Honda Civic Type R GT – the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party

Back in the 1980s I drove a ‘loadsamoney’ Porsche 911 with a ridiculous rear spoiler. Nowadays you need to own a Lamborghini for anything quite so outrageous – or perhaps a Honda Civic Type R? That’s right, the company that makes lawnmowers also offers a crazy version of every grandmother’s favourite runabout. The £35k Type R is loaded with a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine churning out 316bhp. It has a ‘modest’ 0-60mph time of around 5.8 seconds but equipped with four-wheel drive, this car goes faster than a stabbed rat. Top speed is 169mph – although don’t expect fuel economy of 36.7mpg (combined) attempting that. Join us for a May day dash in the Mad Hatter of hatchbacks…

Hot hatchbacks – sounds like a moniker from the last century. Golf GTI, Peugeot 205 GTI, Ford Escort XR3 – remember them? It may be 2018 but manufacturers haven’t forgotten wannabe supercars for those on a tight budget.

The best picks of the bunch couldn’t be more different. The subtly styled Golf R is a class act minus the bling – the Honda Civic Type R is laden with spoilers and side skirts.

Definitely not one for the shy retiring type, the R outpunches the ridiculous Focus RS for in your face looks. Even a 1990s Subaru Impreza looks like the Plain Jane sister in comparison.

It may be my age but it took me some time to get used to all the attention. Truly, it’s off the chart for silliness.

The rear end is a concept drawing for a spaceship from the next Star Wars movie. And there’s an extra exhaust pipe too – just in case two weren’t quite enough to get you noticed.

At least those pipes don’t make too ridiculous a noise – thank heavens the middle one has been designed to reduce the audible fireworks.

This is no ordinary Civic but it does get the standard big boot, a spacious interior and all the rest of it. Otherwise, the motor that holds the lap record for the fastest front-wheel drive car around the Nurburging goes a bit nuts.

Beefed up suspension and a range of drive settings from ‘comfort’ to ‘+R’ ensure this Honda can serve as an everyday family car or a weekend track star.

Sure, the infotainment system isn’t the clearest – buy a Golf R for that – and the trim is nowhere near VW standards but point it around a corner and the Type R absolutely flies.

To be honest, I’m more of a Golf R man these days but if you like to hang around public cars parks and leave your windows open with the music playing loud (you know who you are), this is definitely a step up from the Focus RS.

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Thursday – Red Zone

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I don’t mind blending in with the crowd sometimes. The CR-V may be unremarkable to look at but it has the sleek, angular looks of the rest of the current Honda line-up.

Our test car, in a light metallic, looks especially good from the rear. The small back screen may make reversing tricky but the SR model parked on the driveway features a reversing camera to help out.

Unfortunately, the previous driver had turned off the audible warning while in reverse – so I nearly ploughed into another car when slipping into a parking space yesterday! It just shows how much we have come to rely on such features in modern cars.

And there’s something else remarkable about the i-DTEC CR-V too – it does, eventually, run out of fuel! After a week and 450 miles of hard driving, the needle has finally hit the red zone. Time for a new car…

Wednesday – Greenest CR-V Yet

 

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The greenest CR-V in the fleet is also the lightest. The 1.6 i-DTEC diesel is 47kg less than the 2.2 diesel and removing the four-wheel drive system cuts the weight by an additional 69kg. Impressive.

It has to be good because if the Honda is going to compete with the ubiquitous hatchback, it has to be worth the £27,000 price tag too. So, what else can the CR-V offer, above the excellent fuel economy?

The boot space is best in class, with back seats that are simple to fold with one pull and a low loading lip. Rear headroom is plentiful, although rear visibility is restricted by the small back screen.

This is also the best CR-V to look at – a big step up from the previous model which looked overweight and dull. You will also find the dashboard lay-out first class, especially the high-mounted gear changer, which is perfectly placed for easy use, flicking through the six-speed gearbox.

Tuesday – Learning A Lesson

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Oh dear… No sooner had I stated that an SUV doesn’t need four-wheel drive to be a decent car than the worst happens! A quiz night in the Cotswolds usually involves a pub and a car park – but not this time.

The marquee for this fund-raiser was on the side of a hill and although metal tracking had been put in place to help cars slip up the slope, our two-wheel drive CR-V made a complete hash of it.

What made it especially painful was that an old Saab 9-5 estate seemed to cope with the include better than we did. There was an air of oneupmanship as the Land Rover drivers looked and questioned why a CR-V – usually a four-wheel drive machine – was struggling so badly.

What I discovered the hard way was that just because a two-wheel drive SUV looks like it has 4×4, it doesn’t mean it will do the same job in the dirt. Lesson learnt.

 

Monday – Chris Who?

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Why is it that when motoring writers become famous they seem to forget about the cars that 99 per cent of the rest of us have to drive?

Clarkson is a great comedy act, Top Gear pure light entertainment. Yet when I read Chris Evans’ road test of the CR-V in the Mail on Sunday (eek!) it just smacked of a guy who is completely out of touch.

He may have grown up doing a paper round but having a garage full of exotica doesn’t exactly lend yourself to writing about, well, ‘normal’ cars.

‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ read the headline. I doubt he wrote that but branding the CR-V dull, lacklustre and joking at the great fuel economy seems a bit bizarre.

So, if you’re a Mail reading, web surfer I apologise. The CR-V is a great family car that Chris Evans hates – which is another good reason to buy one.

Sunday – Earl Grey Without Milk

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The D-TEC is the first SUV that has convinced me you don’t actually need four-wheel drive in a multi-purpose vehicle. Just like Earl Grey without low fat milk, porridge without honey, it’s actually OK not to have the complete package sometimes.

Provided you think of the two-wheel drive CR-V as a roomy estate with all the benefits of a raised seating position, it works exceptionally well. And besides, living in the country, there have only been a couple of times in the last 12 months when we’ve actually needed four-wheel drive.

With this particular model, the CR-V is all about economy. The vast majority of the CR-V range is four-wheel drive – the 1.6 i-DTEC just offers the maximum miles per gallon and a lower tax band too (C).

I can’t say I noticed much difference in performance either over the best-selling 2.2 diesel unit (48mpg). The 1.6 lacks a little overtaking power but it doesn’t feel stretched on the motorway and remains quiet and refined in the cabin.

SUV looks without the extra cost? Try this one – it’s excellent.

Saturday – Honda’s Super frugal CR-V

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I find fuel economy runs a complete nightmare – and more dangerous than tootling along at high speed because you are forced into unnatural driving techniques. Let’s face it, nobody drives for hundreds of miles trying squeeze every last drop out of a gallon.

Honda recently persuaded two motoring writers to see how far they could get in an MPG Marathon. Although the new i-DEC engine is meant to top out at 60.1mpg, they achieved an impressive 77.8mpg.

Now, don’t try that at home, whatever you do. But at least this shows just how SUVs have managed to change their image in 2014 are strive just as much for fuel economy as they everyday hatchback.

After two weeks driving lumbering 4x4s around Australia, the CR-V is so refreshing! It may not have the grunt or road presence of a Land Cruiser, but it’s a great drive, highly capable and easy on the eye too…