.

Some of you may remember this, but way back in 2017 Honda launched a new and dramatic looking Civic Type-R. It was full of sharp angles, a polarizing rear wing, a tight manual gearbox and a thrilling driving experience - well guess what, the 2021 model is all that and then some.

Firstly there’s a new colour, ‘boost blue’ and you can spot it from a mile away, what’s more, it contrasts perfectly with the five-door sports hatch’s red and black accents. Both front and rear bumpers have been tweaked and now include body coloured blades while the front lower spoiler is more pronounced and sharper and the grille is 13% larger to allow greater airflow into the engine bay.

It still comes with its impressive 2L turbocharged VTEC engine that embraces high revs and produces 228kW of power and 400Nm of torque and that super slick, mechanical feel, rev matching 6-speed manual box remains - thank goodness.

Just like the Type-R Honda badge itself, the interior is a sea of racing red. The Type-R suede sports seats are not for those that suffer migraines but then again, not much of this vehicle is, including the alcantara steering wheel. Pride of place in the cabin is the manual gearstick, its design is a clear nod to the EK9 and is attached to a 90g counterweight for a refined feel when changing gear - something you’ll do a lot.

The infotainment screen has been upgraded and is now very app based (with Apple/Android compatibility) and also comes with a Type-R exclusive LogR performance datalogger. It’s a new system combining the onboard computer and built-in sensors with a companion smartphone app to help drivers monitor and improve their technique, aka drive better/faster particularly on the track. However, it’s also loaded with Honda’s advanced safety system ‘Sensing’ for added peace of mind.

Anywho, being as the Civic Type-R is a performance car meant that I headed straight to my performance road circuit, a mixture of country road driving and an ample assortment of tight and open bends.

Behind the scenes, this 2021 model’s suspension has been uprated with faster adaptive dampers, stiffer bushes front and rear and the steering has been improved (something about lower friction ball joints), it’s been a while since I’ve been behind the wheel of the Type-R but both turn in and cornering felt quick and responsive - especially in Type-R driving mode - seriously, is there any other mode to be in?

In actual fact, there is a practical side to the Civic, Comfort does lessen the firmness of the ride and there’s enough room for ‘stuff’ in the boot but this is a car that likes to be driven.

The rev-matching blip when changing down a gear (or two) brings a smile to your face and makes you feel like a race car driver, move over Scott, and should you require them, the brakes are quick to pull you up to a halt, plus they now have 2-piece rotors to reduce brake fade.

I should have mentioned this up front but I have an affinity with the Honda New Zealand Civic Type-R as it’s made (or at least was) in my hometown of Swindon, but even if I didn’t, it’s a vehicle that’s easy to fall for. It’s a driver’s car that thrills in the corners and rewards you when being pushed. Oh and by the way, Top Gear rated it 9/10 saying ‘it’s a spectacularly good hot hatch’ to which I concur.

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